Why I Changed My Mind About The Confederate Flag

Jul 10, 2015

Today I posted on social media, “Thankful that the leaders in our state did the right thing – it is a major step toward reconciliation” in regards to the taking down of the Confederate flag – and it would be an understatement for me to say I’ve been quite surprised by the negative comments this post caused. 

Over the past several years I’ve done my best to allow people to say what they want to say and disassociate myself with social media wars.  I love the way Dr. Martin Luther King put it in his “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” when he said,

“Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all of the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms."

So, let me explain my reasoning behind being an OVERWHELMING supporter of the removal of the Confederate Flag. 

I was not born in the South, but, by the grace of God my parents got me here when I was four years old by moving our family from Los Angeles to Easley, SC.  I was introduced to sweet tea, biscuits and gravy and fat back—and knew this was the greatest place in the world. 

I was also a racist. 

My grandparents used “the n word” recreationally.  In fact, most white people I knew did—and so I did too.  I did not see black people as individual people with real hearts, real souls, real feelings and who really mattered to God—I saw them as a group of people who were different than me, thus allowing me to place them in a category and dismiss them as unimportant. 

Because of my love for history I loved studying about the Civil War.  In the South the Civil War (to many people) is a really big deal.  By the age of 12 I knew all about the great generals in the war on either side, knew the major battles that had taken place and was adamantly vocal about how I wished the South would have won the war. 

But…something happened in me in 1990 that would begin to change (and is still changing) the way I see people—I prayed to receive Christ in my life, which truly is the catalyst for the changing of my heart and mind on the issue of the Confederate flag. 

In 2000 there was a major battle in the state of SC to remove the flag from flying over the capital—and I had very strong opinions in regards to the fact I thought the “stars and bars” should continue to fly.  I used the “heritage, not hate” argument and claimed it was a part of the history of our nation, and that the memory of what happened needed to be preserved. 

However, as was made clear on social media today that is not my viewpoint I have anymore. 

What changed? 

Two major things: 

#1 – I Began To Develop And Value Friendships With People Who Are Black. 

I would be willing to bet my last Bible that nearly 100% of the people who support the Confederate flag have ZERO friends who are black. 

(When I say friends I am not talking about the person you speak to at work—I’m talking about people who you do life with, who have been to your home, who you allow your children to play with—you know, FRIENDS!) 

Jesus used these friendships to change my heart. 

As these friendships began to blossom I would read passages like Revelation 7:9-10 and realize that in heaven, when we gather to worship Jesus there will be people TOGETHER, every tribe, tongue, nation and language—and race will no longer separate us because we will identify with Jesus way before we identify with the color of our skin. 

And that thought compelled me to believe that if that is the way it is going to be THEN, then that is the way it needs to be now! 

How does this apply to the Confederate Flag?  So glad you asked…

I’ve had very direct, intentional conversations with people who are black about the flag, and in nearly every dialogue about it there is a level of hurt, pain and frustration when it comes to the flag. 

White people don’t see it as that big of a deal—but a white man has never cried the tears of a black man.  We don’t know the struggle of being considered a minority, we do not know the pain of having derogatory names screamed at us by passing cars, nor do we have to fear if someone sees a group of us standing around then it is automatically assumed we are involved in some sort of illegal activity. 

Romans 14:13 clearly tells me that if there is something that causes my brother or sister to stumble, then I should take steps to remove it. 

Like it or not, the Confederate Flag is a major stumbling block that has prevented white people and black people from being able to sit at the same table for too long. 

Racism is rooted in pride, arrogance and ignorance.  And the only true solution is Jesus changing the hearts and minds of those who have held onto a racist ideology for far too long. 

One of the things that should cause everyone to stop in their tracks and examine their own heart would be I John 4:20, which says…

"Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen."

Notice it does not say “for whoever does not love their white brother and sister…”, it simply says brother or sister.  If someone is in Christ, regardless of skin color, they are my brother and my sister…and for me to say I hate them (according to Scripture) may actually be damning evidence I’ve never actually met Jesus. 

I understand that removing the flag will not end racism; however, it is a major step toward white people and black people being able to take steps toward reconciliation.   As followers of Christ we are called to build bridges, not walls—and this is a step in the right direction.  

#2 – My world was ROCKED when I looked at the harsh reality of the Civil War. 

One of the things NewSpring Church is involved in is fighting to eradicate human trafficking from the planet.  (We are financially partnered with A21 and The End It Movement). 

Currently there are approximately 35.8 million people enslaved in the worldwide human trafficking industry—including sex slaves (many as young as 4-5 years old) as well as forced labor. 

THIRTY-FIVE POINT EIGHT MILLION PEOPLE!  (The only state in the US that has a larger population than that is California!) 

The stories I’ve seen regarding the human trafficking industry have been heartbreaking– literally bringing me to tears on multiple occasions. 

I’ve never met anyone who thinks the human trafficking industry is a great idea. 

No one has ever said to me, “As long as people are making money I don’t have an issue with sex slaves and forced labor.” 

I am quite sure that nearly every person reading this article would agree that human trafficking is a tragic reality that must be fought against because of the damage it is inflicting on countless lives. 

With that in mind…let me simply remind you that the Civil War was a war fought over the right to traffic humans—period. 

Please spare me your emails about how the war was fought over states rights and such.  You can read the succession statements the states submitted and it is quite clear the “states rights issue” that was dominant was slavery. 

In fact, the Southern States were constitutionally committed to slavery. 

And, like it or not—slavery was human trafficking.  There’s really no way around this argument.  History graphically (and tragically) details the conditions of the slave ships that would bring slaves to America, and the horrible conditions in which slaves were forced to work. 

My question is—why in the world would we resist and speak out against human trafficking today but then celebrate a relic (the Confederate flag) that clearly declares that at one time there was a group of people in our country committed and willing to fight for the right to traffic humans? 

As I stated earlier, I said for the longest time the flag was “heritage, not hate;” however, I’ve come to understand it actually represents a heritage of hate. 

For those who would disagree I would simply ask why was there never a denouncement or dissociation from flag supporters when the KKK used the flag as their symbol for violence, oppression and hatred that dominated the South for decades? 

In fact, why have flag supporters idly stood by while numerous white supremacy groups have adopted the flag to be the “brand” for their movement? 

It’s quite impossible from a historical and logical stand point to argue the flag has ever been a symbol of anything great. 

And when it comes to being a follower of Jesus it becomes even more real.  I recently read a statement where someone said, “the cross and the confederate flag cannot stand next to each other without one setting the other on fire.” 

I could not agree more. 

My identity does not rest in the fact that I am white…but rather that I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and, as He has changed my heart I am seeing the reality of I Samuel 16:7 happen in my own life…

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

For those who stand in support of the flag let me take a second to ask you, honestly, how is your heart?  How do you view other people who have a different skin color than you?  Have you ever really thought about how human trafficking and the Civil War go hand in hand? 

I know there are some who will disagree, which is your right as an American (not a Confederate)!  However, I am celebrating this decision in our state—I do so publicly and unapologetically and pray that people can set aside decades of a sinful, racist filter through which they viewed life and understand that the Gospel actually brings us together—not drives us apart.