The Confederate Flag Battle

For the record, I do not currently own anything with a Confederate flag on it. Growing up in South Georgia, I knew it as the "Rebel Flag" and used it as a curtain in my bedroom. It was just another piece of art, along with a hundred or so heavy metal posters which adorned every square inch of wall space. When I became a Christian (mid-80s), I got rid of it (and the posters) because "rebellion" seemed at odds with the person I was trying to become. To my knowledge (i.e., the friends and family I had contact with, black and white), never once was the flag associated with slavery or hatred for another race. For me, it was simply a symbol of regional pride. Think about it: How many times have you seen a southern roadside stop selling wares with the phrase “Southern and proud of it!” (or similar phrase) accompanied by a Confederate flag emblem? I know, you will point out the history of the situation as you’ve been taught. I’m not trying to debate history. I have friends who are much more capable of making that debate, and so I’ll leave that to the experts and all you who aren’t experts but play one on social media. I’m merely pointing out my own experience as a bona fide Southerner, born and raised in the Deep South. I’ve never in my entire life met a single human being for whom the Confederate flag was a rallying call to hate people of color. Maybe I was just na├»ve or sheltered. I’m OK with that as well.

Fast-forward 35 years, and much has changed. A June 24 article from Reuters pointed out that Google, Amazon, eBay, and Walmart have all jumped on the “ban the Confederate flag” movement, ignited by the demonic attack that happened in Charleston, South Carolina, leaving nine people dead. Now, as I previously stated, I do not own (or sell) any confederate flag merchandise, so I’m not personally affected by a ban. But I fear that I will be greatly affected by the movement itself. Here’s why.

That same June 24 article from Reuters went on to say, “In announcing its decision to pull Confederate flags on Tuesday, eBay said the banner had become a ‘contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism.’”

Notice the phrase “had become.” So even eBay is passively admitting that the symbol has not always been (or in every case been) a symbol of racism or hate. And then there’s this statement from Google: “We have determined that the Confederate flag violates our ads policies, which don't allow content that's generally perceived as expressing hate toward a particular group.” Generally perceived? Hmmm.

For a country that has always prided itself on Liberty and Free Speech, we are on dangerously thin ice, here. And for those of us who are disciples of Christ, the threat seems even more ominous.

While it may be hard for some to understand, there is, in fact, a war on Christian values, both in this country and around the globe. The war did not begin this week, this year, or even this century. Americans didn’t even start the war as it preceded our history by more than a millennia. But it is real. What has changed is the number of vocal opponents and the number of laws being enacted to limit Christianity’s reach and influence upon society at large. So, what happens when the efforts of those who want a society free from religious ideals, values and beliefs are successful in having those things labeled as “divisive and hateful?” One only need to look to other countries to see some implications of this already in action. And if the Confederate flag issue is any indication, the move to ban Christianity from the public sphere could be swift and exacting given the right ignition switch. That’s frightening on every level imaginable.

I recognize that this is a very complicated and nuanced issue, that my perspective is subjective and limited by my experience, and that there is plenty of room for civil debate. I also realize that, for you, the Confederate flag may well be a symbol of racism. I’m sorry for that. I do not share your perspective, though I can comprehend it. But we must also admit that most people don’t think very deeply about these type issues. Instead, we go with gut reactions (as evidenced by the swift move on the part of corporate and government types this week concerning the Confederate flag). That’s all the more reason we should think twice about jumping on the bandwagon to ban the flag and begin cleansing Southern culture of public references to the Confederacy. That action could one day become a nightmare of our own making—allowing something we associate with to become labeled as hate and banned from the public sphere as well. That thought should send cold chills down your spine.

P.S. As I was getting ready to post this, a friend of mine shared this article by Robin Koerner titled “150 Years After the Civil War, How That Flag Comes Down.” It is a thought-provoking piece with a unique perspective and well worth your time to read.
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About Eric Wilbanks

Brand strategist. Wordsmith. Change architect. Training specialist. DiSC Certified. Family guy (hot wife and 4 cool kids). Love my Bible, guitars, baseball, and MMA.

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