I have lived in the Charleston, SC area since February of 2003. During my time here I have absolutely fallen in love with this area and this state. I have found the people here to be among the friendliest, and most welcoming people that I have met in my travels.
Last week, Charleston was struck by a horrific and tragic occurrence. Nine citizens were gunned down in their house of worship. The gunman stated that his goal was to start a race war. Despite the best efforts of the national media to drum one up down here, Charleston has shown this country what a loving community looks like. Roughly 3,000 people from multiple ethnic backgrounds gathered for worship yesterday in Marion Square and last night what appears to be over 10,000 formed a unity chain across the Ravenel Bridge here in Charleston. Hate will not prevail.
Politicians have pointed to two very polarizing issues in the past several days that they feel are underlying factors in what happened Wednesday: gun control and the Confederate flag’s presence on the grounds of the SC State House. I’m not going to talk about guns, but I do want to address the issue of the flag.
I grew up in Maryland, and although it was a border state during the Civil War, historical sites in the area tell the story from a very slanted pro-Union position. My first trip to Fort Sumter was incredibly eye opening as for the first time I heard the story from the Confederate vantage point.
Despite my northern roots, I have never had any issue with the flag’s presence on the state house grounds. I felt that moving it from atop the roof of the state house to a Confederate memorial was the right thing to do, but again, I have never felt offended by the flag. For me it is a symbol of history.
My perspective has changed. It is a symbol of history. Where do historical artifacts go? Typically, they end up in museums and not on government grounds. Before you attempt to give me a history lesson, I am already aware that this flag was not originally a racist emblem. It was the battle flag of a rebellion that sought to secede from the U.S. over many more issues than just slavery (although that’s the only one the flag’s opponents choose to tout). The real driving force behind the Confederate rebellion was State’s rights. Slavery was several items down on a laundry list of grievances held by the Confederates. Unfortunately, this flag would ultimately be adopted as a banner for the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan. This isn’t the first time a symbol was hijacked by a hate-filled regime. The Templar Cross was used by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Regime and was worn on most of their uniforms. What I’m getting at here is that the meaning of symbols sometimes deviates from their original intent.
It is important for us to realize that in such a racially tense society that we see in the United States of America, we can not logically claim to be a society that promotes harmony while we fly a flag that to many in our society represents a history of oppression and hatred. I’m sure that many of you will disagree with me on this, and that’s ok. I am simply sharing where my thought process has taken me over the past several days.
Paul writes to the Corinthian church regarding meat sacrificed to idols. He makes it clear that while he has no issue with the practice, he chose not to do so in the presence of those who would find offense at it. I have many dear brothers and sisters who feel a deep sense of resentment and repression when they see the Stars and Bars flying on government grounds. For me, as a Christ-follower, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for South Carolina to make a gesture that would hopefully instill a sense of hope for many people across this state. Take the flag down and put it in a museum where it’s history can be told. We can not move forward as a state if our eyes are so vehemently fixed on a symbol from our past.