Why the Confederate Battle Flag should come DOWN , and Why Small Town Pastors Should Speak Out

flagrally_tg2558-2The Confederate Battle flag stands for hate and injustice, plain and simple. Why it flies over a state capitol in America in 2015 is completely lost on me. I sincerely hope the South Carolina legislature follows through on Governor Nikki Haley’s call to remove this flag from the capitol there.

I have many friends and parishioners who might strongly disagree with me on this, and let me say personally, I love each of you more than you know, and respect your right to your opinion. My prayer is that you will read this article, and no matter what that flag may mean to you personally, that you will know more about its history and think about how flying it over a state house may impact others, especially brothers and sisters of color.

I feel that it’s the job of pastors to speak out and educate on this important issue. If the church doesn’t speak about racial justice, who will?

The reasons I feel compelled to speak out on this are:

  1. I’m literally sickened these days when I watch the nightly news and continually see the racial tension, the hatred and the bigotry, and the ignorance of countless people.
  2. The more I research and learn about this subject, the more I’m convinced it’s time to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from all public property, because of what it symbolizes for so many brothers and sisters in Christ.
  3. With everything going on in our country, it’s time for small town churches and pastors to take the lead in their communities, calling for racial unity.
  4. Christian leaders of all stripes are in agreement that the time has come to confront the issue of race in this country, including those parts of our past that are less than savory. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention stated this week that “The cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire.” Strong words from a leader in a denomination (and one my church affiliates with) that largely supported slavery and segregation in its inception.

Arguments in favor of displaying the confederate flag are usually straight forward, so allow me here to address the most common ones.

  1. Argument 1: “The flag stands for my Southern heritage.” I’ll buy that. If of course you mean the heritage of oppressing people of color and justifying the unjustifiable institution of slavery in society. Some will quickly say, “Well it doesn’t mean that to me!” to which I would argue that you are likely not the one who has ever been oppressed by this flag. If a brother or sister in Christ (or even a non-Christian) takes offense, shouldn’t a little humility for the sake of Christ trump “Southern pride” (whatever that means)?
  2. Argument 2: “The Civil war was about things other than slavery!”
    1. “It was also about states’ rights.” I’ll buy that also, if of course you mean the southern states’ right to uphold slavery. Some, making this same argument another way will say, “The flag stands for defiance of government power and taxation.” Say like, defiance of a government which says black lives matter and that slavery is evil? Defiance over policies that put economic hurt on slave owners to change their ways? (Economic sanctions is almost always a precursor to war by the way).
    2. “It was about economics.” Again, you’ve won me over, if you mean to say it was about upholding an economic system built on the free labor of slaves – so much so it is written into the Confederate Constitution!
  3. Argument 3: “The Confederate leaders were Christian gentlemen.” In 1870
    Frederik Douglas

    Frederik Douglas

    after Robert E. Lee died, Frederick Douglas, the famous African-American activist and orator wrote, “We can scarcely take up a newspaper . . . that is not filled with nauseating flatteries” of Lee, from which “it would seem . . . that the soldier who kills the most men in battle, even in a bad cause, is the greatest Christian, and entitled to the highest place in heaven.” That quote if from a Smithsonian article on Lee. If anything, the Civil War is a great lesson in the dangers of assuming God is on your side in a military conflict.

  4. Argument 4: “What about all the Confederate memorials?” There are memorials all over Texas to the Texas Revolution, and the Mexican flag doesn’t fly over any of them. Likewise, there are memorials all over Europe commemorating the dead on both sides of WWII, and I bet my bottom dollar the Nazi flag doesn’t fly over one of them.
  5. Argument 5: “Just leave it up to the people of that state. You don’t live in South Carolina, so why should you care?” I care because I feel compelled to show solidarity and support, not only for the victims of the AME massacre, but with African-American brothers and sisters everywhere. I care because people everywhere are made in God’s image, not just people in the state I live in. Christians don’t make the same argument for other issues – that they “should just be up to that state,” – like marriage equality or drug legalization. No Christian leader gets shamed for speaking out on these issues, because they are national issues, regardless of what state may be the current battle ground, so why so with this flag?

When the Confederate Army carried the Confederate Battle Flag, it not only made a clear distinction for Confederate soldiers from Union colors in battle, it symbolized everything the South was fighting for. That’s what a flag is. A symbol. For a good article that puts much misinformation on this flag to rest, read this

I feel that it’s the job of pastors to speak out and educate on this important issue. If the church doesn’t speak about racial justice, who will?

Wonder how I really reached my conclusion that this flag is a symbol of hate and bigotry? Below are a collection of quotes I’ve compiled (in large part thanks to this scholar’s work) from Confederate documents, leaders, and columnists during (and leading up to) the Civil War. When the flag flying at the South Carolina state house was carried into battle, this is everything it stood for.

So before you make comments about how liberal I am, or about how I need to educate myself on “Southern heritage,” or about how I’m “parroting Obama” or some other senseless argument, read these disturbing words for yourself…


 

“In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages.” But he goes on: “I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.”

                      – General Robert E. Lee, in a letter to his wife, 1856


“Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”

-Confederate V.P. Alexander Stephens


“But I take higher ground. I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good – a positive good. I feel myself called upon to speak freely upon the subject where the honor and interests of those I represent are involved. I hold then, that there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other.”

-John C. Calhoun,U.S. senator from South Carolina leading up to the Civil War


“No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.”

-The Constitution of the Confederate States, Article 1, Section 9.4


“No slave or other person held to service or labor in any State or Territory of the Confederate States, under the laws thereof, escaping or lawfully carried into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such slave belongs, or to whom such service or labor may be due.”

-The Constitution of the Confederate States , Article 4, Section 2.3


“[My opponent] describes the institution of slavery as degrading to labor, as intolerant and inhuman, and says the white laborer among us is not enslaved only because he cannot yet be reduced to bondage. Where he learned his lesson, I am at a loss to imagine; certainly not by observation, for you all know that by interest, if not by higher motive, slave labor bears to capital as kind a relation as can exist between them anywhere; that it removes from us all that controversy between the laborer and the capitalist, which has filled Europe with starving millions and made their poorhouses an onerous charge.” 

Speech of Jefferson Davis before the Mississippi Legislature, Nov. 16, 1858,” where he advocates secession if an abolitionist is elected president


“Now, it is clear the Athenian democracy would not suit a negro nation, nor will the government of mere law suffice for the individual negro. He is but a grown up child, and must be governed as a child, not as a lunatic or criminal. The master occupies towards him the place of parent or guardian. We shall not dwell on this view, for no one will differ with us who thinks as we do of the negro’s capacity, and we might argue till dooms-day, in vain, with those who have a high opinion of the negro’s moral and intellectual capacity.

Secondly. The negro is improvident; will not lay up in summer for the wants of winter ; will not accumulate in youth for the exigencies of age. He would become an insufferable burden to society. Society has the right to prevent this, and can only do so by subjecting him to domestic slavery.

In the last place, the negro race is inferior to the white race, and living in their midst, they would be far outstripped or outwitted in the chase of free competition. Gradual but certain extermination would be their fate. We presume the maddest abolitionist does not think the negro’s providence of habits and money-making capacity at all to compare to those of the whites. This defect of character would alone justify enslaving him, if he is to remain here. In Africa or the West Indies, he would become idolatrous, savage and cannibal, or be devoured by savages and cannibals. At the North he would freeze or starve.

We would remind those who deprecate and sympathize with negro slavery, that his slavery here relieves him from a far more cruel, slavery in Africa, or from idolatry and cannibalism, and every brutal vice and crime that can disgrace humanity; and that it christianizes, protects, supports and civilizes him; that it governs him far better than free laborers at the North are governed.”

-George Fitzhugh, Confederate Treasury Department employee and southern sociologist in “Negro Slavery: Sociology for the South, or the Failure of Free Society. Richmond, VA 1854


Now you tell me, does a flag that stands for all that, deserve any place on public property, other than being on display in a museum? I say, absolutely not!

I would go one step further and say Christians (especially) should ask themselves if such a flag (and all it stands for) should have any place in their hearts. No matter the other things this flag stands for (i.e. Southern Pride, Lynard Skynard, country music) there is no divorcing it from hatred, bigotry, white supremacy, and segregation.99ba2de1eb244d4d8e4d3da3755dd236-05f4b67b74e249cb8a82ef6ce9f11896-1

Are you a small town pastor who wants to speak out on this issue but are not sure how? Feel free to share this post and encourage people to learn for themselves what the Confederate Battle Flag stood for originally, and what Civil War bloodshed was really all about.

I am disabling comments for this post, because I have no desire to engage those who would try and support flying the Confederate Battle flag on state grounds in the wake of such compelling evidence. The above quotes (in my opinion) say everything that needs saying.


Addendum 6/23/2015, 9:57 PM

Let me be very clear, in my article earlier today concerning my feelings about the Confederate Battle Flag on PUBLIC property, in no way did I intend to accuse ALL sympathizers of the flag of being inherently racist, because that’s simply not true. That would be alienating and disingenuous. I know a number of people who are drawn to the Confederate Battle Flag for different reasons, who don’t have a racist bone in their body.

What IS true, is that for a large (and growing) number of people (including myself), the flag in question symbolizes racial subjugation and oppression (this is historically true no matter how you try and skirt it), and I question (greatly) if it should fly over a PUBLIC hall of legislation.

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