A few years ago and my brother introduced me to something called “the Onion”. It looked
for all intents and purposes to be a legitimate news organization and many of the
articles seemed reasonable, although not quite “right”. When I got to an article
about running “juvenile” horses in races, and how it was important to keep them off
the streets where they were causing trouble, supported by a picture of horses in
their racing gear smoking cigarettes on street corners, I realized I was dealing
with some high class spoofery.
This morning I get up and turn on the news and thought I was hearing a story from
“the Onion”.
The story as reported was that ESPN had removed a sideline reporter because his
name was Robert Lee. The announcement showed a picture of an oriental American and went
on to say that ESPN was afraid that Robert Lee’s name would offend too many people
and so he’s been removed from his assignments. I started to laugh thinking this was
a spoof. The people reporting it swore that it was the truth and that even though it
sounded like a joke it really wasn’t.
So we are tearing down monuments, statues, plaques, and now we’re removing people
because their name sounds like a Civil War general’s. We have truly moved into some
kind of a cosmic rabbit hole. Where we come out is anyone’s guess. When people want
to rewrite history, or to take away a history this is the way it works.
There is an interesting story that comes out of the Reformation. It sounds
remarkably like what we are going through now. When Luther was exiled to the
Wartburg castle, people in his church started taking down statues, paintings, altar
decorations and paraments, anything that was deemed “too Catholic”. This iconoclasm
became widespread among the reformed churches especially where Calvin and Zwingli
had powerful followers. When Luther returned to his church and someone told him to
look and see what had happened and how every trace of Catholicism have been broken
or removed Luther simply said “I want my pulpit back”.
Prof. Andreas Karlstadt, Luther’s senior at Wittenberg, followed Luther
into the Reformation. But while Luther was in hiding after the Diet of Worms,
Karlstadt radicalized the pace of reform; and the results got out of hand. Luther
had been very worried about potentially losing the positive effects of Reformation
to either conservative backlash or unrestrained license, or a combination. Luther
actually returned from his exile in no small part to put an end to the iconoclastic
excesses of Karlstadt.
Removing someone from a broadcast because their name is Robert Lee, seems to me, and
I hope any reasonable person, to be in iconoclastic excess.
In the meantime I would love to know what “the Onion” would do with this story!