BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Yellowhammer Radio host Cliff Sims made waves on air Tuesday afternoon by joining the discussion over whether or not the Confederate Battle Flag should continue to fly on public property in places of prominence.
The South Carolina legislature is currently debating whether to remove the flag from state house grounds. Alabama leaders have been largely quiet on the issue to this point, but the flag remains inside the state capitol and in various state symbols.
Sims said he hesitated to delve into the debate because he believes it is distracting from other issues, like the U.S. Senate voting to expand President Obama’s power to negotiate international trade agreements. He chose, however, to address it after wrestling with the issue himself for the first time over the last couple of days.
This is an issue that stirs up passions on both sides…
There are conservatives who passionately defend it. They say the Civil War was not entirely about slavery. That’s true. They say there were honorable men who fought for the Confederacy. That’s true. Some of them are my ancestors…
Now, there are deplorable opportunists using this shooting in Charleston to advance their political agenda. For some of them that includes trying to paint all white Southerners as racists and, in an effort to do that, point to the Confederate Battle Flag still flying as evidence of that. They should be ashamed of themselves.
There are also some opportunistic politicians — and I know that’s redundant — who see this as a chance to raise their national profile and are calling for the flag’s removal for political gain, arbitrarily caving in just like they do every other time the political winds shift directions…
The truth is the Confederacy was not simply about limited government and states’ rights. It was also dedicated to preserving a great evil — slavery — by protection of law. The idea that one human can ‘own’ another is antithetical to the Christian view of humanity. So to prop up that system, many in the South had to create a counter-Biblical theology to justify what they were doing.
Sims then began quoting from an article by Russell Moore, the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Alabama’s largest Christian denomination.
Even beyond that, though, the Flag has taken on yet another contextual meaning in the years since. The Confederate Battle Flag was the emblem of Jim Crow defiance to the civil rights movement, of the Dixiecrat opposition to integration, and of the domestic terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens’ Councils of our all too recent, all too awful history.
White Christians ought to think about what that flag says to our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in the aftermath of yet another act of white supremacist terrorism against them.
The gospel frees us from scrapping for our “heritage” at the expense of others. As those in Christ, descendants of Confederate veterans have more in common with Nigerian Christians than we do with non-Christian white Mississippians who know the right use of “y’all” and how to make sweet tea.
“And here’s the big one,” Sims said, before continuing to quote Moore’s article.
The Apostle Paul says that we should not prize our freedom to the point of destroying those for whom Christ died. We should instead “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14:19). The Confederate Battle Flag may mean many things, but with those things it represents a defiance against abolition and against civil rights. The symbol was used to enslave the little brothers and sisters of Jesus, to bomb little girls in church buildings, to terrorize preachers of the gospel and their families with burning crosses on front lawns by night. That sort of symbolism is out of step with the justice of Jesus Christ.
Sims then referenced a story from the New Testament in which a group of Christians went out of their way to eliminate barriers to the spread of their faith, and encouraged Christians to consider that when it comes to the Confederate Battle Flag.
I’m reminded of the church at Corinth in the New Testament. There was a big debate over whether or not it was ok to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Christians were like, “Whatever, I know those gods aren’t real… I can eat this meat and it’s not a problem.” And that’s actually true… However, some of their brothers and sisters had been brought out of idolatry. They had grown up serving those idols. And so Christians voluntarily gave up their freedom to eat that meat so it would not cause their brothers and sisters who had been brought out of idolatry to stumble.
“The Confederate Battle Flag is a stumbling block to the Gospel for some people,” Sims concluded, “and that reason alone should be enough to Christians to put their personal feelings and freedoms aside for the sake of the Gospel.
“I’m annoyed to no end that there is so much political opportunism caught up in this. But this is one of those times where I feel like my Biblical worldview and my conservative political worldview are not in absolute perfect alignment, and in those situations… my Biblical worldview has to supersede what I believe politically as a conservative.”
Check out the full Yellowhammer Radio segment in the audio clip below.