Standing against the use of the Confederate flag will likely cause some people accuse me of bowing to political correctness. But let me make the assertion that my concerns are not primarily political in nature. Rather they are theological, birthed out of a deep conviction about the glory of God in humanity.
Whatever else the Confederate flag may stand for, it is inextricably linked to the South’s terrible legacy of slavery, racism, and hatred. At the heart of the Confederacy lay the assertion that the slave trade was justified morally. State rights were only an issue when the issue came to a head and states rights, threatening slavery’s continued existence. I have heard it called a symbol of heritage, but we cannot deny that at the heart of this symbol is a legacy of denying the humanity and dignity of humans made in God’s image.
Now some will quickly call me a hypocrite because I am a Southern Baptist and everyone knows the SBC split from the Northern Baptist Convention over the issue of slavery. We cannot deny this sad history, nor should we seek to do so. As Christians, we cannot repent if we never call our sin what it is. For all that the founders of the SBC had right, they had the issue of slavery terribly wrong.
However, two fundamental differences exist between the SBC, on the one hand, and the Confederacy on the other. First, the SBC existed for a purpose other than the propagation of slavery, namely the spread of the Gospel. Meanwhile, the Confederacy existed as a nation primarily to ensure that slavery could continue within its borders. Second, the SBC has acknowledged that its actions and motives were wrong and formally passed a resolution repenting of its racist past and the Confederate flag(though we still have much work to do). The Confederacy never admitted any wrongdoing; it was defeated and would probably continue promoting slavery today if it were financially beneficial.
But as I said, my primary concern is not political; it is spiritual. Because of the Confederacy’s unrepentant embrace of slavery, the Confederate flag stands for the subversion of the image of God. When masters sell men, women, and children as property, they rob them of their dignity as divine image bearers. More to the heart of the issue, when men and women strip others of their dignity, ultimately they defame the glory of God’s. In the face of every single human being, we see those made in the image of God, deserving of the full dignity, honor, and protection that is due divine image bearers.
I look forward to the day when the Confederate flag I pass every day is removed from its pole and relegated to the trash heap. But more specifically, I pray that social or political pressure are not what brings it down. I pray that the grace of God will open the eyes of its owners to the glory of God in His image bearers so that they take it down because of theological conviction.