Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Refighting the last war

Russell Moore recently wrote a widely cited post on "The Cross and the Confederate flag." 
I realize it's tiresome to keep commenting on this issue. It's tiresome to read about. I find it tiresome to write about. Since, however, important public policy issues get framed in these emblematic terms, I'll say a bit more.
i) Although Moore is well-intentioned, he often dives into the deep end of the pool without knowing how to swim. He lacks the requisite wisdom to be a Christian social commentator. 
ii) His article included the following, oft-quoted statement:
"The cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire." 
I guess that's supposed to be catchy and memorable. Since, however, wooden crosses are made of flammable material while some flags are made of fire retardant material, I don't think his intended point is well served by that illustration.
iii) Getting to the meat of the issue, we have a succession of self-flagellating white evangelicals who keep fighting the last war. Refighting antebellum slavery. Refighting Jim Crow.
Already, the generation that lived under Jim Crow is a dying generation. We shouldn't make the younger generation hostage to the moral failings of a dying generation. Like every generation, the younger generation has its own ethical challenges to confront.
It reminds me of some Jews who are oblivious to the real threats facing modern-day Jews by Muslims and their apologists or enablers in secular academia because they keep looking back at the history of European anti-Semitism. They don't see the danger ahead. They don't realize that evangelicals are generally their best friends. 
iv) I think a lot of the appeal of refighting the last war is that you don't have to solve real problems or assume a real risk. 
Frankly, some of these evangelicals remind me of Tony Campolo's recent announcement about the "full inclusion" of the LGBT community in the church. Campolo's position must have been one of the world's worst kept secrets. His announcement was so anti-climatic because it was so predictable.
What is more, the timing was so timid. He waited until the wind was at his back. Rather than leading the charge, he hung back until it was safe to come out into the open.
Honestly, I'm not impressed by all the back-patting. I had a grandfather (b. 1883, Missouri) who was a Southern evangelist. He used to preach to mixed gatherings of black and white. When he arrived, they'd be roped off into segregated areas. The first thing he'd do was to take the ropes down.
That was a very daring, very dangerous thing to do back then. Indeed, the KKK got wind of his provocative practice and began to monitor his meetings. His response was to preach directly at and against Klasmen in the audience.
That was an incredibly ballsy thing to do back in the heyday of the KKK. An invitation to get yourself lynched. 
It doesn't take bravery for Mohler, Moore et al. to denounce the past. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. But it's not exactly courage under fire. It's made possible by the valor of those who went before. 

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