These are some beginning thoughts I have concerning the debates going on in our country regarding the Confederate battle flag, racism, and a book to be released today that I have not yet read!
I am glad that the flag on the South Carolina state capitol lawn is finally removed. There has been a lot of debate about the meaning of the flag and whether it is flown in honor of those who fought for the Confederacy or is a symbol of an evil institution. Certainly, both are true. Most who fought for the South never owned slaves. As in all wars, overwhelmingly, it is the poor who march off and die. Likewise, had it not been for slavery, the war would have never come about. Sure, there were other issues, but they were all linked back to the institution of slavery. As a Southerner, I had ancestors who fought under that flag, and I don’t want them vilified. Yes, many who fought under the flag went on to do good things, but I can also image how that flag would make me feel if I had ancestors who had been slaves.
As Christians, what should our response be to this debate? The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, deals with an issue that seems to have little effect on us (whether or not to eat meat offered to idols), yet it may provide insight into a Christian response to the flag controversy. In the 8th chapter of 1st Corinthians, Paul reminded his readers that eating such meat wasn’t a bad thing because there is no other god and the true God created it all. However, if we eat such meat and it caused a problem for some, then we should refrain. Not because it is wrong, but because it might cause someone weak in the faith to falter. Knowing my brothers and sisters of African-descent have experienced the negative side of the flag should be enough to keep me from wanting to show it. As Jesus said, “do unto others…”
Today, Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee’s sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird is being released. I wasn’t offered an advance copy, so what I know about the book is only what others have reported, but there is an uproar over the fact that Atticus Finch is seen in the new novel which is set in the 1950s as a segregationist. Some readers are disappointed. But I wonder if maybe the new novel will flesh out his character more and make him like the rest of us. No one is perfect. We certainly have seen many idols shattered. Think of Bill Cosby, or Bill Clinton (or those who led his impeachment and it was later discovered had skeletons in their own closets). People who are put or put themselves on pedestals are often knocked off because none of us can live up to the hype. Pride goes before the fall, the Good Book tells us… The Reformed doctrine of Total Depravity plays out as true over and over again. Even religious leaders who had done good and great things for their communities and for the world are often discovered to have clay feet. John Calvin not only open Scriptures for our understanding, he provided aid to those who were refugees in the 16th Century, yet did not intervene to save Servetus from the stake. Martin Luther, who helped kick off the Reformation, was also anti-Semitic in his later writings. Martin Luther King, Jr, who helped bring needed change to America also had his struggles with infidelity. Getting back to Atticus, maybe the question to ponder is why he did what is right in To Kill a Mockingbird while harboring racist sentiments. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Paul writes, yet as individuals, despite our failures, we can do some amazing and wonderful things. And that’s to be celebrated!