I have been watching the flag controversy from a distance, choosing not to weigh-in until now. Well, I guess that’s not quite right. Early on, I did tweet my opinion on the matter but offered little more. So for those who missed it, I agree that the flag should come down.
It has been interesting to see the conversation unfold among evangelical and conservative writers. Russell Moore, Albert Mohler, Rod Dreher, Ross Douthat, and countless others have called for its removal. Even Doug Wilson has declined to defend the flag as a symbol of southern resistance against federal encroachment, saying “Just take it down, man!” Among conservatives, it seems those wishing to keep the flag up are growing few and far between.
I won’t rehash the arguments made so ably by the others I mentioned above. I’ll simply add my cosign to Moore, Mohler, et al. Having said that, I would make one brief response to conservatives who argue that taking the flag down is an empty gesture and doesn’t do anything to actually solve the problem of racism. I think that critique actually misses the point—at least from a Christian perspective. Here’s why.
When George H. W. Bush shaved his head a couple years ago in solidarity with that two-year old cancer victim, no one was under the illusion that shaving one’s head has anything to do with solving the problem of cancer. Everyone understood it as a beautiful expression of concern—an acknowledgement of and identification with a precious child who was suffering. It may have been a “gesture,” but it was a gesture of love that meant something—not only to that child and his family but also to the whole country. And it misses the point to complain that shaving his head did nothing to heal the child.
Likewise, taking the flag down really won’t do anything to erase our nation’s original sin. Nor is it likely to bring about the end of racism in our time. At the very least, however, it is a way for Christians to acknowledge festering racial wounds and the slighted consciences of black Americans. Even if you believe that the flag represents “heritage not hate,” taking the flag down is a way for you to say to black brothers and sisters in Christ, “Your suffering is weightier to me than my right to wave this flag, with all its checkered history.” In short, it’s a gesture of love and reconciliation. And that means something—especially in the aftermath of Charleston. It is our “head-shaving” moment, if you will. Or we might even say that it is our 1 Corinthians 8:13 moment: If a confederate battle flag causes my brother to stumble, I will never fly that flag again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.
That’s not a mere gesture. It’s the first fruit of the Spirit and the defining mark of Christ’s people (John 13:35; Galatians 5:22). So let love go up, and let the flag come down. It’s time. Past time.