It’s with some trepidation that I put my thoughts together on the Stars and Bars. The heated public policy debate illustrates the tension-points between our nation’s liberties. “Heritage,” one says, “so leave it be.” “Hate,” says another, “so take it down.” Leaving aside public policy for a moment, I think the Christian community, the prophetic voice within the world, has a clearer word to its own community. Let’s disregard whether or not we should leave it flying in public spaces (tax-funded buildings, etc.). Rather, let’s consider the question more particularly Christian-ly: Would we let the Confederate flag fly in our churches?
Put that way, the answer appears obvious, except, perhaps, to the most die-hard heritagionalists. At the end of all things, Jesus doesn’t have a sketch of The General tattooed on his thigh nor are the 144000 singing Dixie while posting the Stars and Bars in the New and Holy City. And, by the way, Jesus won’t be waving the American flag, either. The only symbols on his person at the judgment, as I understand it, will be symbols of his Kingship. There’ll be little wishing we were in the Land of Cotton or where Yankee Doodles are stuffing their hats with macaroni. It’ll be a monarchy, whose King is the Lord. No Visas, majority vs. minorities, no colonialism, no ICE departments, no rioting, for we are, every one of us, sons.
As I sojourn longer and longer, I have found myself whispering more and more, “as it is in heaven…please, as it is in heaven.” That line from the Lord’s Prayer meaning, among other things, that whatever heaven looks like now is what we ought to hope for now. And I doubt seriously that any of my eternal brothers and sisters who happen to be men and women of color will believe they are wholeheartedly embraced as co-heirs of Christ within our congregation if, right next to the Christian flag, there waves the colors of the CSA. And I can also imagine that no amount of, “It’s not meant offensively; it’s just a tribute to our history” will be acknowledged with understandable, sympathetic smiles.
From the Christian vantage point, the whole issue is not about preserving heritage. It’s about making people understand what is reality in heaven, namely, that our shared history in Christ is bigger than any connection to Appommatox. My real heritage has very little to do with the 19th century – for I am in Christ, a heritage deeper, a heritage mystical, a heritage older. And it’s in that lineage, the line of David, and not in any other chapter of my ancestry, that my soul “hath leaned for repose.” So let the Church be the Church, where all the Redeemed of the Lord say so.