Is it inconsistent to call for the removal of Confederate flags (from state-owned properties, as well as Christians dissociating themselves from this flag voluntarily), while not calling for similar treatment of Old Glory?
This question has been raised all over my Twitter feed, and perhaps most prominently in a blog post by Douglas Wilson. The US flag does, after all, stand for a number of reprehensible things itself. In our past we have the horrors of slavery...quite the same ones as the Confederacy, come to think of it. We have the massive injustices of murder, land theft, and more of the Native peoples of North America. Currently we murder our babies in the millions. And of course I'm just hitting the lowest of the low notes. So, is there a difference?
I believe the answer is, most definitely, yes. First of all, as Wilson labors in his post, flags mean a lot of things, including what a nation should be. We might say, aspires to be. All men are created equal. That's a good place to start. Not that some men are equal and others are the stuff of personal property. I would press this, though, in a different direction. Because as a nation that is still living, the US can actually still be pulled toward these ideals. That is, our sins, while real, need not be all that defines us 200 years from. We may yet change course, and shape a broader picture for our society that is not one dominated by greed, murder, and the pillaging abuse of our brother for personal gain.
Is this true of a nation that no longer exists? Can the flag of a dead nation represent abstract and unrealized ideals? I struggle to believe that. Instead, what we have is a historical artifact that represents what actually was there. In the case of the Confederate flag, we have a symbol which stands for a nation whose primary reason for existence was the perpetuating of human slavery. You can argue states rights or economic issues, but these and the vast majority of other reasons sighted for the American Civil War will all tie back to this issue: claiming other humans as sub-human property. Beyond that, we have what the flag has meant since then, with it's use for groups like the KKK and others fighting against civil rights, nay, human rights, for black Americans. That is what the stars and bars stand for. Unmitigated and unjustifiable hatred. And there is no way to change this. It simply stands as self-evident fact.
"But that's not what it means to me!" "That's not all it stood for!" Um, so what? Here becomes the obvious application for those reading this who are believers in Jesus Christ: can you not muster enough brotherly love to see that this is what it means to most of our fellow Americans who aren't white? That this flag is an obvious symbol of white supremacy, and thus to cling to it is a clear and, frankly, ugly disregarding of Scripture (eg, Romans 13:8-10, Romans 14:19)? Is this really rocket science?
It feels painfully obvious to say, but in addition, I have clear commands in Scripture (Romans 13:1-7, for instance) to obey and submit to the governing authorities. I believe that would include proper respect for the flag of that governing authority. However, in case you have not noticed, no one living today is living in the Confederate States. No one is beholden to that flag.
It is offensive to many, there is no reason to hold onto it besides selfish hardheadedness...can we figure this one out?