When General Kelly noted this week that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man—and added that we could have avoided the war if people had been willing to compromise—he was rightly criticized.
“Honorable” is not apt label for a slaveholding traitor, as many pointed out, and compromising on whether some people can own other people is morally repugnant. And of course the North and the South did actually compromise repeatedly.
Kelly’s opinion shocked many, but for others it invoked a familiar framework about the Civil War that protects white supremacy and which is at the core of one of the most influential strands of today’s evangelicalism: the strand that help elect Donald Trump. On twitter, as part of the #emptythepews hashtag, ex-evangelical @toriglass wrote, “to be honest, evangelicals never stopped debating whether slavery was actually bad.”