Apologies and the Confederate Flag

Welcome to Roger’s Take on Religion: An Inclusive Perspective

This week Pope Francis asked forgiveness for the “non-Christian and inhumane treatment” of the Waldensians, a pre-Protestant Reformation movement the Roman Catholic Church branded as “heretics” and sought to exterminate in 1487. At one point 1700 Waldensians were massacred.

Apologies have made headlines locally as well with politicians like Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and retail stores like Wal-Mart calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from state buildings and store shelves. This follows the massacre of nine black members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston by a young white man photographed earlier draped in a Confederate flag. Many have argued that flying the flag is a way of honoring the Civil War dead. Most, however, see it as a symbol of racism and a history of black enslavement.

Religious groups like the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, have been somewhat silent on the flag issue. However, Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, recently stated that “the cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist.” He has issued a well-publicized call for the SBC to support the “take down the flag movement.” For a conservative Protestant group that prides itself on its southern roots, taking such a stand would have an influence far greater than just removing the flag. As a statement of faith, it would begin to change the hearts of people.

Here’s my take: Apologies that seek to overcome hatred and discrimination, whether coming after 500 years or 150 years, are better late than never.

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