October 24, 2017 Richard Harris

Monuments, Flags, and White Supremacy

I never thought I would see dozens of Ku Klux Klansmen and Neo-nazis take to the streets of America, brandishing torches, boldly exposing their identities, displaying Confederate flags and swastikas.  It seemed like a scene out of a movie.  But it was real.

Charlottesville, VA.  Three dead.  Dozens injured.  Why?  Because some want to remove symbols.  Confederate flags from the Civil War era.  Statues and memorials dedicated to Confederate officers and soldiers.  And groups like the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists are mad.  It’s about heritage and history, they say.  Not hate.

Yet, the Confederacy and the Civil War which are depicted by these various symbols were all about hate and discrimination.  One has only to read the original secessionist documents of the states of the Confederacy to quickly see that slavery was the primary underlying cause for rebelling against the United States of America.  States’ Rights?  Of course; a state’s right to enslave Africans.  If you haven’t read the original documents, I would encourage you to do so.

I watched my Facebook Live feed in horror as my friends who had gathered in Charlottesville, VA the night before the white supremacist rally to pray and worship were leaving the church in fear for their lives as they tried to make their way to their cars.  They were confronted by torch wielding Ku Klux Klansmen and Neo-nazis.  The next morning, I watched these same friends, many of whom were clergy clearly wearing their robes and collars, attacked in the streets.

But, the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis have not suddenly gained a fascination with all things historical.  So, what is at the bottom of all of this?  What is driving this?  And, what should be a Christian’s response?

In the 1970s, demographers started predicting that the white population would no longer have majority status (over 50%) by 2050.  In reality, the U.S. is moving at a faster pace towards that goal (some estimate it will occur as early as 2043).  Forty years ago, no one paid much attention to those predictions.  But the KKK and the other white supremacist groups did.  They started using the scare tactic that whites would no longer be the majority race to fuel their membership drives.  They started talking about “the coming race war” which would ensue as America approached that demographic shift.  And, they started preparing for it by sending their members through military type training and teaching them about munitions and bomb-making.  They started stockpiling guns and ammunition.

Christians must never value symbols over people.

Christ died for people, not flags or statues.  The Christian must approach the current controversy with a Kingdom mindset rather than a politically motivated bias.

Charlottesville, VA was a defining moment in the history of America.  To see dozens of Ku Klux Klansmen and women, Nazis, white militia waving Confederate battle flags, displaying Nazi swastikas and carrying torches through the streets ought to shock the church out of its ho-hum attitude and ignite a burning passion for justice and truth, the likes of which, this nation has not witnessed in decades.  It ought to be enough to put an end to silly arguments among Christians about whether the church should be involved in racial justice activities.  Christianity may be a personal religion, but it is certainly not a private, individual-only religion.

As a community in Christ, we should be concerned for all of our brothers and sisters.

The Apostle Paul reminds us:

15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! – Romans 12:15-16 (NLT)

Maybe the words of Habakkuk might also shed some light on this dark situation:

2  How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save. 3  Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. 4  The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted. – Habakkuk 1:2-4 (NLT) 

Or, how about Amos?

Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living. – Amos 5:24 (NLT) 

Whites are losing their place of dominance in American society and some are not taking it quietly.  Moving monuments that supported the notion of “The South Will Rise Again” has given way to white supremacists taking to the streets and shouting, “You will not replace us.”

White supremacy, or any notion that one ethnicity is superior to other ethnicities should be repugnant to all Christians who understand that the Bible teaches the worth and value of all people, regardless of the color of their skin.  Paul emphasized that, in Christ, there are neither “Jew nor Gentile” (Galatians 3:28), nor is there black, brown, or white in the Kingdom of God.

At the Cross, we are all sinful humanity in need of a Savior.  At the Table, we are all honored to be seated with the One who is the Bread of Life.

The Church must be called to prayer and to action.  We need to do more than merely give lip service to the notion of racial equality.  We need to stand against white supremacy wherever it rears its anti-Christian head and remember that we are, indeed, “our brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9).

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About the Author

Richard Harris Dr. Richard Harris is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Southeastern University and a nationally recognized speaker and speaking coach. A former leader within the KKK, he has since then dedicated his life to educating people how to communicate better both publicly and personally. Dr. Harris is especially equipped to address the issues of race and violence, especially when it comes to how Christians should respond to such issues.