Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Taking Down the Flags

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor”- Romans 12:10 Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of survivors of horrific tragedies. When something terrible happens, we try to make sense of it all. When a particular event is beyond explanation, we look to anything to bring relief. After the Joplin tornado, the Weather service was rebuked for not having warned the people in plenty of time (they actually did a great job). And when a young man killed nine people in a church in South Carolina, people blamed the Confederate flag. But removing the flags won’t change anything. Those that fly the flag as a symbol of racist hate will continue to fly their flags anyway. The only flags that will come down will be those that correctly honor fathers, husbands and sons that died defending their homeland. We need to focus less on flags and more on the major reasons why people are so angry. Let me be clear on my perspective: since the Confederate flag is offensive, the battle flag should be removed from public places and the true Confederate States flag be hung only in memorials to the Civil War. After all, the Confederacy lost the war. These days, the battle flag is associated with slavery, which was a terrible thing and should not be condoned or celebrated. Those of you who know me, know I love history. My dad passed on a southern heritage to all of the Staples boys. His Georgia roots ran deep and he wanted us to share in the legacy. We, as a country, need to embrace our heritage while honoring those affected by a difficult past. That includes Black Americans, Native Americans, Japanese Americans and more. And as we strive to make sense of the mass shooting last week, we need to run to the right source. There is so much anger in this country (and all around the world). Last year, there were 100-150 people killed in 20 mass shooting in the U.S. but there were 15,000 individuals killed in single-victim homicides. People are angry. People are depressed. People are frustrated. Removing guns and flags won’t change people’s hearts. That’s where our focus needs to be. Hearts. And heart surgery is expensive. Denial is cheap. Cosmetic surgery is easier. The roots of racism and hate are difficult to tackle. Only a loving and gracious God can supply such love. If only all Americans would understand and live in that love. Why won’t taking down the flags change anything? Because those who fly it as a symbol of slavery and apartheid will continue to fly it anyway. That’s their legal right. But the memorials that are a tribute to the American’s who died in the war will come down. That will have no affect on those who choose racism. After all, not everyone fighting in that war condoned slavery. When the slave trade was abolished in 1808, the southern agrarian economy was doomed. And by the 1860’s, slavery was simply not affordable for the average American. Of the six million white men in the southern states in 1860, only 347,000 owned slaves and of that, 37,000 owned 20 or more. By the start of the civil war, there were 2,500,000 black slaves in the southern states, 40% of the population. 75% of them were focused on the cotton trade. The political cause of the south was lost from the beginning. But that’s not why most southerners were fighting. One captured Georgian was ask why he was fighting and he responded “I am fighting for my rats (rights).” Oh, that we might correctly salute those Americans who died for their beliefs but at the same time, honor those who walk in freedom today. We need to embrace the differences in the country. This crazy experiment called America is doomed to failure unless we choose to dialogue about what makes this country healthy and what can lead to it’s demise. Even 150 years ago, Lincoln understood that America was defensible against the other countries of earth, but not against itself. He understood that this grand experiment called America was vulnerable. He understood the vastness of our diversity could lead to ruin. And even though Lincoln discriminated as much as anyone (he was not an abolitionsit against slavery and allowed it in states not rebelling against the Union- Maryland, to name one) he understood the need to keep the Union politically together. “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it will ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” At the war’s end, he sought to honor those who had fought for the Confederacy. “With malice toward none and charity towards all…” he said. He got that these rebellious Americans needed to be respected and honored. So, take down the flag America, if it makes you feel better. That’s fine. The Confederacy lost the war anyway. But it won’t change the anger and hate that fills many hearts in America. As that beautiful church in Charleston understands, only love will make the difference. America needs to embrace faith in the loving God who is the author of true love. He sent His Son Jesus to die as an example of that kind of love. And He sent the Holy Spirit to supply that kind of love. Teach that to your kids and grandchildren. Be that kind of example to those that follow. We need to remember that slavery was legal under the United States flag from 1776 till 1865. We need to remember that 13 of the 50 stars on the United States flag represent the 13 states that made up the Confederacy. But that’s all in the past. May whatever flag you happen to fly on your flagpole be a symbol of love… …and respect for all Americans. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

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