To the Dean of the National Cathedral, the Very Rev. Gary Hall,
It is my understanding that you have advised the Episcopal Church to replace the windows installed in 1953 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, in honor of Gens. Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.
I will not criticize this decision. Jackson was a Presbyterian anyway, he doesn’t even belong there.
But, Dean Hall, your work isn’t done. You won’t have even gotten rid of all the Confederacy-apologizing Presbyterian bigots yet. There is another, and his bones lie beneath your feet.
Randy Barnett has explained why this disastrous president should be erased from all official government memory, whether on statues, plaques, street signs, microfiche databases, or commemorative spoons. But as people of faith, we must do better. We must take the lead in coming to grips with the dark past of the man who unveiled Arlington Cemetery’s Confederate memorial. By that I mean, it’s time to dig up Woodrow Wilson’s remains and hang them. Though this practice of desecrating the carcasses of bad people was most famously applied to Oliver Cromwell (or Akhenaten) we have recently crossed another threshold in which exhumation of those with Confederate sympathies is now acceptable. This is an incredible opportunity to bring social justice to the dead, Dean Hall, if only you seize it.
I’m surprised you haven’t gone through with it already! Don’t you know this is 2015? There have been fistfuls of articles in the last few weeks discussing whether “Gone With the Wind” should be licensed or even watched anymore, but we haven’t yet dug up the man who literally screened “Birth of a Nation” in the White House? And whose administration resegregated government buildings? He also belonged to a fraternity alleged by Rolling Stone to have revolved around ritual gang-rape. With today’s epidemic of campus sexual assault, how can you condone the memory of someone who is clearly an enabler of rape culture?
Wilson wasn’t even an Episcopalian, his wife was. The New York Times describes the circumstances of his internment like so:
He was buried in the cathedral because the Episcopal bishop of Washington wanted to make it America’s Westminster Abbey, and Mrs. Wilson, who was an Episcopalian, liked the idea.
While this neatly reflects Episcopalianism’s aspiration to state churchhood, best exemplified today by the Center for American Progress’s resident bishop (not to mention that healthy federal revenue stream), I urge you to consider the need to demonstrate your moral, as well as vexillological, superiority.
This is about not offending anyone. And make no mistake, I am offended. This self-satisfied warmonger has no business being glorified by religious institutions.
Know that should you choose to do so, you would be acting within a venerable tradition. Apologizing for past sins is the dominant strain of modern Episcopalian theology. Take it from the energetic young pastor of St. Mark’s in the Bowery, who is upset that the General Convention decided not to divest from Israel yet:
The Episcopal Church has a troubled history of reconciliation. We are a church that never split on slavery. We welcomed back unrepentant, former-slave holding bishops after the Civil War. We chose a side. We reconciled with injustice, and we live with the consequences today.
Kudos to Rev. Verghese for recognizing that oppression is oppression, be it slavery or Sodastream. Rev. Verghese has also continued one of the other venerable traditions at St. Mark’s in the Bowery, where she is now rector; what the parish website describes as a “high energy, disco-tinged Holy Eucharist” for gay pride week.
Nothing says holiness like a drag queen named Velveeta singing out the Cross to “We Are Family”:
Do you want to be on the side of Anglicanism that views history (its own included) with judiciousness, yes, but also magnanimity? Or are you with Velveeta? Think very carefully about your answer, lest you end up on the wrong side of history. If you’ve decided to remain with the main thrust of Episcopalianism today, there is only one thing to do with President Wilson: Dig him up. As Rev. Varghese says, you can’t reconcile with injustice. It’s what Velveeta would want. I await your reply.
J. Arthur Bloom