Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

“The cross was more important than the flag.”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 14, 2016

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On Tuesday, Flag Day, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution calling on its members, collectively and individually, to repudiate the Confederate flag. Russell Moore, a Southern Baptist theologian who currently serves as head of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote this about the decision:

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To understand the significance of this, one must note the “Southern” in “Southern Baptist Convention.” This doesn’t speak to geography; there are SBC churches in all fifty states. It speaks to history. The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845, over a controversy about appointing slaveholders as missionaries. The SBC was wrong, and more than wrong. The SBC of 1845, and for many years after, was in open sin against a holy God, and against those who bear his image.

This afternoon, the Convention voted, from the floor, to amend the resolution about the flag as it was reported out of the Resolutions Committee. The proposed resolution spoke about the way that many people fly the flag out of a sense of family history or honor. The Convention voted to strike that language. The committee version called for Southern Baptists “to limit” the display of the flag and to “consider” stopping flying it altogether. The Convention decided stronger language was in order.

In an amendment, offered by former SBC president James Merritt, himself a descendant of slaveholder, the Convention voted to say this: “We call our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters.”

Does this change the game as it applies to the crushing issues of racial injustice around us? Of course it does not. But at the same time, we cannot dismiss this as just about symbols. Symbols matter.

The Convention recognized today what the flag represents, and what it says to our African American brothers and sisters in Christ. The flag hearkens back to a day when in order to justify idolatrous Mammonism, Southern religion wove a counter-biblical folk theology that stood on the other side of Jesus. The flag also points to years and years of domestic terrorism against African-Americans, often with threats of physical violence.

Like James Merritt, I’m a descendant of Confederate veterans too. But my family history is more complicated than just that. I’m a part of another family now, a bigger family that spans heaven and earth, a people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language. The gospel frees us from scrapping for our “heritage” at the expense of others. The gospel frees us, as the Bible says, to “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14:19). The gospel calls us to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). What hurts one part of the Body hurts us all.

As I’ve said before, the Cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire. Today, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, including many white Anglo southerners, decided the cross was more important than the flag. They decided our African-American brothers and sisters are more important than family heritage. We decided that we are defined not by a Lost Cause but by amazing grace. Let’s pray for wisdom, work for justice, love our neighbors.

And let’s take down that flag.

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My emphasis.

I grew up in SBC churches, and while I left many years ago, I long since internalized many of the basic ideas instilled in me in Sunday school, in the Royal Ambassadors (an SBC variant of the Boy Scouts), and so on. So it’s gratifying to see that Moore, one of the more influential evangelical voices in the United States, speaks candidly about both the SBC’s past and its future. As I said over at Kevin’s blog, the church needs to concern itself spiritual maters, not temporal ones.

Naturally, the usual suspects have chosen to set their hair on fire over this development (because that’s what they do), with some announcing they will leave (or have already left) the SBC. I say, let ’em go — if that’s where their priorities lie, they probably weren’t very good Baptists to begin with.

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Added, June 15: Check out the video above, via Kevin, of Jame’s Merritt’s motion from the floor at the meeting. “All the Confederate flags in the world are not worth one soul of any race.”

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Added, June 18: I knew they’d be upset about the convention’s resolution, but I didn’t really expect the heritage folks to completely cast off from reality in their efforts to delegitimize the SBC:

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Russell Moore was born and raised in Biloxi, Mississippi. As for Moore being “no conservative,” you can Google him your own self.

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GeneralStarsGray

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15 Responses

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  1. Jimmy Dick said, on June 14, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    “Naturally, the usual suspects have chosen to set their hair on fire over this development (because that’s what they do), with some announcing they will leave (or have already left) the SBC. I say, let ’em go — if that’s where their priorities lie, they probably weren’t very good Baptists to begin with.”

    Exactly. Those type of people have rejected Christ and his message. They have chosen the Confederacy over Christ. Any church made up primarily of the racists is not a church of God. Just leave the door open for them when they choose to repent, if they do. If they do not, then that’s between them and God.

    • Leo said, on June 16, 2016 at 11:07 pm

      The Mississippi SCV was called out. It seems many in the SCV have made their choice.

      • Andy Hall said, on June 17, 2016 at 7:53 am

        Rational appeals don’t sway irrational people.

      • Jimmy Dick said, on June 17, 2016 at 10:05 am

        The usual suspects in Mississippi are doubling down on their dumbness. They’ve made their choice on their future and now have nowhere to go but the same place of ignorance they’re currently in. They must like it. As a result they will continue to be marginalized and eventually bypassed by the larger community they have been part of.

        • Andy Hall said, on June 17, 2016 at 10:32 am

          Week after week, month after month, the heritage crowd (or some of them, anyway) becomes more insular, isolating themselves from mainstream public discourse as they add steadily to their list of people, institutions, and organizations that have betrayed them.

          There ain’t no light at the end of that particular tunnel, because it’s not a tunnel at all — it’s a well.

          • Jimmy Dick said, on June 17, 2016 at 2:04 pm

            What they fail to understand is that by isolating themselves they are unable to communicate effectively with the people around them. Their message is being rejected when it is heard. As time passes, they lose numbers and become a smaller and smaller segment of the overall population. They squawk loudly, but when they do they alienate people in the process with their attention getting techniques.

            In the end, they’ve marginalized themselves and are now bitter that their version of the past and the present has been rejected and that it will not be part of the future. So here they are rejecting Christ for a symbol of racism. That says a lot about these people and what they really are. They have embraced racism in the place of Christianity.

            • Andy Hall said, on June 17, 2016 at 2:06 pm

              As I’ve said before, they think they’re circling the wagons, when they make actually be circling the drain.

              For a long time now, and increasingly so, “defending Confederate heritage” essentially means shouting one’s displeasure and, better still, being more outrageous, more strident, than the next guy. It gets them lots of approval from their fellow heritage folks, but it’s actually counterproductive to changing the minds of people who disagree with you, or (like most people) aren’t invested in the issue one way or another. They simply become an increasingly outrageous caricature, that’s increasingly less likely to be taken seriously.

              • Leo said, on June 20, 2016 at 1:22 pm

                It seems the Mississippi SCV is already down the drain.

  2. msb said, on June 15, 2016 at 5:38 am

    Amen, brothers.

  3. germaine said, on June 15, 2016 at 7:10 am

    Well stated! Thank you! Lisa Germaine

    >

  4. Leo said, on June 15, 2016 at 8:09 am

    This news is reverberating far and wide here in Mississippi. As you stated, the usual suspects are not very happy, and I have seen several social media posts denouncing the Southern Baptist Church. Many local neo-confederate and flagger groups have taken to calling them the Socialist Baptist Church. It is obvious these people place the Confederacy above their faith.

    Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant never fails to use his religious faith to pander for votes, so it remains to be seen what he will do with this news. My money is on him continuing the tradition established by the likes of Ross Barnett. Stay tuned!

    • Andy Hall said, on June 17, 2016 at 4:23 pm

      The spittle-flecked outrage over this is quite remarkable, given that the SBC has actually zero means to enforce it. These folks are so angry, you’d think it was the First Lady suggesting that people should eat right and exercise more. ZOMG Tyranny!

  5. Mark H. Dunkelman said, on June 16, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    I was struck by Russell Moore’s comment, “. . .the Cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire.” Hmmm . . . Confederate flags and burning crosses–has a familiar ring.

  6. bob carey said, on June 23, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    It will be interesting to see if any other denominations follow suit.

    • Andy Hall said, on June 23, 2016 at 4:18 pm

      We’ll see, although other denominations don’t have the history bound up in the peculiar institution the way the SBC does.

      I’m really a little surprised at how virulent (and in most cases, silly) the backlash against the SBC has been. But if you notice, virtually all of these “heritage violation” (itself a silly term) have one thing in common — they are cases of powerful or prominent institutions, public or private, rejecting Confederate symbolism. That’s true whether it’s the VMFA removing flags from outside the chapel in Richmond, or Walmart deciding not to sell Confederate-themed merchandise, or this thing with the SBC. The heritage folks seem to NEED the validation of these institutions, and that they go bonkers when the institution rejects it, speaks to a deep insecurity in their own beliefs and self-image. People who are genuinely confident of something don’t need constant affirmation.


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