One of the phenomena related to the race protests is the toppling of statues, removal of certain movies and TV programs, and suggestions for name changes. Some people have suggested this is wrong because it’s erasing history. But is that the case?


I wonder how much the average person knows about the history represented by statues. Next time you see a statute, stop for a moment to observe. How many people actually slow down to look at it or read the plaque? Probably no one. Statues are, by and large, resting places for birds. They are monuments to history and a testament to what life was like at the time.

I understand that this is a divisive issue. Maybe some statues do need to be removed and placed in a museum. Others may benefit from an information board, or a more artistic approach, giving acknowledgment to historical facts. The statue of Captain James Cook in Sydney’s Hyde Park is inscribed with “Discovered this territory 1770.” From a British colonial standpoint, this is true. Still, it completely ignores the fact that Australia’s Indigenous people lived here for thousands of years before Cook arrived.

For too long, history has been white-washed. As a Christian man, I stand for truth, so let’s have it, the good, the bad, and the ugly! In this regard, the Bible is an incredibly honest book. Its pages contain historical accounts of the best and worst of humanity. People’s mistakes aren’t left out. Everything is there in glorious colour: Noah getting drunk, Abraham lying, and King David’s adultery and coverup.

Scripture & History

Just like history, the Bible is not a static book. In its pages, you’ll find human progress and advancement, and God engaging with and nudging people along every step of the way. For example, in Genesis 22, we see the story of God directing Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Understanding that in Abraham’s culture, one appeased the gods through child sacrifice, helps us understand why Abraham didn’t question this command. God let Abraham follow through up to the point of taking the knife to slay his son. Abraham was told, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him.” A ram was provided as an alternative to child sacrifice, and ancient humanity was prodded into a less barbaric practice.

It’s not that God desired or required animals to be sacrificed either. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, God frequently tells people he doesn’t want sacrifices. People start to get the message, “You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, you will not despise a broken and humbled heart” (Psalm 51:16-17). Finally, Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross to end all blood sacrifices once and for all (Hebrews 10:4-9). Today, the thought of sacrificing children or animals is abhorrent. We’ve come a long way. The Bible, history books, documentaries, and the like are a testament to this truth.

Embrace History Lessons

The Bible doesn’t erase history, it embraces it and then moves it forward. We can look back at some of the Bible’s writings from 3,000 years ago and be horrified. But, at the time, many of the statements, laws, and practices were incredibly progressive. Consider that Leviticus was one of the first times any sort of justice was prescribed for women, slaves, and non-Jews. Today, these same statements appear archaic and barbaric, and they are because humanity has progressed.

In the first century, the apostle Paul gave instructions on the proper care of slaves. He also told Christian slaves and slave-masters how to behave. In the Roman Empire of the first century, there were between 70 and 100 million people. About 50% of these were slaves. The economy of the entire Empire was dependent on slavery. The world wasn’t ready to abolish slavery. If William Wilberforce had been alive, he would not have led an abolition movement.

Fast-forward eighteen hundred years and the world was ready – or at least some were ready – to agree to abolish slavery. Thanks to Wilberforce and many others, the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 abolished slavery in most of the British Empire. Of course, that doesn’t mean there is no slavery in the modern world. People trafficking, especially sex trafficking of women and children, is still rife. India, China, and Russia are the most-offending nations. It’s estimated there are currently 15,000 people in slavery in Australia.

How Far We’ve Come

If we look back one hundred or two hundred years, we can see how far we’ve come. Acceptable practices then are abhorrent now. We must not erase history, we need to know, and acknowledge it, and vow not to repeat it. Let’s look back and be encouraged by how the world has improved. Let’s also realise there is still much work to be done. While poverty, discrimination, and inequality exist, our job is incomplete. And it invariably takes a crisis to force the world forward. That’s what we’re witnessing now. And yes, some will be opportunistic, and others will be violent. Like the suffragettes whose motto was, “deeds not words!” Today, women have the right to vote because of the work of the Suffragettes!

Deeds are what we need now. One hundred years from now, people will look back and wonder at some of the things we say, believe, or agree with. History will record how the pandemic of 2020 moved the world forward. How racial protests brought lasting change and equality for people of colour. How names were changed, and statues removed, and laws introduced to make the world a fairer place.

No doubt, we will zigzag down this path. Somethings will work others won’t. But let’s not erase history. Let’s learn from it.


I recently read a comment from a pastor who was angry about the behaviour of a politician. Nothing strange about that you may think, and I agree. What was a little out of the ordinary, though, was that the pastor suggested he’d like to do something painful to the politician and, to justify his viewpoint, he quoted the story of Jesus cleansing the Temple.

“WWJD: he would have made a whip and beat the crap out of him!”

I’ve heard a few people over the years use this story about Jesus and the whip as a license for some act of violence against another person (or people). But is that really what Jesus is doing here, and does this story encourage the use of violence?

Jesus in the Temple

Even though the account of the cleansing of the Temple is found in all four Gospels, it’s only the apostle John who mentions a whip (John 2:15). There is no mention of Jesus using the whip against a person; in fact, John reports that he used the whip to drive both the sheep and the cattle out of the Temple. John doesn’t say Jesus hit the animals either.

Jesus’ Purpose

The most important question here is, why did Jesus act in this way? What did he want to teach his followers? It certainly wasn’t to “beat the crap” out of someone with whom we disagree.

All the way through his ministry years, Jesus faced resistance from the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus came with the revelation that God, the father, was compassionate (Luke 6:36). In contrast, the predominant theme of the first century Judaism was purity, not compassion: “You must be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” The Gospels record the constant clash of cultures between Jesus’ compassion for people and the purity code of the day. That’s what the cleansing of the Temple was all about.

Old Testament Temple law didn’t restrict the access of women or non-Jews. But over the centuries, purity laws were extended. By the time of Jesus, women and Gentiles were excluded from the Court of Israel on pain of death.

It was Passover, and space that was meant for people in the Court of Gentiles was taken up by merchants, their tables, and their animals. And that’s why Jesus’ anger boiled over. He had come for those on the margins of society, those who were often excluded by the purity laws – the unclean, the poor, sinners, tax collectors, women, lepers, the disabled, and so on. He came to bring IN those who were kept OUT by man-made religion.

Jesus’ Anger at Injustice

As Jesus is clearing the Temple, he quotes from the Scriptures, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11). Isaiah goes on to speak of the Temple being for the Gentiles as well (a house of prayer for all nations), a fact that many of Matthew’s readers would have been well aware. And so, Jesus’ action here becomes clear. He’s providing room for those who have been left out. Matthew tells us, “and the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.” Hang on a minute! The blind and the lame weren’t allowed in the Temple. Ah, that’s the point. Jesus consistently brought in those who were left out – and so should his church today!

Grace & Compassion

This story has nothing to do with excusing violence against someone with whom we disagree and everything to do with extending grace and compassion to people in distress. If Jesus were here today, he wouldn’t make a whip and beat the crap out of anyone.

Another occasion makes Jesus’ peaceful intentions clear. He and his disciples had been rejected by a Samaritan town. James and John (the ones most likely to make whips to beat people) suggested they could “call fire down from heaven to destroy them.” Jesus rebuked them because “the Son of man didn’t come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” But Jesus, don’t you want to beat the crap out of them? “No, I’m the Prince of Peace, not a man of violence!”

The shootings at Charlie Hebdo are inexcusable.  Resolving a disagreement or offence by ending the life of another is never right.  The outpouring of grief and demonstration of solidarity with the French at this time is inspiring and brings out the best in humanity – although we obviously don’t feel the same level of grief over the hundreds of people killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria this week or the 37 killed by al-Qaeda in Yemen.  But I’ll save my thoughts on that for another blog.

Not only were the terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo vicious, but they were also stupid.  Muslim extremists killing people over insults to their Prophet and what were they trying to achieve?  Justice for Islam?  Honour for Muhammed?  The end of Charlie Hebdo?  None of these things was achieved.  You see Charlie Hebdo was already in serious difficulty.  In fact last week they were in danger of folding.  But not now!  Before the attacks, they printed 60,000 copies of each edition.  This week they’re printing over 3 million copies in 16 different languages.  Charlie Hebdo is now a household name around the world.

In addition to that The Press and Pluralism Association donated $360,0000, ordinary citizens through crowd fundraising gave $150,000, while French Culture and Communications Minister Fleur Pel­lerin pledged $1.45 million to the magazine.  Charlie Hebdo now has more power, reach and influence than ever before and they will continue to do the same work of satirizing religions, cultures and politics.  Nothing will be out of bounds.  So, stupid terrorists, you would have been better off ignoring Charlie – just like those of other faiths did.  Sure, there may have been blogs and media articles expressing concern at the distasteful cartoons in the magazine.  Even Barrack Obama condemned them in 2012 and the French Government itself asked them to be more restrained.  But it took two Islamist extremists to make sure Charlie Hebdo now has a bright future.

In 1988 there was a Canadian-American film released called The Last Temptation of Christ.  I never saw it but I know people who did.  It was an average movie that would have been a Box Office flop except for the free publicity given it by “Concerned Christians” who protested about the perceived blasphemous themes in the film.  The movie should have been ignored.  Hollywood must have sat back and rubbed its hands together in glee as the money rolled in.  Incidents like this have occurred far too many times.

It reminds me of a quote by Elbert Hubbard: “Never explain – your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway.”  In other words, there are times when ignoring something or someone is the best course of action.  Jesus did it.  Sometimes he just remained silent.  Other times he answered a question with another question.  He was never defensive, he never tried to justify himself and he certainly never resorted to violence to prove a point.  He overcame evil with good because good is more powerful than evil and he encourages us to do the same.