The Confederate battle flag, honored by some who value their southern heritage and vilified by others who see it as nothing but a symbol of deep-seeded racism, finds itself once again at the center of a storm after Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people during a bible study in Charleston, South Carolina last week. But will lowering a flag be enough to penetrate the roots of hate and vile acts that cause death because of skin color or religious beliefs?
There’s a lot to tackle here and debating whether a flag carried by southern troops over 150 years ago should be removed from the capitol grounds in South Carolina or from the official state flags of Mississippi and Georgia is not an issue I’m concerned with addressing now. That issue will and should be decided by voters and elected leaders in their respective states. There have been two well-written pieces, one by Russell Moore and another by David French that make valid points on both sides and reading each should provide a better perspective from which to formulate your own opinion.
Yet the issue of a flag is keeping us from focusing on the larger and more repressive issue of hatred and how to harness its outcome.
The vicious and vile acts carried out by Roof and others that subscribe to ideals of racism and beliefs that certain groups of people should be eliminated are nothing new and most likely will escalate unless we as a nation and a great society act quickly. Tackling hatred is hard, messy work and spending quality time at its ugly core will detract some whose seemingly bigger goal is to hold press conferences and make the talk-show circuit laying blame on groups or political parties who detest the very acts that repeat themselves every week on the national stage.
In a photograph of Roof that is appearing online and in major publications, the murder suspect is shown holding the Confederate battle flag in one had and a semi-automatic handgun in the other. Needless to say, gun control advocates led by President Obama are calling for handguns to be more tightly controlled or in some cases, banned.
Removing a flag – any flag – and banning the sale and possession of a firearm – any firearm – will do nothing, I repeat nothing, to stop the Dylann Roof’s or this world. It will only be a matter of time before another young man will a bowl haircut and eyes that stare into space make front-page news by committing a senseless act; most likely with a handgun he obtained legally or illegally
I believe the reason you and I and those in positions of authority who could start the dialogue of how Roof and others get to the point of committing a heinous act is because we are afraid we can’t solve a problem created by a society that values divineness and turmoil above the practicality of turning back ugly layers of a nations core to expose our own fears and shortcomings.
Groups, namely churches and organizers of faith, should come together and find logical and pragmatic ways to tackle the issues in their respective communities. This is not merely accomplished by holding a joint worship service between black and white churches to honor and pray for those who suffered in Charleston although it’s not a bad place to start.
Moving forward, individuals in these communities who are respected and looked up to by all groups should step forward and assume leadership roles. Holding an elected office or being a senior pastor should not be the only qualifier for someone who can rise to the challenge and accept the responsibility of building bridges and opening lines of communication that will hopefully reach the likes of a Dylann Roof or someone who can impact such a life.
But don’t expect Roof and his simple-minded compatriots to show up these gatherings. Don’t expect to encounter his type on the street or any place outside of a website or message board where other idiots and racist congregate. Instead, search for someone who cares enough about their community to come forward but most likely holds views and opinions formed in a manner other than your own. These are the people who should replace the Jesse Jackson’s, Al Sharpton and David Duke’s of the world.
Lastly, pray to the loving God that allowed his creation to introduce sin and wickedness to this world for both judgments on those who commit and support acts of hatred and a change of heart from those like you and me who sometimes sit idle as it destroys our world.