Racist apologist bigots at Washington National Cathedral to remove stained glass windows honoring Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson
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Leroy N. Soetoro
2017-09-06 18:17:15 UTC

Leaders at Washington National Cathedral, the closest thing in the
country’s capital to an official church, have decided after two years of
study and debate to remove two stained-glass windows honoring Confederate
figures Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

Saying the stories told in the two 4-by-6-foot windows were painful,
distracting and one-sided, a majority of the Cathedral’s governing body
voted to remove the windows Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, stone
masons were at work putting up scaffolding to begin taking out the art
that was installed 64 years ago.

“This isn’t simply a conversation about the history of the windows, but a
very real conversation in the wider culture about how the Confederate flag
and the Old South narrative have been lively symbols today for white
supremacists. We’d be made of stone ourselves if we weren’t paying
attention to that,” said Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, leader of the
Episcopal Diocese of Washington, which includes the cathedral.

The cathedral is the official seat of the Episcopal Church, a small
Protestant denomination that historically has counted many of America’s
elite as members, including presidents from George Washington and James
Madison to George H.W. Bush. It is the second largest church building in
the country and is typically host to official events like presidential
funerals and official interfaith ceremonies on presidential swearing-in
days, including that of President Trump.

The removal of the windows, which will take a couple days, reflects a
flurry of national debate over whether to take down monuments, statues or
art that honor Confederates in both public and private spaces across the
country. The issue gained prominence after a mass killing at a black
church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, and then again last month after a
deadly white supremacist march in Charlottesville. Several dozen monuments
have been either removed or a debate to remove them is on the table, in
places from New Orleans and Baltimore to Helena, Mont., and Los Angeles.

Budde and Cathedral Dean Randy Hollerith said the governing board voted
“overwhelmingly” Tuesday to remove the windows, but acknowledged there
were opponents who felt the windows are part of the cathedral and U.S.
history and could be contextualized rather than removed.

A call to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which raised money for
the initial windows along with a private donor, was not immediately
returned Wednesday.

On Wednesday as the scaffolding was put up, some visitors began gathering,
including a few who seemed concerned by the idea that the windows were
being taken out.

The windows are among some 200 in the soaring Gothic building, in addition
to hundreds of other carvings and fabric and other kinds of art. They are
located in a bay in the middle of the nave, or sanctuary space. They each
have four panels, one honoring the life of Jackson and the other of Lee.

They show the men at points in their academic, military and spiritual
lives. Kevin Eckstrom, a cathedral spokesman, noted that they are praised
in wording alongside the windows as pious Christians. “The problem is that
they are shown as saints,” he said Wednesday.

The cathedral plans to keep the windows and find a way to display them in
historical context, he said.

“People ask: ‘Are we whitewashing history and trying to forget reality?’
But the truth is that slavery is as old as the Bible. But we believe in a
God that liberates slaves,” he said.

[White Christian groups shrink as share of U.S. population]

They were put up in 1953, after years of fundraising. Eckstrom said there
was discussion at the time about featuring other U.S. figures, including
former president Ulysses S. Grant, who commanded the Union armies at the
end of the Civil War, but that donors insisted that the windows honor
Southerners. The engraved stone under the Jackson window notes his
admirers “from South to North.”

Both stones praise the men’s religious character. Jackson’s says he
“walked humbly before his creator.” Lee’s says he was “a Christian soldier
without fear and without reproach.”

They were uncontroversial at the time of their installation, Eckstrom

After the Charleston killings, a national conversation became louder about
Confederate symbols and white supremacy. The cathedral’s dean Gary Hall at
the time said that the windows had no place in a place of worship meant
for all Americans.

The windows were installed in 1953 to “foster reconciliation between parts
of the nation that had been divided by the Civil War,” Hall said in 2015.
“While the impetus behind the windows’ installation was a good and noble
one at the time, the Cathedral has changed, and so has the America it
seeks to represent. There is no place for the Confederate battle flag in
the iconography of the nation’s most visible faith community. We cannot in
good conscience justify the presence of the Confederate flag in this house
of prayer for all people, nor can we honor the systematic oppression of
African-Americans for which these two men fought.”

The cathedral then created a task force to discuss the windows and how to
best foster a conversation around racial reconciliation. Last year it
removed from the windows two small pieces of glass depicting Confederate
flags in the art. One was replaced with plain red and the other with plain

Public lectures were held about white supremacy, reconciliation and
African American spirituals. Standing beside the windows for months has
been a poster about the window discussion, and Eckstrom said the cathedral
has received email and visitors every day for two years with different
views about how to deal with controversial history in a sacred, public

Hall left the cathedral in 2015 and a couple days after the
Charlottesville violence shared on Facebook his earlier push for the
windows to come out, with the comment: “Just sayin’.”

Asked whether the cathedral was told its audience or donations could be
impacted by the windows coming out — or staying in — Hollerith said it
didn’t come up as a major part of the decision process.

“If I honor Jesus’ command to love thy neighbor as thy self, and take
seriously the experience of African Americans in this country, the
question is: What is the right thing to do? Not to look at it in terms of
funding or participation,” he said.

The cathedral’s decision comes as the country is divided by debate about
its history and the place of race and religion in American identity. Also
Wednesday a huge poll by the Public Religion Research Institute was
released, showing white Christians continuing to shrink as a percentage of
the country.

In 2017, the Episcopal Church is perhaps the most prominent face of
progressive Christianity — with its leaders on the forefront of
liberalizing changes on race, gender and sexuality. However its cathedral
is also perhaps the most prominent example of a blending of patriotism and
religion. Art all around the cathedral weaves the story of the Bible with
America’s story — including that of the Civil War.

One massive window juxtaposes George Washington with King David on one
side, nearby Paul Revere and D-Day paratroopers. The highest window panels
soaring over the sanctuary show the Supreme Court, the White House and the
U.S. Capitol.

Near the entrance is a huge vivid window called “the Agony of War,” which
Eckstrom said is about the Civil War. It shows flames mixed with glass
fragments of blue and gray. Engraved beneath are the words “with malice
towards none.”
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2017-09-06 22:13:01 UTC
Post by Leroy N. Soetoro