Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Confederate Battle Flag: A Pastor's Critique; Faith Perspectives: Rev. Greg Weeks

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Confederate Battle Flag: A Pastor's Critique; Faith Perspectives: Rev. Greg Weeks

Article excerpt

Having Southern roots, I understand the controversy swirling around the Confederate battle flag.

It's a controversy that's caused the South Carolina legislature to pass a resolution taking it down. The Mississippi legislature is considering changing its flag, since a prominent part of it displays the Confederate insignia. Other state capitals in the South are debating the appropriateness of displaying symbols of the Confederacy.

This is an emotional issue. Some Southerners see the flag as a symbol of an independent spirit. Of standing up to big government. Of making a statement for freedom.

They are aghast at the pressure leveled on South Carolina, as well as on Mississippi, as well as on stores that carry the flag, as well as on Boy Scout troops that put the flag on the graves of Confederate soldiers. They also express concern that if you take away the flag, then are you going to rename streets that currently honor such men as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson?

They don't see it as a racial thing, but a Southern identity thing.

For me, it's an opportunity for a real-life demonstration of a concept central to the core of Christianity: compassion.

Compassion is the ability to view something from another person's perspective, and feel what they're experiencing.

It's interesting that the Confederate battle flag has been around for more than 150 years. It's been part of the Mississippi state flag since 1894. It's been flown in South Carolina since 1961. There have been countless racial atrocities throughout this time. However, it took the deaths of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., to catalyze things and stir up the firestorm. Why?

I like to think that it's because we're growing a bit more compassionate.

Since the Michael Brown shooting, Americans have been struggling with racial issues on a daily basis. Voices have been raised that ordinarily would have remained silent. The African-American experience is presented in a more open fashion. So when nine black lives are senselessly and brutally gunned down, we are now better able to empathize with people who have experienced such horrors in this country dating to slavery. …

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