Calling it a “moral issue,” the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board on Tuesday urged the state legislature to change the state flag, which has incorporated the Confederate battle flag since 1894.
“Our position on this is not motivated by politics,” Shawn Parker, executive director-treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB), said at a press conference. “It is not motivated by economics. It is not even motivated by athletics. Our position on this is motivated by our understanding of the teaching of Jesus Christ.”
Parker read a statement that was unanimously approved by the 15-member MBCB Executive Committee and signed by Parker and every living past president of the convention. The current convention president also signed it, as did the head of the MBCB Christian Action Commission.
The Mississippi Baptist Convention Board is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. About 2,100 churches are part of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.
The Mississippi state flag incorporates three red, white and blue horizontal stripes and the Confederate battle flag, which is known more commonly as the rebel flag. Although the battle flag was not the official flag of the Confederacy during the Civil War, it remains the most well-known flag from that era.
“It has become apparent that the discussion about changing the state flag of Mississippi is not merely a political issue,” the statement says. “While some may see the current flag as a celebration of heritage, a significant portion of our state sees it as a relic of racism and a symbol of hatred. The racial overtones of the flag's appearance make this discussion a moral issue. Since the principal teachings of Scripture are opposed to racism, a stand against such is a matter of biblical morality. Jesus' ethical teaching calls us to rise above the precepts of this world, to demonstrate a higher treatment of others.
“... It is therefore apparent that the need to change the flag is a matter of discipleship for every follower of Jesus Christ,” the statement says. “Currently, 38 percent of Mississippi is black, and many of those Mississippians are hurt and shamed by the historical symbolism of the current flag. For those who follow Christ to stand by indifferently and allow this to exist is inconsistent with both of these clear teachings of Christ. This reality calls those of us who follow the Lord to stand up to help our hurting neighbor. The application of this stance in part calls for a change to the current flag in order to mitigate the hurt that its symbolism entails.
“Given the moral and spiritual nature of this issue, Mississippi Baptist leaders offer prayers for our state officials to have wisdom, courage and compassion to move forward,” the statement says. “We encourage our governor and state legislature to take the necessary steps to adopt a new flag for the state of Mississippi that represents the dignity of every Mississippian and promotes unity, rather than division. We further encourage all Mississippi Baptists to make this a matter of prayer, and to seek the Lord's guidance in standing for love instead of oppression, unity instead of division, and the gospel of Christ instead of the power of this world.”
Video courtesy: MBCB
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.