God can change hateful pillars

Editor's Note: This is the first in a yearlong series of guest columns on issues of faith. We are looking for faith community leaders in the Augusta and Aiken area to share their views. Interested? Contact faith and values reporter Kelly Jasper at kelly.jasper@augusta chronicle.com, or call her at (706) 823-3552.

The Haunted Pillar of Augusta, at the southwest corner of Fifth and Broad streets, has become an internationally known phenomenon, with a strange spiritual legacy that needs redeeming.

The story goes that in 1878, an itinerant preacher came to town and -- when refused permission by the city fathers to preach at the slave market-turned-farmers market -- flew into a rage and cursed the city.

His prophecy that a tornado would come and tear down the old market was fulfilled, as was his predication that only one pillar would remain standing.

These things fascinate, but what really matters is that the preacher wanted to testify of the racial hatred that prevailed throughout the city among both blacks and whites.

He more than likely wanted to make it clear that though there were no longer slaves chained to the pillars of the market, it was the plain truth that people of both races were slaves to the sin of racial hatred, as surely as they were before the end of the Civil War.

The same racial hatred prevails today in Augusta and throughout the nation. Millions of people of all races might just as well be considered shackled to the Haunted Pillar. The pillar isn't so much haunted by the itinerant preacher as it is populated by our tendencies of racist sin against one another.

Americans who feel the weight of sin's shackles on their consciences need to find in the Bible the keys to the locks that hold them fast. Such keys are found particularly the New Testament. Consider reading the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-11.

With this perspective, we could look at the pillar as a column supporting an invisible structure that houses all people united together, living peaceably through the practice of Christian guidelines found in Christ's Gospel.

We could call it the Column of Christian Civil Influence. With such a title to inspire us, we would no longer be haunted by hate-fostering reminders of an infamous past.

KEVIN R. LANDRY IS AN AUGUSTA RESIDENT, A ROMAN CATHOLIC and a self-described "evangelartist" who uses art to spread the Gospel.

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