P.AllanWill furling the Confederate flag from State grounds improve race relations?

Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge Flag company explains why they’ll no longer produce the Stars and Bars:  “We hope this decision will show our support for those affected by the recent events in Charleston, and, in some small way, help to foster racial unity and tolerance in our country.”  Amazon, Google, Wal-Mart and others have followed.  Some southern states—South Carolina the prime example—have removed the flag from State property.

Symbols Clash.  Opponents see the flag as an emblem of slavery and racism.  Supporters say it represents the South’s heritage and culture, and it memorializes Confederate casualties of the 1861-1865 Civil War.

Symbols hold different meanings for different people.  For Christians, the cross represent Christ’s sacrificial death by which we sinners are reconciled to the holy God.  For non-Christians, the public cross represents Christians’ attempts to force their faith on everyone.  Shall all offensive-to-some symbols be removed from the public square?

I understand the Confederate flag can remind African-Americans of white supremacy.  If my grandfather had been hanged by the Ku Klux Klan under that flag, I would cringe every time I saw it wave.  However,  that same flag can remind us of racism’s horrors and drive us to never permit them again.  If a state decides to furl the flag, so be it.   Big merchandisers?  I think that’s a bit over the top.  Certainly individuals shouldn’t be despised nor disallowed the flag.

More can be said.  A good overview of the history, regionalism, economic interests, etc. of the Confederate flag is here— http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CLASS/am483_97/projects/sarratt/intro.html.

Let me make just two points about this from a biblical worldview . . .

One, God created races.  Eliminate God as Creator, and we’re left with time+chance as race-source.  Then any race can claim supremacy according to their rating system.  But, if every race is God-created, a “supreme” race loses its footing.  Adam and Eve are Dad and Mom to us all.  After the Flood the grandchildren of Noah “spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations” (Genesis 10:1-5).

Racism, therefore, is man-made and sin against our Creator.  It’s not just a human issue or a source of social or economic contention.  It is an offense against the God who made us.  The old Sunday school song proclaims sound theological truth . . .

Jesus loves the little children,
all the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
they are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Two, Christ’s cross unites the colors.  Details were different then.  Racism wasn’t black/white but Gentile/Jew.  God’s solution wasn’t to take down a flag but nail up his Son.  The crucified Christ made the two one.  Peace wouldn’t come by a law but by the cross.  That would be the way to reconcile Jew and Gentile, black and white, to God.  And in that peace the two would become one new humanity, in which there would be “neither Jew nor Greek . . . neither slave nor free . . . no male and female” but “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).  This overflowing passage requires careful reading . . .

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth
and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision”
(that done in the body by the hands of men)–
remember that at that time you were separate from Christ,
excluded from citizenship in Israel and
foreigners to the covenants of the promise,
without hope and without God in the world.
But now in Christ Jesus
you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace,
who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.
His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,
and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross,
by which he put to death their hostility.
He came and preached peace to you who were far away
and peace to those who were near.
For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens,
but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
In him the whole building is joined together
and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
And in him you to
o are being built together
to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22).

Furling the Confederate flag is a small, symbolic step.  Politicians tend to take these as loudly as they can.  Maybe it will help.  But storing away a flag doesn’t change the reality of history, however one views it.  And pulling flags from the shelf can’t change the human heart.

Only God in Christ can do that.  And we are transformed when we who trust him understand that he died to make one new humanity in which identity isn’t determined by race, economics or sex,  but by the redeeming, saving work of Christ.

When blacks and whites are “brought near [to God] through the blood of Christ”, we are brought near to one another.  And then, standing shoulder to shoulder as family, the only flag flying over us is Christ.

 Christian Flag

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