People do not like to be reminded of their past, especially if that past contains a level of ugliness. Germany, in the decades following the horrors committed by the political and military forces in World War II, has become almost paranoid at any reference to its past. There seems to be a similar attitude that has arisen in the days following the shooting that occurred at Emanuel A.M.E Church in South Carolina regarding the state’s flag, which is a modified version of the Confederate battle flag. In fact, the discussion has even come to my home state of Mississippi, which has its own version of the flag.
The issue, to me, seems straightforward: what does the flag stand for. Without a doubt, it stands for the army that defended the nation that arose for the shear purpose of maintaining the institution of slavery, the Confederate army. There’s no doubt about this. And that is the very reason why removing it is a bad idea.
Let me explain.
History is a dangerous thing. It has a nasty habit of revisiting itself on a people in a variety of ways. People who are afraid of history want to suppress it, they want to sweep the darkest parts of our history under the rug and ignore it as if it never happened. That is both dishonest and unbiblical.
It is dishonest because it tries to hide the truth. The history of this nation confirms that it was built on the backs of terrible injustice committed against a variety of people with a various shades of melanin. The honest thing to do is be up front.
It is unbiblical because the Bible does not attempt to minimize or obscure evil. It points it out and calls people to repentance. In the Christian worldview we do not hide from our failures, rather we acknowledge them and use them as leverage to move toward something greater.
The move to remove the battle flag is a refusal to engage with reality, to have a public image that points to our failings and gives us reason to do greater things in the opposite direction of what it originally symbolized. Only the Christian religion makes such things possible.
[Christ] is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15, ESV)