An astonishing amount of ink has been spilled about the Confederate flag in the last several days, and rightfully so.
This is not meant to be just another addition to that noise.
I’d like to talk specifically to Christians, those who claim to have been set free from the bondage of sin by the undeserved grace of Jesus “who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14).
Before we get to how all this specifically affects Christians, I’d like to address a few lines of thought regarding the Confederate flag I have seen tossed around by Christians in conversations, text messages, and social media.
All of the following statements were said/typed by white people.
1.) “It’s not hate; it’s heritage.”
If you sincerely want to claim the Confederacy as your heritage, by all means do so. However, have the intellectual honesty to do so with full commitment. Your heritage died when the Confederacy did, at the conclusion of the Civil War, which the Confederacy lost. Everything after the Civil War is a different history, one in which you simply cannot share if you insist on claiming a dead heritage as your own. (See: What This Cruel War Was Over)
If this is sincerely your claim, feel free to abstain from celebrating the Fourth of July, an American (not Confederate) holiday.
2.) The Confederate flag’s original intent was never meant to be racist.
We can argue about the original intent of this flag, but that’s not my interest. I am deeply concerned with the flawed logic in this statement.
Regardless of its original meaning, it’s current and functional meaning is hate.
Take the well-known “God Hates Fags” agenda of Westboro Baptist Church, for example.
Using this same “original meaning” thought process allows you to only be upset at their misuse of the word “faggot” which originally meant a bundle of sticks.
Regardless of original or intended meaning, a “faggot” is not recognized as a bundle of sticks and the Confederate flag is not recognized by many people as anything but a symbol of racism and hate. (See: Why We Can’t Say Racism is a Thing of the Past)
The functional meaning of these words, no matter how grossly inappropriate, takes precedent over their antiquated, original/intended meanings.
3.) It’s my right to free speech.
It’s my right! You’re correct. While I applaud states, organizations, and schools that have removed the flag from an organizational level, I would never applaud the dissolution of one’s personal right to free speech, regardless of how evil and hateful I feel the expression of that personal right may be.
However, the whole “free speech allows me to spew hate speech” line of thought sure sounds like an avoidance of the problem. Passing the buck.
When we (Christians) insist on our personal rights regardless of what that means for others, we become Cain killing our brother in the garden of Eden then asking God, “What?!? Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The obvious answer to this rhetorical question is YES. We are our brother’s keeper.
Christians, we have a higher allegiance than to our country.
Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and we serve a King who reminds us that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) and we are to live as aliens and foreigners in this world (1 Peter 2:11).
I’m asking you to consider forsaking your America-given right to use this flag and embrace your higher, God-given responsibility to love and care for your neighbor.
Do you love your neighbor? Do you KNOW your neighbor?
Christians, I’m asking you to consider the possibility that you only really get to fly ONE flag with your life.
I’m asking you to consider the possibility that if you choose to fly this flag on your truck or shirt or Facebook profile, you might be simultaneously refusing to fly the flag of Jesus.
But don’t take it from me. Over the last few days I’ve had conversations with over 40 of my black friends. I asked them all the same question, “How does it feel to see the Confederate flag? What is that like for you?” All of them live, or have lived, in the South and most of them are Christians. While their answers were all extremely similar, the most heart-breaking answers are listed below:
How Black (Southern, Christian) People Feel When You Fly/Post/Wear the Confederate Flag
“Seeing the confederate flag honestly stirs up fear in me, that wherever I am or whoever has the flag up is a threat, that I am unsafe there or with that person. I understand that people say it’s the flag of the south, etc, but I don’t think people take into account what the flag really means and represents. Like they don’t want to accept or acknowledge the FULL truth of honoring such a flag. At face value, I consider whoever waves that flag to believe the values of the confederate flag 100%.”
“When we think about southern heritage, we must remember that the Confederacy was fighting to preserve a way of life, which was their right to have black slaves for farmers which was the primary economic engine of the south. So if the Confederacy had won the civil war, where would black people be today? There is a high likelihood blacks would still be slaves, not considered human, still considered a commodity to be bought and sold, and we would most likely accept this as the norm of society.”
“Anyone who asks does the racial divide still exist in America, needs to only look at their local church. How many blacks are in the area versus who attend your church? Churches are some of the most segregated places in this country.”
“From a southerner perspective it represents arrogance, a refusal to allow anyone to tell us to do anything we don’t want to do. From a racial perspective it cares nothing about what me or my family thinks or how we feel. In certain environments it creates feelings of fear for the safety of my wife and kids.”
“Flying the Confederate flag, or posting it on Facebook, conveys an attitude of longing for a time to return again where black lives weren’t valued. That one flag reminds me of all the times racists raped black women, dehumanized black men (only calling them ‘boy’ or ‘N-word’) and treated black children like pests to be exterminated. It represents with pleasure every evil the South could create against any and all black people.”
“It forces me to pay more attention to my surroundings. I have to stay cautious even if it’s as simple as stopping by a store to fill up the car. The flag itself has history attached to it, that’s what people are most afraid of…you never can tell who is friend or foe.”
“When I see it flying in the back of a truck, I simply do not believe the driver when he says he’s just celebrating ‘heritage.’ He’s taunting me. He’s taunting us. He’s even taunting the police.”
“I would never do anything to harm the American flag. I don’t understand anyone of any race that would do such a thing. But there is nothing good about that Confederate flag. How would white people feel if I drove around with a Black Panther flag in my truck? I would never do that because it is so ignorant. How can people not see the same ignorance in the Confederate flag?”
You are your brother’s keeper, and your brother has spoken. Will you listen?