Haven’t you heard?! The Southern Baptist Convention recently approved a “sensitivity” resolution regarding the Confederate battle flag. The SBC representatives at this year’s convention voted to approve a resolution to call Southern Baptists to “discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag.” This has caused no small stir among many Southern Baptists, and it is certainly indicative of a larger issue.
If you have not read the full statement of Resolution 7, then please do so here (it is not long, and the details are important). It will also be very helpful to hear Dr. Merritt offer his thoughts (click here) on the matter, which he voiced at the convention in the form of a motion to amend the SBC resolution, in order to make the statement even stronger against displaying the Confederate battle flag.
I am a Texan, which means my proclivity for Southern pride is even stronger than many Southerners. Texans tend to be notoriously proud of their state and heritage, and I do share in that Texas pride in many ways. Additionally, I have spent some time looking into American history, including the complex issues related to the Civil War and the division of the country. No doubt, there is much to learn from history, and the lack of interest or time in studying history is certainly detrimental to our culture today. However, I would like to invite the reader to consider the possibility that the Confederate battle flag issue among Southern Baptists is not about history or heritage at all.
In order to understand the resolution presented and approved at this year’s Southern Baptist Convention, one must have a good grasp of the reasoning behind it. Then, and only then, can one make an informed and rational decision about whether or not the resolution is a good thing or a bad thing. There are many Southern Baptists on both sides of this debate, but we each have the responsibility to understand what we are actually arguing for or against.
Insight into the thinking that motivated this resolution comes from its most important statement, which appears as the last sentence. It says:
“[We] urge fellow Christians to exercise sensitivity so that nothing brings division or hinders the unity of the Body of Christ to be a bold witness to the transforming power of Jesus” (emphasis added).
There it is! Why did Southern Baptists say “No” to the Confederate flag? It is because Southern Baptists are ready and willing to say “No” to anything that unduly “brings division or hinders the unity of the Body of Christ to be a bold witness” to the Gospel of Christ. Now, one may argue that the Confederate flag does no such thing, but that is the motivation for asking Southern Baptists to put the Confederate flag away.
The questions the reader must ask are these (at least): Does the Confederate flag bring division among the body of Christ, particularly the multiracial body of Christ in America? Does the Confederate flag hinder a bold witness to the Gospel, particularly the witness to the Gospel among non-Southern Americans and especially African-Americans?
Of course, there are many other issues at hand here, but I believe that simplicity (when it is possible) is always most helpful. Southern Baptists voted to approve a resolution that does belittle the Confederate battle flag. This resolution asks proud patriots to lay aside their symbolic celebration of something, which they believe to be noble and worthy of respect. This resolution calls Southern Americans to abstain from any display of a particular symbol of their heritage, history, and honor. And the reader will have to decide if such a request is warranted and appropriate.
I am interested to read your comments, particularly your answers to the two key questions I have listed.