This past week, I finally noticed a similarity in two seemingly unrelated political stories that keep cropping up in my news feed:
- The debate over whether the Confederate battle flag is a symbol of Southern heritage or of racism
- The debate over whether the Washington NFL's team use of the name "Redskins" (and associated visual symbols) is a symbol of Native American pride or racism
What finally struck me is this: in each case, you have an Establishment that is fighting --- strongly, vocally, vociferously --- to continue using their symbol, even in the face of thousands of people saying that the symbol is offensive to them and causes them distress.
Yes, in both cases, the Establishment has certain First Amendment rights to choose any manner of expression they wish to use. I'm typically a staunch defender of First Amemdment rights. I believe others have a right to choose creative expressions which personally offend me.
And yet, the Establishment seems to revel in its ability to choose symbols which they know cause offense.
In the case of the Confederate battle flag ... it's not like there aren't a host of other symbols that could be used to express pride in one's heritage. "The Stars and Bars". "The Bonnie Blue Flag". Heck, if the War Between The States was over the rights of states, why not use one's own state flag?
But, no ... the Establishment insists upon using a symbol that they know is the most problematic, simply because it can. And if others are offended, so much the better; it serves to reinforce the pride the Establishment has in its heritage.
Why do we seek to deliberately cause offense to others?
I think what troubles me the most about this situation is when I see Christian friends of mine on Facebook staunchly defending their rights to use imagery like the Redskins logo or the Confederate battle flag, simply because they can.
Didn't Paul say that we should give up our rights in order to win as many people as possible over to the Gospel (I Corinthians 9:19ff)?
Didn't Jesus voluntarily give up all of his rights in order to "make himself nothing" on our behalf, and then call us to follow that example (Philippians 2:5-11)?
And yet, we seem to be fighting to assert our rights, even if it drives people away from us.
I have good friends who are serving the Lord overseas, in a culture that is openly hostile to Christian claims. In that culture, a "Christian" is viewed as someone who advocates the overthrowing of the government, and is therefore a traitor (and worthy of summary execution). So they voluntarily give up the right to use that word to describe themselves. They find other ways to tell people about what they believe, without insisting on using a symbol that the culture around them has horribly misunderstood.
And we insist on using a flag or a logo, and condemning anyone else who has a different view of those images than we do.
Why do we insist on the exercise of our rights, when we know others will be offended? Would it not be a greater show of pride and strength to voluntarily abandon those symbols, knowing that our worth as persons is not dependent upon external symbols?
Or are we all too insecure to voluntarily lay aside anything that seems to belong to us?