Last week, I was vacationing in South Carolina when I drove past a billboard with a Confederate flag in the background and the words “Never Forget” emblazoned across it.
I was embarrassed then, but as I thought about it this week, another thought crossed my mind: “How must African-Americans in South Carolina feel about that billboard as they grieve the murder of nine black church members in Charleston by a white supremacist?”
How seeing those words must sting this week. How hard it must be to forget white racism when they live in a state that proudly flies, on the Capitol grounds, the Confederate flag.
I’m a proud Mississippian, a state that unfortunately and overwhelmingly voted to keep the “stars and bars” on its flag back in 2001. But I also come from a state full of people who claim allegiance to Christ over everything else.
To those folks – to the ones who really mean it – I say this: let’s practice what we preach. If unity in the body is as important to us as it is to Christ (John 17:21), we have a grave obligation to our siblings in the faith. We are obligated to care how our words, actions – and yes, symbols – undermine our credibility when we claim to believe that there is no racial stratification in the Church because “[we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Are we really one in Christ Jesus? If so, we will care how the African-American eyes of Christ’s body perceive the symbols that we hang over our mantels, fly on our flagpoles, and tolerate at Ole Miss football games. Seriously folks, let’s stop pretending that our black siblings look at that flag and see a neutral symbol of American history. We know what they see: a symbol that has, in most Americans’ minds, become the logo for backward, racist, white superiority.
What are you really holding onto when you refuse to let go of that flag? At what point in your Christian life did you become convinced that holding onto a strip of cloth was worth alienating your own family members in Christ?
If somehow that flag has become a crown of southern heritage you wear on your head, cast it down at the feet of Jesus. Because this isn’t about hypersensitivity or political correctness. This is about respect for King Jesus and all His royal subjects – not just the ones we’re accustomed to accommodating.