We have just stepped out of the house and are heading down the street of our small town in the middle of America. A truck which didn't stop at the corner comes flying down the street. Not an unusual occurrence, for the speed limit and stop signs seem to be optional. But this truck bothers me. It always bothers me. I thought maybe he had stopped but I guess now he just pulls it out for special occasions.
On the day we pause to think about why we founded this country. The day we pause to celebrate the ideals that brought us together as a people. The day we remember
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness (from the Declaration of Independence).On this day that we remember that our Founders believed we deserved more from our government. On this day these young adults drove by me flying the flag. O not the American Flag, the other flag. The flag that is a symbol of treason (they did try to start their own country) and racism. The flag that when flown does not show Southern Pride. Hello we are in Illinois. The flag that speaks hate. The flag that makes me angry and sad, outraged and appalled. The confederate flag flew by me in the truck by those young men.
I have spoken to people in town, in church, on my blog about this symbol. I have shared how this flag is so full of hate. I don't know what is in the hearts of those young men. They would probably give me the line about their family being from the South and they are just sharing their heritage. Or just fly their middle finger at me and laugh at the middle aged foolish woman. Who knows maybe they would tell me flying the flag as an act of rebellion, a middle finger to the town.
Since I was little and we first moved to Illinois, I have been shocked and appalled by the blatant in your face racism. I was in second grade and the first building pointed out to me by the neighbor kids was the klu klux clan meeting place. I was seven, but I knew that was wrong. I knew that this shouldn't be a source of pride that you ran all of the black people out of town. I watched this happen year after year when a family with black children moved to town and how they would just disappear within a month. Not just in one town that was known for its racism - after all their high school mascot was a different slur against a different group of people. But we moved towns and it would happen in the new community. I learned early that people in Illinois, especially downstate Illinois were racists. I learned to be a friendly, welcoming person in a town that was going to be so mean. I learned to speak up when it was difficult to speak.
How could we possibly think that it is ok to fly that flag, to believe that the color of one's skin makes that person different, less than, not worthy of respect, of life, of liberty, of the pursuit of happiness? How can they believe is another's inferiority when science tells us we are genetically the same - our genes cannot tell us apart, beneath the skin we are the same? How can we call ourselves Christians and proclaim that this nation is under God and believe that there are people who Jesus would hate, would believe are inferior, would believe are not worthy of love?
Jesus, a middle eastern poor rabbi - a brown skinned person of color, taught us a different path, a different way. Jesus said to love our enemies (although why the color of one's skin makes you an enemy is beyond me). Jesus said that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Jesus called us to be a servant of all. Jesus declared in his first sermon that the oppressed will be set free. Jesus said that our task, our mission, our purpose was to Love God and Love our Neighbor. Jesus than demonstrated his belief in every encounter he had. To the powerful he pointed out a kingdom that asked them to behave differently, to let go of their privilege. To those who were hurt, damaged, lost, left out, least - he showed compassion and love, he made them welcome and wanted, he healed and consoled, he offered a new way of life.
If you truly want to be rebellious in middle America, in downstate Illinois, then take up the cross. Step into the baptismal waters that wash us clean of what came before to make us ready to walk the way of love, to believe passionately in the possibility of a just world for all. If you want to be rebellious, then love so extravagantly that no one is left behind or left out. If you want to rebel than remember that everyone is a beloved child of God, no exceptions.