Graven Images and the Bell That Cracked

The recent killing of a black American named George Floyd by police in Minneapolis ignited a storm of protests against white suppression of the black descendants of former slaves. In the United States and in England statues of formerly respected slave traders and slave owners are being toppled to the ground. The legislature of the state of Mississippi voted to remove from it’s flag the emblem that represents the failed Confederate States of America, perhaps the only attempt at nation building in which protecting and expand slavery was a primary objective.

Some people argue against the toppling of statues. They say history is history, that you should not wipe it out. I argue there is nothing at all wrong with removing ANY statues and icons. One of the commandments the LORD gave Israel was a prohibition against images and statues representing living beings. His reason was that we not value any other thing alongside Him. The toppling of those statues of formerly admired slave traders and slave owners in the US and in England reveals something of God’s attitude towards statues in general and those past “heroes” in particular.

As supporting evidence of what I believe God’s opinion is towards I call attention to one of our most treasured national icons, the Liberty Bell. The bell was commissioned in London in 1752. The words of Leviticus 25:10 “Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof” are cast onto its surface. Wonderful words but words our European Founding Fathers did not apply to non-whites and people of “low social status.” Not when most of the Founding Fathers owned slaves! Of the most well known Founding Fathers, only Alexander Hamilton was prepared to speak publicly against the institution of slavery. Our first President, George Washington owned as many as 100 slaves. Apparently he and most of the other Founding Fathers did not believe the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness applied to people whose skin was not white like theirs. Is a surprise that the Liberty Bell cracked and could not be fixed? That to this day it sits broken and silent in a Philadelphia museum? Perhaps that crack and continued silence is God’s silent critique upon America’s original sin. Perhaps it can never be fixed till those engraved words from Leviticus are true for all Americans.

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