Now I know this sounds a rather extreme statement but please let me explain what I mean.
You'll probably remember the name Edward Colston, the English philanthropist whose statue was torn down and dumped in Bristol harbour not so long ago. For a number of years local people had called for this particular monument to be removed due to Colston's slave-trading past, but finally felt they needed to take the law into their own hands. However, it seems to me that a can of worms was opened when subsequently 4 of those most significantly responsible for this action were acquitted of causing criminal damage.
THE POWER OF POPULAR OPINION
Of course I'm sure we'd all oppose the very concept of slavery these days. But surely the legal sanctioning of an act of vandalism such as this shouldn't be condoned, should it?
On the other hand, could such direct action be justified, and even welcomed, if it met with popular approval? For example, if I were to mobilise sufficient public following could I then topple any statue to which I took a dislike, with impunity? After all, in a democracy is it not the will of the majority that prevails? Now if so, we could be in a spot of bother here!
We clearly cannot re-write history, and of course, as it's been said, we must 'come to terms with our past'. But surely norms and values change over time and something which has been considered widely acceptable to one generation can be utterly abhorrent to another. But, are there things that are always 'right' and things that are always 'wrong'? If so, where do we draw the line? In ditching Christian truth, the value system of our society will always be subject to that which can command most popular acclaim and approval.
THE DECLINE OF CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE
In Scotland today it's reckoned that the number of Bible-believing Christians has shrunk to around only 3% of the population and as a result it could be said that the further our society drifts from basic Christian values and principles, the more this plays out in both private and public life. In which case, this could easily have serious implications for some of our own most familiar statues. For example, on Edinburgh's Princes Street there are monuments to at least 3 Bible-believing Christians...
DR DAVID LIVINGSTONE (1813-73)
Born in the Lanarkshire village of Blantyre he was destined to become one of Scotland's most famous sons. He's also known throughout the world as possibly the greatest of all African explorers and Christian missionaries.
DR THOMAS GUTHRIE (1803-73)
His work on behalf of destitute children is recognised by a statue of him with his arm around a young boy whilst holding an open Bible in his other hand. He also made it clear that behind all his work on behalf of the poor was the primacy of his Christian faith.
SIR JAMES YOUNG SIMPSON (1811-70)
The first physician to have been knighted he is best known for having discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform. Yet when asked by a journalist of the day what he considered to be his greatest discovery, he replied... '...that I have a Saviour, Jesus Christ.'
THE PROSPECT OF DIRECT ACTION
All 3 of these men would have stood by, and lived by, Biblical teaching …a value system increasingly questioned and at times opposed by a growing majority within our 'progressive' society. And for this very reason, perhaps we need to be on our guard or else one day we might see the statues of these 3 men ending up in Leith Docks!