I am glad to be a southerner.
I respect a long list of southerners historically and currently; even a few called “Reb”. That does not always come across in the things I say. Some who have reacted emotionally to anti-Confederate posts are truly heroic advocates for God’s grace and mercy for all people. I know that personally.
Some southern flags are the focus of a lot of intense debate. Because there is so much more going on just beneath the surface, In this context I want to offer a word of affirmation for southern heritage.
Country livin’ is good.
Going down an old dirt road is an iconic symbol of the type of southern heritage repeated in songs. The imagery is about engaging nature, often about pushing boundaries, but always an affirmation of life and of being “real”.
That is why in the midst of so much intense and serious controversy a situational comedy television show become a heartfelt cry for so many.
Southerners are right to love their earthy, strong, culture and to express appreciation for what is truly good in their heritage.
So why not just leave things alone?
The issue that is being driven home is that the contributions of southern heritage are deeply marred by something more than just some bad in the mix. Southern confederate heritage includes stunningly calculated and sustained attacks against the common good of nature, man and God.
The Confederate States rallied around states rights in defiance of the Union, but central to the rights they were defending were their crafted “rights” to buy and sell people. It is bad enough when economic greed fuels rationalizations to exploit and traumatize whole generations. It is certainly not helped when God’s name is prostituted for that cause.
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” – Confederate Vice-President Stephens
This is not a uniquely southern USA problem.
Lincoln said racist things publicly. Northern motives for challenging southern states was by no means pure and unadulterated abolitionist virtue. Nor were the English motivations to ban slavery exclusively noble and high minded. Wilberforce realized the power of utilizing lesser motivations as a fulcrum to move people to eagerly embrace the moral high ground. For many English politicians it was a hatred for their rivals, the French, that became the catalyst for sweeping changes; yet change they did.
Why be so aggressive against Confederate symbols?
I care about people. I also care about ideas which affect people. My recent intense series of attacks on confederate flags is driven largely by a disdain for muddled thinking that provides camouflage and cover for ideas that should be eradicated. Confederate racism is prominent, clear and unambiguous throughout official declarations, speeches and writings of Confederate leaders. When I hear “good ole boys” make delusional arguments minimizing the centrality or the severity of slavery I am motivated to speak up. My intention is to expose my racist enemies and to redeem my anti-racist friends from inappropriate associations and ungodly rationalizations.
We must never forget what we mean by slavery.
Some “Good ‘Ol Boys” are truly evil.
This is a brutal reality of history. It is satanic and indefensible. It survives in semi-suppressed forms today. These are people who deserve no respect, validation or patience for their hateful convictions.
Other “Good ‘Ol Boys” are essentially good in their convictions and care for others.
These may, or may not, have some hidden racist issues. I know several southern white folk who are otherwise clear in their love for all people but actually express concerns about “mixed race” romances. Such contradictory thinking must be challenged. Dividing people’s value and belonging based on race is quite simply racist. This is true no matter how nicely one might say “I’m not racist, but…”.
“I’m not a racist, but…”
Random stone throwing will not help any of us. None of us are without ambiguity or compromise in our character. Our prejudices are seldom adequately known as such. If we are not intentional, we will just feel and think things that “seem right” to us. The challenge is to face what is wrong in our “natural” thoughts and feelings. We will not always like what we encounter. There will be good, but also evil, and evil ideas need to be fought vigorously, with lethal force. I intend no harm or insult to myself or others, but holding back is not an option.
“We have the right to celebrate our heritage!”
Of course we have that right. But let’s go beyond our rights.
Southern friends, let’s listen to our songs about going down dirt roads as we navigate traffic around our increasingly diverse highways and byways. Let’s consider our God-given responsibility to forge a heritage worth honoring for generations to come.
Let’s untangle ourselves from the fetters of rationalizations that enslave.
Let’s carry the best of our southern heritage forward.
Lord help us,
we can change!