Monday, July 13, 2015

Love Your Neighbor

I’m not exactly sure how to approach this topic.  Suffice it to say I will probably not say all of this in the manner that I want to convey it.  I’m going to try my best.  This is definitely out of tone for this blog.  Be forewarned.
That flag does not represent a free spirit or some adorable rebellious nature.  And I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if you somehow can tie that flag to your religious beliefs then you are possibly a closet KKK member.  And only if you’re trying to hide it.
The confederate flag has no part in modern society or politics.  It does not represent anything good, or profitable, or civil.
Civil…yeah, that flag came out of a war between the states in this country.  Southern apologists will say the issues were states’ rights.  But the right that the states wanted to reserve for themselves was that of legalized slavery.  We’re not talking about something as innocuous as the right for a state to set its own tax rates.  We’re talking about a whole culture wanting to justify and capitalize on the oppression and molestation of people stolen from their homes or born into a condition of slavery and forced into labor for the profit of their masters.
I don’t understand the emotional blindness of slavery.  I’m as lazy as the next person, but I can’t imagine owning another human being and compelling them under threat of violence to their person if they don’t do my bidding.  But slavery really wasn’t about lazy white people who were unwilling to work, now was it?  It was about greed.  It was about maximizing profit.  It was about wealth and power. 
There were people who considered themselves “good Christians” who owned slaves during that period of American history.  This would confuse me, except I see a lot of “good Christians” these days that adhere to all kinds of beliefs and practices that I’m sure Jesus doesn’t approve of.  And most of those practices and beliefs are rooted in greed and the lust for power. 
Racism is one of those things.  I remember as a kid being taught that interracial marriage was wrong.  I’m only 41 years old.  And I can’t remember who told me that or what the justification was, but I remember being told that. 
I grew up in a place that is almost 99% white.  There were two black kids in my high school.  I didn’t know either one of them.  I was twenty years old before I really knew and had friends who were non-white.  So I don’t buy the excuse that unfamiliarity breeds contempt.  I heard a lot of racist talk around me growing up, I was never around non-whites, and I didn’t become a racist.
One other thing I was taught as a child that affected my views on people who are different from me…love your neighbor as yourself.  Not familiar?  Let me share a passage from chapter 12 of the Gospel of Mark:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

I don’t mean to get preachy--I’m really not good at being preachy...not effective anyway--but I can’t find a clause for slavery in that Second Greatest Command.  No one who loves someone else as they love themselves would hold the other person as a slave.  No sane person anyway.
There is no provision for racism either.  Or discrimination against homosexuals.  Or hatred for democrats.  Or road rage.  Or greed and lust for power.
I’ve been pondering the county clerks who are refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone in order to sidestep the law.  I wonder how many of those county clerks who cite religious beliefs as their rationale for not issuing marriage licenses to gay couples would fall into the category of “faithful Christian?”  Or perhaps many of them have been married and divorced multiple times.  Maybe they drink, and curse, and revel in evil deeds.  Maybe some of them don’t bother to crack a Bible or say a prayer unless there is mortal peril in their lives.  And yet they find the time to discriminate against one group of people and do it in the name of God.
That’s deplorable.  Hiding behind the God of love in their hate.
And I would argue that in most of the cases where county clerks are refusing to issue marriage licenses the reason is simply hate.  If those people understood scripture they would also realize they are subject to the law of the land.  They would understand that they should render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.  They would remember that God has ordained all leaders in government:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
That passage is from the book of Romans.  The Romans oppressed Christians.  They persecuted and killed them for sport.  And yet God spoke through divine inspiration and told Christians to subject themselves to the laws of the Romans.  American Christians have a very hard time living according to these principles.
Laws create order.  By flaunting laws you don’t agree with you are not making a statement but inciting chaos.  There is a process to change laws you don’t agree with.  That is the good and right way to change the world.  Rebellion and hatred are not.
Blindly waving a flag of hatred will not change the world for the better.  Making a stand to defend the confederate battle flag is dubious at best.  That’s building your house on the sand and not on a firm foundation.  It’s pointless.  It’s wrong.
And making a stand and refusing to issue marriage licenses to any and all of your constituents is also pointless and wrong.  It’s defying the authority ordained by God. 
There's nothing romantic and beautiful about hanging on to the darkest chapter of America's past.  It's time to let the flag go.  It's time to rally around the American flag and forget all other flags.  Maybe in taking that step we can begin to walk a path of unity and harmony.