Christians React to Confederate Flag as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley Calls for its Removal

( [email protected] ) Jun 23, 2015 12:54 PM EDT
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the removal of the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds. Many Christians are also taking that point of view too.
The U.S. flag and South Carolina state flag flies at half staff to honor the nine people killed in the Charleston murders as the confederate battle flag also flies on the grounds of the South Carolina State House in Columbia, SC June 20, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Miczek

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the removal of the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds. Many Christians are also taking that point of view too.

According to a report from Fox News, Haley called for the removal of the controversial flag on Monday, adding that "the time has come." She made those comments alongside Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

"Today, we are here at a moment of unity in our state, with no ill will, to say it is time to move the flag from the capitol grounds," Haley said.

According to Fox News, the call for the flag's removal comes after last week's mass shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, which left nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church dead. Nearly 2,000 protesters rallied in the heat and humidity to call for the Confederate flag's removal over the weekend; however, not everyone supported that cause.

"The Sons of Confederate Veterans says it plans to vigorously fight any effort to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of South Carolina's Statehouse," Fox News wrote.

Leland Summers, South Carolina commander of the group, told Fox News that while his condolences go out to the victims of the mass shooting, he thought it was inappropriate to make political points at this time. He argued that the Sons of Confederate Veterans is not a hate group but instead reinforces heritage and history.

However, Christians across the United States have also called for the Confederate flag to be taken down. One of them included evangelical theologian Russell Moore, who wrote a column published in the Washington Post in favor of such a move.

"This raises the question of what we as Christians ought to think about the Confederate battle flag, given the fact that many of us are from the South," Moore wrote.

Moore, who comes from the state of Mississippi, argued that he felt "deeply conflicted" of the fact that his home state's flag included the Confederate flag. He acknowledged being "the descendant of Confederate veterans" still made him cringe every time he saw that "battle flag" due to its connection to slavery.

"The idea of a human being attempting to 'own' another human being is abhorrent in a Christian view of humanity," Moore wrote. "That should hardly need to be said these days, though it does, given the modern-day slavery enterprises of human trafficking all over the world. In the Scriptures, humanity is given dominion over the creation."

To justify slavery in the South, Moore noted that "Southern religion" had to rely on a "counter-biblical theology" that relied on the "curse of Ham" concept, which he condemned as "biblically ridiculous."

"In so doing, this form of Southern folk religion was outside of the global and historic teachings of the Christian church," Moore wrote. "The abolitionists were right - and they were right not because they were on the right side of history but because they were on the right side of God."

Moore added that the Confederate flag took on another contextual meaning after the end of the Civil War. It has been used as a symbol of "Jim Crow defiance" to the concepts of integration, the civil rights movement, and "domestic terrorism" carried out by the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups.

"White Christians ought to think about what that flag says to our African American brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in the aftermath of yet another act of white supremacist terrorism against them," Moore wrote. "The gospel frees us from scrapping for our 'heritage' at the expense of others."

The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention argued that such symbolism associated with the Confederate flag "is out of step with the justice of Jesus Christ." He pointed out that both the cross and the controversial flag "cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire."

"The Confederate battle flag may mean many things, but with those things it represents defiance against abolition and against civil rights," Moore wrote. "The symbol was used to enslave the little brothers and sisters of Jesus, to bomb little girls in church buildings, to terrorize preachers of the gospel and their families with burning crosses on front lawns by night."

Francis Barry of Bloomberg expressed similar sentiments in removing the Confederate flag. He based his arguments on the "lens of Christian values."

"It does not require a theology degree to recognize that Christian teaching suggests more than just prayer for the victims and condemnation of the act are warranted," Barry wrote. "The shootings are also an opportunity to demonstrate neighborly love through action, as Jesus taught and lived."

According to Barry, three out of four South Carolina residents identified as Christian, and the state has some of the highest rates of church attendance in the United States. He argued that white Christians can practice their faith during this difficult time by taking down the Confederate flag.

"If they want to offer an expression of selfless Christian love that goes beyond words -- they could remove a long-standing source of pain in the African-American community, and one that is implicated in this atrocity: the Confederate flag that flies in front of the statehouse," Barry wrote. "Not as an admission of defeat, or even a sign of cultural retreat. The flag should come down as act of Christian kindness."

Barry argued that Christians should "put the pain of others ahead of their own pride."

"Christianity's call to act with unselfish and humble compassion toward strangers is often a struggle against human nature," Barry wrote. "Usually human nature wins, and what's true for ordinary mortals is doubly true for elected officials, who must answer to us."

Based on his analysis, Barry also called for the removal of the Confederate flag.

"When a heinous crime occurs in a church that has been a citadel for African-American emancipation and equality, it shouldn't be too much to ask of one of the most Christian states in the nation to offer a response that reflects charity and humility," Barry wrote.

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