A Question of Citizenship
“…That there should be no schism in the body; but [that] the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” 1 Corinthians 12:25-27
By now we are all fully aware of the horrific act of terrorism that occurred this last week at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston. There is no one that I know that has even made any kind of attempt to justify the actions of the accused (and rightfully so, as there is none). However, my heart is heavy with the constant debate I see all over the news and social media regarding the symbolism of the Confederate battle flag of which the accused used to help communicate and symbolize his hatred. I debated as to whether to put my voice into the arena on this one as it seems to have been already over done, but I just feel that I must. I want to acknowledge a couple things first:
- I have friends on both sides of the “flag” issue. I hope you will all continue to be my friends when I am finished here.
- I acknowledge that most people who display the Confederate battle flag are not consciously racist.
- I live in the South (and have now for most of my adult life) and appreciate so much of its culture and heritage. I tell people all the time, “I wasn’t born here, but got here as fast as I could.”
- I am no fan of political correctness or revisionist history.
Ok, now with all that out of the way. Let me just ask a simple question. “Why?”
Just pause and ask yourself “Why do I feel so strongly about my position on this?”. The sad truth is that no matter our position, or even the outcome of the flag’s continued or discontinued publicly sponsored display, there is nothing I can write here and nothing we can do to bring back the 9 precious souls whose lives were stolen in this tragedy. How we respond to each other moving forward, however, could have an enormous impact on future generations.
I am personally not easily offended. But in reality, what would I have to really be offended about? I have grown up in a white majority with a faith that (in the broadest sense) is also shared with a majority of my fellow countrymen. The amount of resistance I have felt for my faith or my ethnic heritage (I wouldn’t even dare call it “persecution”) is minimal. I think I missed an invite to a party for a co-worker once and I’m still not sure if that was due to my faith or a bad contact list. I neither feel guilt nor am I necessarily proud of this. It simply is what it is. It is the lot I have been dealt and it has come with some forms of privilege of which I am thankful. That is not the story for all of my friends, however. The fact that I am even writing this piece proves that. The heritage for many of my other American friends comes from quiet submission to unjust labor, beatings, lynchings and death simply because of the color of their skin. Was that the experience of all? Of course not. Were there “benevolent” slave owners that treated their “property” with respect that were also simply products of the system and culture they were born into as well? Absolutely. We can always find exceptions on an individual basis, but when it comes to the institution of slavery itself, there were some prevailing theologies and philosophies that helped to keep it intact.
Before you set forth the argument of “states rights” and “Constitutional integrity”, take a moment and read this excerpt from the Texas Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union:
“…By consolidating their strength, they have placed the slave-holding States in a hopeless minority in the federal congress, and rendered representation of no avail in protecting Southern rights against their exactions and encroachments. They have proclaimed, and at the ballot box sustained, the revolutionary doctrine that there is a ‘higher law’ than the constitution and laws of our Federal Union…”
“…We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable…“
When I think that just a few generations ago, this was the prevailing thought in much of the territory that fought under the Confederate battle flag, and just one week ago we witnessed a heinous act motivated by, yes, an extremist view of this philosophy, I have to ask myself, why would I want to defend this? The answer is: I don’t. The fact of the matter is there is a ‘higher law’ than the Constitution and while I cannot defend lawlessness nor the abuses of power that also ensued from the Northern powers, I am thankful that there were people in that time that viewed their heavenly and Kingdom citizenship with higher regard than that of their own country for the sake of their fellow brothers and sisters.
I love my country, but it’s not perfect. I also find great solace in the protection I receive from our Constitution and am now glad that my brothers and sisters of African heritage, in theory, have that same protection too. However, I’m most thankful for the ‘higher law’ that gives ultimate freedom and it was that law that these 9 brothers and sisters were studying the night they met their Creator. While I’m sure many good men and women who fought for the Confederacy gave their lives for their own noble causes, I cannot in good conscience defend the continued display of a symbol on public property that stood against the ‘higher law’ of my faith and fought to preserve the bondage of men, woman and children who were born to have abundant life and freedom.