Following last week’s devastating massacre at a church in Charleston, South Carolina which left 9 worshippers dead; so much public outcry has come about white supremacy groups or anyone who dons a confederate flag. 2016 Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said:
“Take down the #ConfederateFlag at the SC Capitol. To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred. Remove it now to honor #Charleston victims.” 11:09 AM – 20 Jun 2015
To which I might agree. But it’s not as if this is a new thing. I spent the last two years of my high school education in Ohio where our mascot was a Rebel soldier holding a Rebel Confederate flag. In fact, it was on our football jerseys! I can remember playing against mostly black schools wondering who thought I supported it. As a black man, that flag has always rubbed me the wrong way. Even as a believer, at worst I have equated it with a toleration of slavery, or at best a protest against black liberation and black equality. So today when I see a rebel flag, I think ‘wow, someone REALLY DOESN’T UNDERSTAND how this effects black people. Someone would rather make a bold social statement about the Old South for whatever reasons and ignore the sensitive connotations that flag represents against black people or African Americans.’ Can Christians stand to ignore such issues?
Now, after having lived more than two-decades in the south, my ‘deep root’ southern friends have tried to clarify that my notions are not all correct. That the Confederate flag doesn’t stand for slavery necessarily, but rather reflects a southern nostalgia, a time when the states could enact principles independently and be self-governed. A rejection of big-monopolizing government, a true democracy. I usually reply something like, ‘I get that, but are you willing to stand behind that flag to validate those points?’ I would not wear an ‘Enola Gay Rocks’ tea-shirt in Japan. I would not wear anything closely resembling a swastika around my Jewish friends, even if I could explain its more genuine origins.’
About a dozen years ago, I was on a ‘Reformed Baptist’ website discussion group (before ‘blogging’ became a thing) and a respected group member, an astute theologian decided to change his personal logo to the confederate flag. Up to this time, I had respected his comments. There is little doubt that we shared a precious affinity and love for Christ together, but I wondered…would he use that logo if he knew that his cyberspace brother, a black man took offense to it? I did question him about it in a private post, but never received a reply and neither was his logo removed. I was honestly struck and hurt that someone professing to have the Spirit of Christ in them, would enter the fray of controversy, or not be courteous enough to know when to disassociate with the volatile representational nature of the Confederate flag. I thought, “why would a believer even go there?” The scripture says in the book of Titus:
Tit 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
Tit 3:10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,
Tit 3:11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
The Holy Spirit seems to teach us here that ‘foolish controversies’ ought to be avoided at all cost. Those who get bamboozled into these quarrelsome issues are called ‘warped.’ The word means a combination of being subverted and perverted in mind. It’s the spiritual heart disease of insubordination. People that meddle in stupid disputes are often spiritually ‘disconnected’ to some degree. This is not to say anyone hoisting a confederate flag is such, but I am saying, a Christian ought to know where to ‘stick his feet.’ For a Christian to defend an historical stance on something like the Confederate flag and ignore its effect socially, is irresponsible and warped. By association that flag represents something extremely hostile to a very large percentage of people in America. That fact alone would steer me away it. We should know how negatively this is perceived by many African American’s (many of whom are our brothers in Christ). There may be some who really don’t understand the controversy. But if we cared more about the cross than the confederate historic emblem, then perhaps we would jettison the one in order to esteem the other. Those who are connected with the cross are the ones who must demonstrate that gospel which teaches us about ‘peace and reconciliation’ (Romans 5:1), ‘doing good to all men’ and ‘showing hospitality’, and being conscientious of the lowly (Romans 12:16)
A flag, colors, symbols, fabric and a pole, we may think ‘how is that evil in itself?’ Folks, it’s the issue of the social stigma this flag creates which the Christian should look to avoid. When issues are related to absolute truth, then we must stand firm and not balk regardless of how much resistance it stirs; but with issues where the ‘gospel’ is not at the core, let us step away from foolish and stupid associations, so that the ‘Good news of Christ’ will remain glorious.