Friday, April 22, 2016

This Flag

Americans seem to stand ever at the ready for a good controversy over "the" Confederate flag (and other Confederate memorabilia). Statues honoring Southern soldiers and statesmen have recently been on the chopping block.[1] Into this atmosphere steps Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. He is proposing to the Southern Baptist Convention a Resolution on the Elimination of the Confederate Flag from Public Life. If it makes it out of committee the resolution will be presented for vote to the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in June in St. Louis, Missouri. The resolution calls the Confederate Battle Flag a "controversial and necessarily divisive symbol of racism conveyed by [its] ongoing public display" and asks "all persons, along with public, governmental, and religious institutions to discontinue the display of the Confederate Battle Flag and work diligently to remove vestigial symbols of racism..."

Tempers flared over the discussion of the resolution at SBC Voices, with one commenter suggesting that any discussion or questioning of the resolution should not be taking place. It is hard to progress along these lines when any "non-pc" comment will be labeled as racism (not that there never is racial reasoning, but that any perceived misstep is automatically so labeled). It is clear that some people do not want an honest and open discussion, but simple acquiesence to the obligatory socially acceptable groupthink. If history proves anything, it proves that the division of the Northern and Southern United States does not quite fit the simplistic framework imposed on it by revisionists. There is discussion to be had.

When speaking of offense by and/or banning the Confederate flag, the "Southern Cross" is usually what is meant -- seen in either the square Army of Northern Virginia or rectangular Army of Tennessee flags.[2]

Liberty for all
As an American citizen I hate to see "scorched-earth" campaigns driven by the perpetually offended.[3] They will be neither satisfied nor pacified, regardless of how many victories they win. No matter how many statues and flags come down, no matter how many graves are moved. Though some mistakenly think otherwise, in the United States you do not always have the right to not be offended! I stand for the liberty and rights of those Americans who wish to fly the Confederate flag. While some are doubtless relieved by the removal of certain symbols, it is questionable to what extent that combats real racism.

Give none offense
This flag does not offend me. It is part of my ancestral heritage. Both of these admissions will quickly get one labeled a racist if said in the wrong audience. I stand for the right of those who wish to fly the Confederate flag. But just because you have a right to fly it, does not mean you should. I will not dictate what others do; I do not want dictate what others do in this matter. As for me, I choose as both a Christian duty and courtesy to not display a flag that I know offends my Christian brothers and sisters.[4] Should it offend them? I don't know. Does it offend them? Yes. Why would I let a regional, political and cultural symbol take precedence my Christian responsibility to another? Aren’t all Christians brothers and sisters, and ultimately citizens of a more important spiritual and heavenly kingdom? Jesus said we should seek first the kingdom of God -- a kingdom not of this world. Surely for a Christian that should take precedence over an earthly kingdom that God has raised up and torn down. Paul wrote, "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32)."

Pass over a transgression
Solomon advised, "The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression (Proverbs 19:11)." Commenting on that verse and another Tim Challies wrote, "We are not required by God to confront a person every time he or she offends us." It is a glory to pass over the perceived transgressions of others. We can choose to not count one offenses against them, turn the other cheek where seeking our rights are concerned, and as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Christians who see something wrong with the Confederate flag can offer grace towards those who display it.

Christians who see nothing wrong with the Confederate flag can offer kindness towards those who are offended by it. Christians who see something wrong with the Confederate flag can offer grace towards those who display it. In that atmosphere we can make both Christian and racial progress. IF brethren would do as the Lord says, the one offending and the one offended would meet in the way, each going to the other to do the right thing.

[1] A few Baptists have chafed that the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary gave Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore a prized oil painting of John Broadus (a seminary founder and supporter of the Confederate cause) -- which now adorns Moore's office in Washington, D.C.
[2] Sometimes wrongly identified as the Stars and Bars.
[3] A general statement not directed at Pastor McKissick.
[4] I will display it for historical or educational purposes, such as posting it here to signify which flag is under discussion.

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins. 
Acts 24:16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men. 
Romans 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 
1 Corinthians 8:13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend. 
Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 
Romans 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 
1 Thessalonians 5:13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

No comments: