Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Flag and Christ's Teaching About Love

The recent discussion about the proper use of the Confederate flag raised for me important Christian issues. I start with the observation that many seem totally blind to the meaning this flag has to millions of Americans, especially Black Americans. I wondered why it is that so many, especially here in South Carolina, are so tied to the display of this flag on our Capital grounds where it offends so many.

I purposely entered into some of these discussion on Facebook to see what lay behind these objections to removing the flag from such a public space. I kept getting the same answer, "It's our pride in out Southern heritage and a way to honor those who died in the Confederate army during the Civil war." It was quickly clear that there was no way to engage in a true discussion with an alternative view as their view was so strong. This bothered me because for me the flag was a sign of hatred, especially now that it was linked with such a horrible crime as occurred in the massacre in Charleston where the Civil war began.

How does this all relate to the teachings of Christ? Christ tight us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love our enemies. To me the inability and unwillingness of those who defend the flying of the flag on the Capital grounds to see the perspective of Black Americans and many others was a sign of disrespect, a disregard for the hurt this symbol causes for so many others. The issue is about human dignity, about love of others who are different from us. Love demands an understanding of the perspective of those who have a different view from us.

We are all often blinded by our own perspective and the underlying assumptions that lie hidden behind it. Because of these hidden assumptions we find it difficult and fearful to understand what others perceive and uncover our hidden assumptions.

I was once involved in a PhD program made up of cohorts of mixed back and white students. We were engaged in a task of Synergy. The task was to take an issue and first clarify our own perspective and the assumptions that were behind it. Next was to investigate the perspective of others and its assumptions. Once the other perspective was gathered it had to presented to the other group to test it. Both sides did this. In our case we were divided into two groups, one all white and the other all black. The Black group had no difficulty in understanding the White groups perspective. But our White group had difficulty in expressing the Black view. When we tried to represent the Black group's perspective we failed to accurately represent it.  We had difficulty doing so after many interactions. The Black group was amazed at the difficulty we had. What this taught us is that when we are an advantaged group, it is very difficult to understand the view of a group that has historically been disadvantaged.

What does this mean about love as Christ taught? To love our neighbor as ourselves we must be able to first understand the view of our neighbor as clearly as we understand our own perceptive if we are to love them. Without this deeper understanding of each other we cannot understand their actions or their needs. Our love is only superficial. It is nearly impossible to take actions of mutual love.

To address an issue such as the one that has risen over the Confederate flag, we can only deal with it if we are willing to sincerely explore the view of the others. Knowing this is difficult we need to actively seek out the other's view while we hold true to our own view.  Once we feel we have understood their view then we can hold both views together in our heart, in our love, and see what will emerge, how the Holy Spirit will guide as we hold these two truths together. Out of the love of Christ will emerge a third view, one that is bigger than either of the two, synergy, that will lead us to a creative resolution of the issue based on mutual love and respect.

I write this to encourage all of us as we deal with the explosive issue of racial discrimination, the aftermath of the history of brutal slavery, the years of discrimination and segregation that followed, and the modern cries of white supremacy, to take the time to first examine your own perspective and uncover some of its underlying assumptions. Then seek out to understand the others perspective and the assumptions underlying it. Finally, prayerfully hold both views and see what insights emerge that allow you to speak with love towards all our brothers and sisters in Christ. Only then will your actions be able to communicate the love of Christ.

8 comments:

  1. The Cross is a sign of hatred to many. Would you call for its removal as well?

    Obviously, the Cross is not a sign of hatred, but it has been used as such: The KKK burned crosses as a symbol of hate. The Westboro Baptist Church uses the symbol of the Cross to spread their messages of hate. That doesn't make the Cross a sign of hatred.
    The Battle Flag of the Confederacy is a symbol of freedom against tyranny, of love for the South, of defending democracy. Because some have used it in their campaigns of hatred, doesn't change what the flag represents.
    The Civil War was not fought to free slaves. It was fought because the North wanted to change (and ultimately has succeeded in changing) the nature of the Republic. The evil institution of slavery was a catalyst, but never the cause.

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    1. Thank you for your reply. You put into words exactly my thoughts on the matter- better than I probably could have.

      There has always been an incorrect recorded history about this country's Civil War and what it was about. It was not about slavery - it was the last ditch effort to gain support for the North and the card (the emancipation proclamation) was played strategically. As a nation, with the success of the North, we lost the republic that our Founding Fathers established. It was the gateway to further fears of the FF realized e.g. Centralized Banking.

      My heart goes out to any persons in this country - and any country - that suffer under the tyranny that is building. To make our problems about a "flag" or any "object" is a distraction from the reality and where the problem really lies.

      Guns, for example, are not "evil", but they are a tool of those whose hearts sway toward an evil influence. The same can be said about money. The same can be said for anything "of this world".

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    2. I tune with the theme of the article, can you see the assumptions in your persecutive? One is the the Civil War was not about slavery. There is a historical record to affirm or deny this assumption.
      Another is that the South rather than the North was what the Founding fathers established.
      Another is that the Confederacy was the republic and the North was not. Others?

      Also can you clearly state the perspective of those who have the opposing view? What are their assumptions.

      Can you with love hold the different views in your heart to see what the love of Christ has to say?

      To deal with such controversial subjects like this that lead to a war, and apparently is still raging in the minds of many people, is to honestly examine the others view and to examine our own assumptions and then with the Love of Christ to see what new ideas emerge that will lead to harmony and peace and God's will for hHis people. It probably something new. This way we can enlarge our own view and heart.

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    3. Thank you. It's so very hard to see our beloved cause and the knowledge we have about it just stomped out and handled as if we are liars. The history is written by the winners, and the South has passed on the truth for generations, and it's now coming to a head once again. It's amazing that the oppression still lives on and that we are just supposed to jettison what we know to be true and comply.

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  2. We now know your perspective on this. What are a few of the key assumptions underlying it? How would you state the view of a Black American?

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  3. In regards to your assumption about the cause of the war the alternative view held by historians is well documented in a recent Article in the Atlantic:
    This examination should begin in South Carolina, the site of our present and past catastrophe. South Carolina was the first state to secede, two months after the election of Abraham Lincoln. It was in South Carolina that the Civil War began, when the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter. The state’s casus belli was neither vague nor hard to comprehend:

    ...A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety. I will
    Post below the link to the article as this is involved a key assumption you hold on your view.

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  4. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/what-this-cruel-war-was-over/396482/

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  5. Thank you so much for this challenging perspective. I really truly appreciate the depth portrayed here.

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