Alan Keyes
Trump's alleged racism: who may cast the first stone?
We need to forgive repentant historical figures like Gen. Lee
By Alan Keyes
August 22, 2017

    Then came Peter to him, and said, "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?" Jesus says unto him, "I say not unto you, Until seven times, but until seventy time seven." (Matthew 18: 21-22)

    And the Scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this which speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, he answered and said unto them, "What reason have you in your hearts? Which is easier, to say Your sins are forgiven you; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins (he said unto him that was palsied:) I say unto you, Arise, and take up your couch, and go into your house." (Luke 5:21-24)

    And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them: To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive, and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. (Mark 4:10-12)

    Take heed to yourselves: If your brother sin against you, reprove him: and if he do penance, forgive him. And if he sin against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day be converted unto thee, saying: I repent: forgive him. And the apostles said to the Lord: Increase our faith. (Luke 17:3-5)
Not long ago, in the context of a furor over the Confederate flag, I wrote two articles, comprising an essay about the deceitful nature of the demand that Americans cleanse our public consciousness of anything that honors Americans who practiced and/or advocated racism, the enslavement of blacks, or the law-enforced regime of racial segregation, discrimination, and bigotry our nation once tolerated. In the first part of the essay, I anticipated the crisis that is now being exploited to tar President Trump with opprobrium for his alleged reluctance to set racist violence apart for special condemnation. In the second part, I asked people to ponder the subversive anti- American agenda this demand for anti-racist purity actually serves:
    The demand also has something to do with the elitist faction's desire to suppress all thought of the venerable American view that "resistance to tyranny is obedience to God." This view led many Southerners who rejected slavery to object to interference with what they (mistakenly) believed to be the North's interference with their right of self-determination. It's a view understandably repugnant to the snarling demagogues presently intent on establishing elitist, totalitarian government in the United States.

    In the context of what actually happened to the Confederacy, and the people and states of which it was composed, the battle flag of the Confederacy no longer stands for the specious assertion of some right to do what is fundamentally wrong. It does, however, stand for the inevitable freedom to be wrong even if, more often than not, we have to endure the consequences of our wrongdoing before we will admit we were wrong.

    Which of us can claim to be exempt from this folly? Which of us can pretend that we would escape rebuke in a world where someone meted out to us all the punishment we are due? In the New Testament account, God's standard of perfection cowed the crowd that was all poised to stone the adulteress. So, the likely wickedness of actions like abortion – which even Hillary Clinton once said is not a good thing but which we are now indulging, promoting or tolerating – ought to warn us against seeking to erase all reminders of the fact that people often do evil for the sake of something they mistake for good, at the time.
It surprises me that people who profess to be followers of Christ seem willing to accept the unforgiving demand for historical cleansing that puts human beings in the place of God when it comes to judging sinners after death.

Gen. Sherman said that "War is hell." There are many who would say that – during his infamous "scorched earth" campaign through Georgia during the late fall of 1864 – he did his best to act the part of Satan's lieutenant, as his forces torched and tormented both infrastructure and people along the way. In his Second Inaugural, Lincoln literally accepts the premise that the Civil War was punishment God inflicted on the people of the United State for the sin of practicing, or by law protecting, racist slavery.

Why is it not enough for the present generation of self-righteous sinners in the United States that God exacted this terrible price for our nation's sins? Why is it not enough that, on account of the scourge of war, Americans repented of the sin our nation knowingly inflicted on my enslaved ancestors? They let my people go, even as Pharaoh let go the Israelites, on account of the plagues God visited upon his kingdom. The nation repented of its sin.

Despite the strong resentment of many of his fellow southerners, Robert E. Lee did not refuse to surrender, at Appomattox, to God's will. He did not refuse to urge his fellow Confederates to accept God's judgment against the sin of slavery, and get on with building the nation that had finally reconciled itself to the law of liberty God prescribed for His Creation. To be sure, he did not instantly purge himself of the views and preferences America's long-established culture of racial bigotry inevitably inculcated. There were doubtless many times when those habits betrayed him into unjust attitudes, remarks, and actions.

But for all that, like many of his compatriots in the States of the Confederacy, he appears to have resisted the temptation to foreswear the terms of its surrender. How many times should we forgive them for sliding back into the furrows of racist bigotry and pride? How often should we forgive them the credit they are due, for deciding, nonetheless, to uphold the discipline of God's justice required by the premises of our national existence?

Shall we tear down the statues of President Lyndon Johnson for the evidence of racist bigotry in his political life? Or should we honor the leadership he gave to complete the passage of the Civil Rights Act? Should we forbid the people of Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia to honor the memories of the ancestors who labored, for all their faults, to build a future of decent liberty for their posterity? Or should we leave them to honor people like Thomas Jefferson, James F. Byrnes (Truman's secretary of state), and Jimmy Carter for the service they gave to establish the right foundations of our nation, preserve it in service to human decency from totalitarian tyranny, or upraise throughout the world its standard for human rights and dignity?

By the standard of true moral perfection, all humanity falls short. Some of the same people who spit on Lee's statue angrily rejected the notion that Margaret Sanger's statue should be removed from an exhibit at the Smithsonian. When the standard of perfect right and justice is applied, which of us will escape the judgment our unpaid debt to truth and righteousness deserves? We shall all require forgiveness no human being is equipped to give us. Why then is it right that any of us should demand leave to inflict implacable judgment on others, even though they have largely repented of their sins?

As a Christian, praying each day the publican's prayer, I have struggled to heed Christ's warnings. I reject those who think that it is loving to let people risk the ultimate judgment of God. So, I refuse to lie about what He says is required to avoid perdition. But I also reject the hubris that purports to punish people, after death, with annihilation. That power belongs to God and God alone. He will remember those He will remember, according to the perfect standard only He truly understands.

Let history be. Leave those who will not be converted by the Gospel of truth to the judgment of God. But if they repent, surrendering, however imperfectly, to the standard of God's truth and justice, forgive them unceasingly, as we must unceasingly pray that God will forgive us. Such forgiveness is the only way to endure in the fight against evil, without becoming evil – the only way to learn and remember what we need to know of evil in order to defeat it – and to do it all without forgetting what is good and right and true and just. Which is to say, without forgetting that God is God, and we are not.

To see more articles by Dr. Keyes, visit his blog at and his commentary at and

© Alan Keyes


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Alan Keyes

Dr. Keyes holds the distinction of being the only person ever to run against Barack Obama in a truly contested election – featuring authentic moral conservatism vs. progressive liberalism – when they challenged each other for the open U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 2004... (more)


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