In the News 10/20/17

I’m bringing back my news wrap up that I used to do. It is mostly politics, but I try to tie in anything related to Christianity or things I’ve written about.

 

School name to change from Jeff Davis to Obama:

“Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to keep enslaved being named after him,” Davis Magnet IB PTA President Janelle Jefferson said.

Related, a county in Kentucky is moving their Confederate monuments.
As I’ve written before, I’m not a fan of Confederate monuments or flags and think they should be removed. However, it is stupid and painfully ironic that someone would ban a book due to the offense of the language, as Mississippi did with To Kill A Mockingbird.  Banning books is never acceptable, and banning them for this reason is literally the plot to Fahrenheit 451.

Speaking of monuments, this cross, owned and maintained by a government agency, was ruled unconstitutional, a ruling that will stand should the Supreme Court not take up the case. As a Christian this bothers me on some level, but on in some ways it makes sense. I don’t think it would have popular support if it were a monument to another religion. However, the point isn’t to memorialize Christianity, but WWI veterans, so I feel this might be a bit much. It is quite old and clearly was constructed to make offense, the way that many of the Confederate monuments were used.

Wrapping up the monument/flag/anthem trend – Oklahoma is requiring people to stand during the Anthem, because nothing says freedom like denying someone the right to protest and forcing patriotism.

Apparently hookworm is still an issue. A parasite that devastate the South in the past, is inexplicably still around

“Our billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates fund water treatment around the world, but they don’t fund it here in the US because no one acknowledges that this level of poverty exists in the richest nation in the world.”

Unsurprisingly, most pastors don’t support the Johnson Amendment. Now, to be clear, the Government is not saying they can’t preach politics from the pulpit, the IRS is just saying you can’t do it and still receive special treatment (tax-exempt status). Also, the amendment doesn’t apply only to churches, but all non-profits. I support it as one way to help keep (some) money out of politics, even if it was proposed only so Johnson could shut down part of his opponents funding. Only one church has ever lost their status due to a violation.

W. says in a speech nationalism is a growing problem.  He is obviously on to something with an Alabama senator is main funding comes from a white nationalist and the man himself is described like this:

Moore is “much closer to our ideal Alt-South candidate: Southern, Christian, populist and nationalist, slashing and willing to defy the federal government,” Shannan, the 9/11 truther who sat on the board of the Foundation to Defend the First Amendment when it donated to Moore’s nonprofit, wrote in an endorsement of Moore published last month. “The White vote in the South, which was splintered during the late 20th century, has reconsolidated like it was in the Jim Crow South.”

Surprisingly, the university of florida did the right thing when another white nationalist came to town. Which led to this whiny quote, “You think that you shut me down? Well, you didn’t.” He said this as he ‘abruptly’ ended his speech and stormed off stage.

What exactly is the point of prison?  This guy thinks it is for free labor, and opposes releasing low level offenders.

Flags

I wrote a little about flags last summer. That post was mostly about my personal history with the Georgia and Confederate Battle Flags. I do want to do a quick hit on it and then talk about the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ and the National Anthem, mostly because Confederate images have been in the news since Charlottesville this summer, National Anthem is up again now that football is back on, and mostly because I trying to help my pastor with a sermon series he’ll be doing soon about ‘power’, which includes economic and political power.

I went through the history of the Georgia flag in my previous post, so I just want to focus/expand here on one point. In the original post I pointed out that the Confederate Battle flag gained popularity in the 40’s through the Dixiecrats and that Georgia changed their flag in 1956. I think I should expand on that a bit. It is important to remember what happened in 1954 (after the close of the Georgia Legislature Session) – Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, and the Brown II in 1955 (also after closure). I’m not going to go into great detail about what these were, if you aren’t familiar (and American) you really need to go read it and educate yourself, but basically Brown overruled an old case, Plessy vs. Ferguson, and ‘separate but equal’ and essentially ruled that school could not be segregate by law. In Brown II, the Supreme Court said that desegregation must occur with ‘all deliberate speed’. Schools have to desegregate and do it now.

So, how did the Georgia Legislature open in 1956? With this statement from the governor during the State of the  State:

There will be no mixing of the races in the public schools and college classrooms of Georgia anywhere or at any time as long as I am governor….All attempts to mix the races, whether they be in the classrooms, on the playgrounds, in public conveyances or in any other area of close personal contact on terms of equity, peril the mores of the South….the tragic decision of the United States Supreme Court on May 17, 1954, poses a threat to the unparalleled harmony and growth that we have attained here in the South for both races under the framework of established customs. Day by day, Georgia moves nearer a showdown with this Federal Supreme Court – a tyrannical court ruthlessly seeking to usurp control of state-created, state-developed, and state-financed schools and colleges….The next portent looming on the horizon is a further declaration that a State’s power to prohibit mixed marriages is unconstitutional.

This set the tone for the legislative session, one in which they voted to change the flag to include something that Dixiecrats and (recently, but not originally) the KKK had taken up as a symbol of protest. The Senate Research Report about the flag is an interesting read on the history. There is also a great reminder that another proposal that came after Brown was that the State would close all public school rather than integrate and send residents a tax refund to help them pay for private schools (which could still legally discriminate). This sounds frighteningly similar to the current attempt of a ‘voucher’ system for homeschooling (which wouldn’t become legal in Georgia until 1984).

All that to say, I think people can disagree about confederate monuments and their place in society, I’d just ask that people think seriously, especially in the historical context, about what they mean. I think statues to people are weird on their one, but most people disagree, so if a statue to a Confederate general or Colonial was put up in the 1890’s and he was also influential in his state (governor, president of a flagship university), there are legitimate reasons to have some pause about removing them. If a statue was put up, a flag redesigned, or streets renamed in the 1940’s-60’s, you should have very serious reservations about supporting them and truly question the motives behind them.

This, as always, is already longer than I had anticipated writing, so I’ll pivot quickly to the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ and then a quick thought or two on the national anthem.

Let’s start with Francis Bellamy a Christian Socialist most famous for writing the base of what would become the pledge. His version:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Fun fact – Bellamy was opposed to ‘state’s rights’ and the Federal system in general. That is the meaning behind ‘one nation, indivisible’; he, as a socialist, preferred a much more centralized, singular form of government that would make broad laws and states would not make any.  The purpose of the pledge is literally to indoctrinate people towards loyalty to the state.

In 1923 the words ‘Flag of the United States’ were added so all the immigrants knew which particular flag.  The Pledge was recognized by the Feds in 1942 and added tot he flag code. In 1943, Supreme Court said it was not compulsory to say the pledge, after a court case brought by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The last change game in 1954, when the phrase ‘under God’ was added – see my review of Kevin Kruse’s book One Nation Under God for more.

Another fun fact, the Bellamy Salute was dropped in the 40’s due to it’s similarity to Hitler salute,  and the flag code was amended to require your hand over your heart instead.

As a libertarian minded Christian, I have a problem with pledging allegiance to a symbol of the State. I only vaguely remember saying the pledge growing up. I do not think it was every day, and looking back, I’m not sure it was said every day. I have the impression that it was more or less up to a particular teacher. When we did say it in high school, many people sat or didn’t say the words, because it seemed like an odd tradition. That all changed my senior year with 9/11. Then it was said everyday all the time.

Anyway, on to the National Anthem. People are kneeling now instead of standing, and it has become such a big deal that our President tweets about it and even sends the VP as a PR stunt to leave when it happened. We can ignore, for the moment, that over six million tax payer dollars were given to billionaires for them to promote patriotism with their ‘non-profit’ over the past few years – read the Senate report here. Doing a little research, it looks like the Anthem was pretty common at sports events following WW2. However, players actually even being out on the field for the playing/singing wasn’t required until 2009. A good place to start on the history of playing the Anthem would be this article from Politifact.

I’m not even sure what I want to say about this. As Christians is this really something with which we have a problem? Do we support compulsory patriotism? Or requirements to pay tribute to the state? I don’t think so. As I mentioned with the pledge above, I’m not big on the government requiring things like this. Instead, I think the effectiveness for which it has brought attention is one reason why certain people are so mad.

It also bothers me how much some people are opposed to protesting in general. This is a peaceful, non-violent, non-disruptive way of trying to call attention to a very serious issue in America. Now, it has kind of been hijacked and is arguably more about the President and his seemingly disbelief in the right of the people to protest. I’ve heard some of the objects – I’m not opposed to them protesting, it’s how they do it – but that is straight up bullshit. I don’t believe that for a second. That is a very common sentiment people try all the time, in all aspects of life. You pretend you are alright with an idea, just not the execution, but ultimately you will oppose any tactic they take. My question for people would be, how would you like them to protest? What would be the acceptable way? Also, do you appreciate the irony that one of our greatest rights that the anthem is and this country is suppose to represent is the right to free speech and to protest?

I’ll end this by saying the official position of the Monday Morning Theologian is that anyone is should be able to protest anything they want at any time so long as the protest isn’t violent or destructive (and to a lesser extent, take traffic in to account). It is un-American to criticize the way someone protest if they follow those rules. Debating what someone protest is great, and should be happening. Instead, in this case, we are getting a bunch of faux patriotism, ‘support the troops’ bullshit that is beyond counter productive. Finally, criticizing them on the ‘how’ only proves to me that people don’t have much else to say on the substance of the protest – that is the police brutality and the treatment of black people by the police in this country. I know our President disagrees with this, but I’d much rather have him argue the merits that say ridiculous think like the players should be fired for not standing during the playing of a song. Really think about the implications of his statements, whether you agree with the players or not, and how that impacts what we view as freedom in this country.

SBC Calls for Discontinued Use of ‘Confederate’ Flag

Last week at their annual meeting, the SBC did something fairly amazing. They passed a resolution against the confederate battle flag. This is a big deal, as Russel Moore points out that the Southern in SBC isn’t about just geography, or its history. The SBC started due to slavery and whether or not slave owners could be missionaries. Especially as we just passed the one year anniversary of the horrific shooting in the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, you’ll hear a lot of ‘heritage not hate’ arguments and wonder, “who are these people?”

Well, I used to be one. When I was in high school, there was movement to change the Georgia flag. The reasoning being, of course, to remove the symbol of hate. I don’t know if the ‘heritage not hate’ argument came about then, or if it had been in use for a while, but it was the first I had heard it. The thing is, I really believed it. Whether this was mostly due to marketing from companies that sold shirts and other items with the flag on it or the PR campaign certain groups pursued, I’m not sure. It was probably both, plus a big dose of ignorance.

Now, I never owned a shirt or anything with the flag, though I’m sure I have worn one. I wasn’t opposed, though, it just wasn’t my style. When they wanted to change the flag, it bugged me. That had been Georgia’s flag for almost 150 years, or so I thought. I was wildly ignorant about the flag and its history. I guess we felt connected to it the way other people do to the Irish or Italian flags or heritage. Like most adolescents, we dealt with the existential crisis of “who am I?” Part of the answer we found was that flag. Continue reading