Will Southern Baptists reject the Southern Cross of St. Andrew?
That is a question that will be answered June 14 & 15 in St Louis as the Southern Baptists have their annual convention.
At the top of the agenda and with much anticipation is a resolution for all Southern Baptists and their neighbors to reject any public display of a version of the Confederate Battle Flag, in this case it is the famous St Andrew’s Cross in blue, with thirteen stars in the cross, laid on a field of red. It could be either the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E Lee’s army, or the Army of Tennessee, a much more popular version.
This resolution is being sponsored by Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. His resolution contains several statements that lead up to the climax which reads: FINALLY RESOLVED that we call on all persons, along with public, governmental, and religious institutions to discontinue the display of the Confederate Battle Flag and work diligently to remove vestigial symbols of racism from public life as evidence of the fruits of repentance that we have made for our past bigotries and as a step in good faith toward racial healing in America, to the end that we truly become – in word and deed – “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
Much of the momentum for such a move began last year when a group of black Christians in Charleston, SC were murdered inside their church by a white supremacist who had been photographed with the flag.
Following the racial riots in Ferguson, MO and later in Baltimore, MD, caused by tensions between whites and blacks and especially police, it was ironic that there were no initial tensions in Charleston due to the forgiveness given by the black, Christian community, especially the surviving members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Tension seemed to finally be artificially generated and piped in by outsiders mostly because the Christian influenced Southerners didn’t lend themselves to violence, but instead chose to pursue reconciliation.
Nevertheless, after SC Governor Nikki Haley gave in to the PC establishment and moved her Legislature to remove the flag from the Columbia, SC Capital grounds, the purge of the flag gained a cultural tailwind and it wasn’t long before several pastors and Church leaders jumped on the bandwagon.
People like ERLC leader Russell Moore and President of Southern Baptist Seminary, Albert Mohler wrote articles and gave interviews expressing their less than sympathetic views of the flag and those who fly it. Both men gave a “we’re one of y’all” but “it’s time to let it go” argument which relies on the premise that the Southern St Andrews Cross has become a symbol of racism and bigotry, even if it’s original intent was not. Regardless, Moore made it clear that he believes all people who fly the Confederate Battle Flag are racists while Mohler stopped just short of accusing, while strongly implying that all who fly it are heretics. Both implied motives of seeking to pronounce the flag sympathizers anathema.
Please let that sink in…bigots, racists, and heretics!
Now I’m no longer a Southern Baptist although I was for 30 years. I attend a PCA church and consider myself Presbyterian. But, I live in a predominantly Southern Baptist region of the country with a population influenced heavily by regularly attending SBC members. I am familiar with many of their sentiments on the flag.
I also enjoy a vocation which places me on many of the roads and streets of the region where I live. Since the push to remove the Confederate Flag began, especially when retailers like Wal-Mart decided to stop selling the flag, I have witnessed more Confederate Flags in yards, on homes, and even in businesses than I would’ve ever imagined. By far, Confederate Flags outnumber American Flags and the diversity of Confederate Flags is impressive with many folks choosing to display flags like the Bonnie Blue, the First National Flag of the Confederacy, the Second National, the NC Confederate Flag, Polk’s Battle Flag, the Kentucky Orphan Flag, and several others.
This is not only true in my region of the country, but it’s true all across the South. In fact, the number of SCV license plate sales are up exponentially all across Southern States, flag sales have skyrocketed, rallies are regularly held by young people, motorcyclists, and historical groups, and large Confederate Flags are being sponsored and erected along many of the interstates. Even memberships of historical preservation groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans have increased many-fold.
People have decided to make a statement to those who would tell them NOT to fly the Confederate Flag, a fact which enlightens us to the flags most viable symbolic meaning. The purge has awakened people who have felt oppressed to feelings of self-governance and liberty that won’t be so easily dealt with by politicians, academics, and professional theologians who have simply given in to political correctness, hiding reality as they go. Russell Moore even went so far as to say that almost no Southerner had emailed him or contacted him on social media to disagree with his article. “Almost none.”
Well there has been at least one.
(Discussion over, I was blocked by Dr. Moore shortly after this reply)
So, if the SBC decides to approve this resolution and attempt to coerce its members into “discontinuing” use of the Confederate Battle Flag, I’m positive that they’ll be met with ample resistance. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the trenches.
But why will Southern Baptists resist this?
Will it be because Mohler and Moore are right? Are all of these flag-flyers bigots, racists, and heretics?
I don’t think so.
Many good Southern Baptists will say “no” to the SBC because they know the truth.
They know that they’re not bigots. They know that they’re not racists. They know that they’re not heretics. They know the truth about themselves that pastors like Moore aren’t willing to entertain.
They know why they fly that flag and what it symbolizes and they don’t need some academic to tell them otherwise. They know the history of that flag without reading a simple summary in some Seminary Prof’s blog. It’s been passed down to them across generations. It’s in the dreams of little boys. It’s in the eagerness of adolescents. It’s in the frustrations of working men. It’s in the memories of the aged.
The wives and daughters have seen it in the tears of their husbands and fathers. They have heard it in their cracked voices and sensed their anger. They remember their Mothers stories and their Grandmother’s manners. They have lived in poverty, worked hard, been told “no”, held back, and taught that they are selfish bigots for feeling oppressed.
Oh, they know what that flag means.
Mohler and Moore can attribute the flag to the War Between the States, and the cause exclusively to slavery all they like, but the millions of people who are flying that flag know better. The academics can cherry-pick history ’til their heart’s content but it won’t change the truth about the flag. They can relativize the truth about symbols against all reason, but it will only prove them wrong in the end.
I hope local pastors have the good sense to recognize bad arguments when they see them (2 Peter 2:1-3). I hope they realize that sometimes the leaders lead the Church but every now and then, the Church leads the leaders (John 10:27). I hope they see the worthlessness of this type of approach to reconciliation and the fallacy of special pleading and false equivocation in the arguments of Mohler and Moore.
(Their arguments are bad and if you’d like to read my critique of them then go here.)
(The consequences of their arguments are bad for all of us and I wrote a satirical article on that here.)
The point of all of this bloviating is this: if the SBC rejects the Southern Cross of St Andrew, the consequences will be felt for years to come. Political Correctness will continue to inch its foot into the door jamb of the SBC, membership will slow and may turn South (pun intended), and the next defense that will be necessary will be of symbols like the traditional cross of Christ and church buildings themselves.
I hope that’s not what happens. I pray that these fallacious façades are torn down so that racism in its real form can be dealt with honestly and people can become fearless defenders of truth rather than resigned to relativism.
I believe that can happen but we’ll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, the Southern Cross of St Andrew will fly and the real conversation about racism will remain safely distracted and relegated to ambiguity for those unwilling to have it but instead seek the accolades of the PC culture.