22 June 2015

The Confederate Stumbling Block


I was born and raised in Paris, Tennessee. Being a native of west Tennessee, I used to heartily embrace the Confederate flag as a symbol of my “southern-ness.” I had a license plate carrying the phrase “American by birth, Southern by the grace of God.” I thought it (and I) was pretty clever with that thing in the back of my first pickup truck.

I am extremely grateful to be from the South (capitalized on purpose). It's a deep, deep thing engrained in the DNA of people who were born and raised there. If you’re not from the region, you may not understand it and that’s OK. However, it's a very real pride that can’t be quantified.

The South and its history is not pure and pristine. Neither is America and its history. There is much shame running throughout our entire nation’s past. We have done wretched things to one another. Slavery and its sister, the Civil War, being toward the top of that list. You can get into semantics over where today’s incarnation of the “rebel” flag came from. You can honestly debate state’s rights and all sorts of things. It’s a rabbit hole you may never escape from. The Civil War was fought over the right of one man to own another man as property. Don’t let that get clouded in any other argument over this very dark portion of our nation’s past. Men fought and died for a cause. There was great valor and honor spent and much blood spilled to protect the right to own another human being as property.

The flag and its various Confederate incarnations was — and is — a symbol of this horrifying fact.

In the past, my embrace of the flag carried no connotation of slavery, in my mind. But, when I became convicted by the Holy Spirit of the very real pain and hurt the flag’s prominence caused friends, family, and many Christian brothers and sisters, I could no longer embrace it with a clear conscience.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you should recognize the term “stumbling block.” Plain and simple, that’s what this flag is. It simply is highly offensive to many of our brothers and sisters as well as to many who aren’t followers of Jesus. The life of a Christian is marked by laying down one’s life for others, including preferences, oftentimes. Are my preferences to laud my southern heritage more important to me than people? Surely not. This should not be.

Be aware of your history, your heritage, your roots. In many cases, a healthy amount of encouragement should come from those things. I am encouraged by my family’s history and the work ethic and determination passed down from my Scots-Irish, Southern roots. I am comforted by the “way” things are in the South in regards to everyday life and faith, family, and friends. I’ve spent nearly 15 years above the Mason-Dixon in Indiana and I’ve often joked about being a missionary to a foreign land of Yankees (of the German-Catholic variety).

However, the pain of this symbol of my “homeland” is all too real. As Christians, we should never embrace symbols of oppression and symbols of hate. Just as the swastika was not originally a Nazi symbol, it is now. Just as the Confederate flag may, to you, be a symbol of Southern pride, the pain it carries now is one we should reject.

If we truly believe all men are made in the image of God and life is sacred, followers of Jesus can not embrace the symbols of ownership of our fellow man. We can’t embrace the symbols of a certain skin color being superior to another. We can’t embrace the Confederate flag.

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