I get frustrated from watching the news fairly often these days. Most of my frustration comes from people taking event A and using it to promote their policy agenda on issues Y and Z when event A only tangentially approaches issue Y, slightly grazes issue Z but smacks right into the heart of issue B.
My frustration is my own problem, though. As much as I look at the issue being unrelated to the actual problem the issues are still issues for these people and I have to be careful that my annoyance and frustration with the way agendas get pushed don’t cause me to be a stumbling block to resolution of those issues.
For example, Dylann Roof walks into a Bible Study in Charleston’s historic Emmanuel AME Church and kills nine people with his gun. This sets off a huge protest about the Confederate battle emblem flying on the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol. A Confederate battle flag did not cause Roof to become a racist or put murder in his heart. Pulling down the Confederate flag will not reduce racism in America one bit and, on the surface, that bothers me. Energy is being expelled and political capital is being spent in a way that will not solve the problem of our young people becoming racists with hate in their hearts.
However, that flag needs to come down for many other very good reasons so I need to be careful in venting my frustrations that I don’t become a stumbling block. The Apostle Paul talked about this:
1 Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. 2 Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. 3 But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.[a]4 So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God. 5 There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords. 6 But for us,
There is one God, the Father,
by whom all things were created,
and for whom we live.
And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things were created,
and through whom we live.
7 However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated.8 It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do.
9 But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. 10 For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? 11 So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer[b] for whom Christ died will be destroyed. 12 And when you sin against other believers[c] by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ.13 So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.
Voicing my frustration over misplaced cause and effect could become a stumbling block for some who might take me as saying that the Confederate flag is acceptable to display. It isn’t. People say it is heritage, not hate but even if you want to call it heritage it is a heritage of hate and racism.
I’m saying that as a son of the South, born and raised in Tennessee and living the last thirteen years in Georgia.
Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my heritage, just not the part that includes the Confederate States of America. While the Southern States may have been well within their rights to secede from the Union their reasons for doing so was to perpetuate slavery and that was wrong.
So while I can see the historical context that the Confederate flag is being flown, while I understand the organizations like the Sons of Confederate Soldiers simply want to remember their ancestors I won’t be a stumbling block by arguing for the historical context by which the flag on the South Carolina Capitol grounds is being flown.
We need to heal much, much more than we need to stand on technicalities.