I’m an Anabaptist pastor. So I’m not a big fan of flags, certainly not as a sticker on my car or sitting on the stage meant for the worship of Jesus.
I left the Southern Baptist Convention largely because of its love affair with politics, flags, and nationalism. You can read about that here.
Our last SBC church was in Texas, but it wasn’t the Confederate flag that was the problem. It was the American flag–the flag that flew over a racist, genocidal nation a hundred years before what is known as the “Civil War” between the “Union” and the Confederacy.
I understand the desire to want to respond to the AME church shooting in Charleston, SC with a boycott movement to rid the country of the Confederate flag, so proudly worn by the racist who killed the beautiful people who welcomed him into their congregation. We want to do something. I get it.
We can exorcise a flag simple enough.
While I don’t accept the official story of the glorious North defeating the evil South, and that the Confederate flag represents racism, anymore than the American flag, at this point, it should come down because of its current offensiveness to our black brothers and sisters. We owe it to them.
But here is the thing. Why do we not find the American flag equally, if not more, offensive? In the 239 years of US history, there has only been about 20 years of peace. We now profit from war. Therefore, we’re seeing more of it.
The US military-industrial complex and her flag has been on a slow march of imperialism since the very beginning.
We expect that of empires, but not of the church. What’s most disturbing to me is that the US flag is worshipped in thousands of churches every year around the sacred 4th of July, while drones around the world kill innocent men, women, and children for “freedom” and justice. Does this not offend you?
And why is it that nobody seems to be bothered that the US Flag Code says it’s a living thing. Yes, you read that correctly. Give it a look. Let it sink in.
Folks, the American flag is an idol. If this isn’t idolatry and offensive, nothing else should be. There are rednecks all across the South who are saying the same thing some of you patriots want to say, “But that’s not what it means to me!”
Sure. Right. OK. That one doesn’t fly (pun intended) with me. Simply put, both flags suck. They both are full of meaning, the good, the bad, and the ugly. As Christians, we don’t need them. So let’s be consistent.
Where am I going with this post?
As I surveyed my Facebook newsfeed this morning, I thought, What if we all repented of our sins and the darkness within us with as much fervor that goes into protesting flags and boycotting other “evil” products? Both sides of the political isle do this believing that it will somehow change things in their favor. But it seldom has the intended result. The real problem still remains.
I do understand the power of symbols, but I think attacking, even destroying symbols, can merely give the illusion that the evil has been removed from us.
In reality we’re all flying flags of the heart that can’t be eradicated by legislation, protests, and social media outrage. It might make you feel better, like you’re making a real difference, but I have serious doubts about that. Real change goes much deeper, down into the human heart.
This is why “social justice” without Christ’s call to repentance is just humanitarian work, not the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Christ alone has the lasting power to transform the human heart.
Let’s do the hard work of repentance and root out the sin that begins in the hearts of men and women, beginning with your heart. One is the way of Christ, the other can be a cheap substitute, a religious show of self-righteous emotion. One is the root cause, the other is just symptomatic of the real problem.
Now go hug your neighbor and pray for your enemy, and tell them that you’re working to take down the flags of the heart. Because Jesus wants you to do it.
David D. Flowers, 2015.