What a weekend. This past Friday, June 26, we have witnessed a powerful and moving eulogy delivered by the President of the United States at the funeral service of the recently slain Reverend Clementa Pinkney and also the historic decision of the Supreme Court to legalize same sex marriage. This was preceded by the unprecedented decision of Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina to request the removal of the Confederate Flag from its state capital, a symbol of national division, racial separation and America’s original sin and enduring legacy, slavery. Her bold move prompted the Governor of Alabama on Wednesday, June 24, to have all Confederate flags removed from the grounds of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. And in all of these moments of historic significance, I could not help but wonder, where were the Christians? It seems as if we are always a day late and a dollar short. Never thermostats but thermometers.
For decades the confederate flag, one of the most hateful and divisive symbols of separation and inequality, has flown over the state capitols of several of the southern states that made up the old confederacy. It was justified under the guise of honoring the ancestors of the south. But in some cases such as in Georgia, the confederate flag was reintroduce two years after the Brown v Board of education decision in 1954, believed to be done as a protest against school desegregation. It was raised at the University of Mississippi in protests against integrating schools and it has always been the symbol of white supremacy used by the Ku Klux Klan. And today it is incontrovertibly true that just about every white supremacist organization uses the Confederate flag as one of its identifying monikers. So how can anyone blindly claim that it honors southern ancestors and ignore these hateful and divisive racial realities and the way it has demeaned and intimidated African Americans and other non-whites for so many decades of this nation’s history.
But the real question is, why is it that Christians for the most part have been silent, and have done nothing to challenge and protest against this hateful and divisive symbol in the states where they live. I speak specifically now of Caucasian Christians. We know and have heard and seen African American Christian protest this heinous evil, but where has been the strong mass protest from our Anglo brothers and sisters of all Christian persuasions demanding that this evil symbol that feeds some of the most hateful and demeaning ideological views in our society, be removed from all state capitols.
When God asked Cain where his brother Abel was in Genesis 4, Cain’s response was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God challenged Cain to ‘listen’. Then he said, “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” For all times God made it clear that we ARE our brother’s keeper. We DO have a sacred obligation to all humanity, but it appears that like Cain, sometimes we as Christians are not LISTENING. We tend to hear what we want to hear, but we really are not LISTENING.
After the massacre in South Carolina, I listened carefully to the reaction and response of the families of the survivors and the slain. How moving and powerful it was to hear all of them share words of heartfelt forgiveness for the one who committed the vicious and senseless crimes against their loved ones in such a cold and calculating manner. Their selfless love exemplified in their Christlike forgiveness was the one glimmer of hope and it served as a shining example for all Christians to emulate. The sacrifice of the victims and their families compassion was so powerful that secular lawmakers were moved to do what all Christians should have joined together and forced them to do many decades before.
Here is the challenge. Christians will no doubt rally to protest the decision of the Supreme Court regarding same sex marriage. But will they be as fervent to see that every Confederate flag is removed that still flies on the top of other state capitols? Are we really LISTENING? Many Christians know John 3:16, but few know 1 John 3:16-18. Here’s what it says…“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” Are Christians Listening?