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It’s hard to overstate how fundamental the idea of the “image of God in man” is for Christian ethics. The fact that men and women are made in God’s image, that we are indelibly stamped with the Imago Dei, should be a constraining factor, a limiting governor, on all we do — and on all we say — in God’s world. After all, this is a world filled with those made in His likeness. This is true for both Christians and non-Christians alike.
That’s why, when God institutes civil government in Genesis 9:5-6, the mandate given is to protect the life and well-being of image bearers: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (verse 6). God authorizes a civil authority to wield judicial power — even to take life — for the purpose of placing the highest possible value on the pinnacle of His creation: humanity.
While taking a life is the ultimate means by which an image bearer is destroyed, there are lesser, yet still serious, ways to deface and tear down the image of God in our fellow brothers and sisters. And that is primarily through our speech. This is why God, in the Ninth Commandment, commands us that “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). Bearing false witness against a human being isn’t just about their reputation, though it is certainly at least about it. But more basically, it’s about their identity. To slander someone, to lie about them, to degrade them, is to say, “You aren’t worth the image you bear.”
All of this is a necessary theological preamble to what I am about to address next, which was a recent instance of image-destroying slander directed against Condoleezza Rice.
First, it’s important to note that Rice is a living legend. She is a testament — a flesh and blood statue, one might say — to the tensions contained in the wonders and terrors of the American experiment. Born into the segregated South in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1954, Rice knows first-hand what it is like to face real racial prejudice. But she didn’t just encounter racism, she overcame it. Despite the sad reality that she had to fight against those who disliked her simply because of her skin color, Rice proved that the American dream truly is available to all, regardless of color or creed. After completing her PhD, she joined the State Department, eventually rising through the ranks to become the first woman to ever serve as National Security Advisor and then the first African-American female Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. In fact, until the inauguration of Kamala Harris as vice president in 2021, Rice held the honor of being the highest-ranking African American woman in the history of the United States.
Yet, despite her amazing life and career, she was just recently slandered as a “foot soldier for white supremacy.”
Touré, a former MSNBC show host and commentator and opinion writer for “The Grio,” wrote an article lambasting Rice for her recent comments on “The View” in which she addressed Critical Race Theory and education.
Touré, seeking to symbolically tear down the statue that is Rice’s life and legacy, wrote that “Condoleezza Rice’s recent appearance on The View was offensive and disgusting for many reasons but she was who we thought she was: a soldier for white supremacy. Her thoughts on Critical Race Theory are completely white centric, as in, they revolve around the thoughts and needs of white people.”
It’s such an insane statement that it’s hard to wrap a reasonable mind around it. Rice — the first African American woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State, the woman who fought against real racial animus in the segregated south — is now a “foot soldier for white supremacy.”
And what was her crime? It was an Orwellian thought-crime. It was the fact that she won’t toe the line on the new cultural orthodoxy regarding race in America. She refuses to join the ranks of the “Elect” — a term coined by Columbia University linguist and race commentator John McWhorter — to describe those who “pursue a proselytizing brand of antiracism that has had a particularly harmful effect on academic inquiry.” The sacred texts and high priest and priestess of this new woke religion are represented, he explains, by “bestselling books like Robin DiAngelo’s ‘White Fragility’—which flagellates white people for their incurable racism—and Ibram X. Kendi’s ‘How to Be an Antiracist.” These are “the gospels of the antiracist left.”
Touré, however, is clearly a card-carrying member of this new cult. He is Elect. Rice is not. How do we know? Because when addressing the topic of CRT in K-12 education, Rice centered on individual agency and personal responsibility, and not race essentialism, telling the hosts that:
“My parents never thought I was going to grow up in a world without prejudice, but they also told me, ‘That’s somebody else’s problem, not yours. You’re going to overcome it and you are going to be anything you want to be. That’s the message that I think we ought to be sending to kids…One of the worries that I have about the way that we’re talking about race is that it either seems so big that somehow white people now have to feel guilty for everything that happened in the past — I don’t think that’s very productive — or black people have to feel disempowered by race.”
Then, Rice made the point that apparently triggered Touré and lit the fuse for his false-witness bearing, saying:
“I would like black kids to be completely empowered, to know that they are beautiful in their blackness, but in order to do that I don’t have to make white kids feel bad for being white.”
This is a wonderful admonition. Historical wrongs will never be righted by present-day discrimination. And this sensible balancing of past wrongs with the path forward has been a consistent theme of Rice’s message on race. In a 2020 interview, she argued:
“We have a very painful history. That’s a very hard truth. But it is the truth of the past. We now have to talk about how to move forward. And when I talk to people of different colors, particularly my white friends, my white colleagues, I don’t want it to be in the language of recrimination. I want to be in the language of, How do we move forward?”
Apparently, for Touré this is unacceptable. He twists her words, her commendable desire to not make “white kids feel bad for being white” into something more sinister. Instead, he wants white kids to squirm, claiming that “white children and adults should absolutely feel bad about the past atrocities committed by white Americans. They should feel guilty. They should cringe at what their ancestors did. They should also understand that modern white power is directly related to those atrocities.”
To be fair to Touré, his article raises some valid points, if Rice had said what he claims she said. But she didn’t. She never said, “Don’t teach the ugly truth about our racist history.” She merely claimed there is no value in making a fourth-grader in 2021 feel bad about being white.
But here is the heart of the issue at hand:
Even if that is what Rice had claimed, Touré has no right to call her a “foot soldier for white supremacy.”
Sadly, this is just another example of black-on-black verbal violence, an increasingly regular spectacle that occurs when woke black personalities engage in character assassination against other black voices who dissent from the progressive worldview. This happened to Larry Elder, when he was running for governor in California; for speaking his own mind and deigning to try to take the job of the very white but very woke Gavin Newsom, Elder was unbelievably called the “Black Face of White Supremacy” by a writer for the L.A. Times.
What’s the goal in such slanderous attacks like these? It seems clear that the intention is to silence or denigrate the stories and voices of black Americans, who, despite all the hardships they may have faced, still excelled on their own merit and through their own hard work. To silence those black Americans who look back on their life and experience in America and see both the reality of racist obstacles and the availability of unbelievable opportunity. Black voices like Rice, Elder, McWhorter, Glenn Loury, Ben Carson, Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, Candace Owens, Tim Scott, or even Booker T. Washington, who chose to run hard after that opportunity and are now willing to tell others that they can do the same. Who forsake the notion that the sole animating principle of life in the U.S. for minorities should be a myopic focus on the lingering vestiges of white supremacy, but rather, like Rice encouraged, take up the question of how we move forward…together.
How does all of this relate to the tearing down of statues? Well, statues, like people, bear an image. They are made in a likeness. They represent something.
In the recent CRT-fueled craze of racial insanity sweeping our nation, it’s not just the present voices of dissenting black Americans that are under attack, but also the symbols of the past that represent those same values of overcoming obstacles…of the promise of America, not perfectly realized yet still worth pursuing. In June 2020, the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Memorial, which honors the service of African American soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War, was disgustingly defaced. In Washington D.C., a debate continues to swirl around whether the famous Emancipation Memorial should be left in place. In Rochester, New York, a statue of Frederick Douglass, installed in 2018 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolitionist’s birth, was ripped from its pedestal in 2020 on what was the 168th anniversary of one of Douglass’ most famous speeches and then knocked down once again this past September.
So when Touré slanders Rice, he is undertaking a verbal form of defacement. His words are like the ugly expletives spray-painted over the 54th Massachusetts Memorial, except he is attempting to paint over the living legacy of Rice’s amazing accomplishments. Not content to wait for the statue to pull down, he seeks to malign her memory in real time, to rewrite the history that is still being written through his Cultural Marxist framework of oppressor and oppressed. No longer is Rice an American hero and a shining example to young girls and minorities across our nation. No, she is just a foot soldier in the army of white supremacy.
Bringing this interchange back under the lens of our Christian worldview, we must remember that when we attack other people with our words, we are tearing down an image bearer, desecrating that which is holy — their shared image-bearing status. Another passage, James 3:9-10, poignantly reminds us of this twisted reality: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
Just like bronze and stone statues bear witness to events of the past, flesh and blood human beings bear witness to the enduring, eternal existence of our Creator. It’s shameful and misguided to deface and destroy monuments. It is far, far worse to deface a living person, who is made in the image of God.
So no, Condoleezza Rice isn’t a “foot soldier for white supremacy.” To levy such a claim is a clear violation of the Ninth Commandment. It’s a live-time effort to tear down the towering work of her life. But here is where the Gospel brings hope to all statue destroyers and human slanderers. The Eternal Word, Jesus Christ, came in the flesh. He lived a sinless life and yet died a death for sinners. He was mocked, beaten, slandered, and destroyed. He was crucified for the Condoleezza Rice’s and the Touré’s of this world. For you. And for me. Wicked men tried to destroy His witness to God the Father for good, but on the third day Jesus got up from the grave, vindicating his life and ministry, and put an exclamation mark on the end of his exhortation to “Repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15).
This is what our country needs more than ever. More than restoring our statues and more than cleaning up our speech, we need repentance. After that, the rest will follow. Perhaps then, Rice can get the apology she deserves.
A 10-year veteran of the conservative political movement, William Wolfe served as a senior official in the Trump Administration, both at the Pentagon and the Department of State. Prior to his service in the administration, he worked for Heritage Action for America and as a congressional staffer for three members of Congress, including the former Rep. Dave Brat. He has a B.A. in History from Covenant College and is currently finishing his Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.