In the Year of Our Lord 2021, it is fashionable for American Christians to despise the antebellum South. Many Christian leaders, Evangelical and otherwise, have defended or even applauded the destruction of Confederate statues by mobs. In 2016, the Southern Baptist Convention repudiated the Confederate battle flag. In September of 2020, J.D. Greear, President of the SBC, said the denomination should remove the word “Southern” from its name because of its association with slavery. This onslaught has not spared Confederate General-in-Chief Robert Edward Lee. He has been condemned vehemently and repeatedly by pagans and Christians alike. Statues of Lee dotted major cities across the South and have been among the most high-profile targets for the statue-smashers of 2020 and 2021. It was not always so. For over a century-and-a-half, Lee was considered a model Christian by admirers both North and South. Lee was praised by Presidents and featured on postage stamps. States named schools and roads after him. One man, at least, built much of his literary career on his biography of Lee. Media portrayals always presented him as a man of deep faith and high integrity, and Christian media was no exception to that rule. Neither were Christian institutions. When I was a boy, Mama had me listen to Focus on the Family’s audio drama series Adventures in Odyssey. There was a two-part episode about Abraham Lincoln and what a great guy he was. Lee made a cameo appearance and was praised as a great man. During my time as an undergraduate, in late 2016 or early 2017, my school’s student government association held a weekend retreat at a YMCA facility; the dormitory in which we resided had been named Lee Hall until 2014, and a portrait of the General from his time as President of Washington College still hung in the dorm’s main entrance hall, along with a plaque explaining Lee’s Christian character and excellence as an educator. Given all the controversy, many Christians, especially Southerners, find themselves asking whether or not Robert E. Lee was ever worthy of the praise and admiration he received.
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