Lots of people like to throw around the word “ironic” without really knowing what it means. But on Tuesday, the debate over honoring Confederates with namesakes, memorials, flags, and statues took an ironic twist big enough to merit a dictionary entry.
I don’t know what the word would be, but the definition would be “when your name becomes so toxic that even the church you went to changes what it’s called.”
The irony comes in waves, too: Robert E. Lee Memorial Church is changing its name so it won’t be so divisive. That’s the opposite of what most people who honor the Confederacy want.
And then there’s the irony that Robert E. Lee himself never wanted memorials. Lee thought that statues and monuments would only make things harder. That it would maintain division as a currency between north and south. He was right about that much, anyway.
To me, though, the ultimate irony is that this church, soon to be re-christened under its pre-commemorative name of Grace Episcopal, has been debating doing this for two years now. They cited the actions of Dylann Roof as the catalyst for the internal discussion after Roof murdered 9 black parishioners in a church in South Carolina while waving a Confederate flag.
But the debate raged anew with the death of Heather Heyer in nearby Charlottesville. Where’s the irony? Black people died and it sparked a two-year debate. A white girl died, and a church changed the name they’ve had for 114 years in less than six weeks.
Honestly, it’s okay by me, you guys. I’m just glad it’s happening finally. I am glad that there are those in the religious community who understand what is necessary for healing to take place. I’m glad to see that a church could hold a vote and end up doing the right thing.
Featured image via Robert E. Lee Memorial Church Website