For the past year or so, my heart has weighed heavy with the realization that we Christians have terribly conflated so many things - politics with religion, big things with small things, and what is morally permissible with what is edifying to our weaker brothers and sisters. Time and time again I and my fellow Christians are found vying for power and stymieing the very thing which Paul says is the core of what makes any action good - love.
Day after day I hear about the new flashpoint - statues. On its face it sounds like such a petty thing, a point which many exploit so they can demean the opposition and dismiss them with an arrogant and condescending wave of the hand. "The 'snowflakes' are at it again, whining and complaining about another trivial issue, trying to gain social power." Perhaps some are simply trying to gain power. But as Christians, our judgment must go much deeper than being dismissive. Our attitude must be held to a higher standard than demeaning others in our discourse. Our pursuit of provisions and power must be for our daily bread and God's Kingdom come, not for our preferences to be domineered over others while we seek our own kingdom come.
Who are our brothers and sisters who want statues removed? It seems fairly clear to me that those wishing to remove statues have the historically marginalized voice. They are our weaker brothers and sisters on this issue. Isn't it possible that many who see Confederate statues see a reminder of a past that isn't too far gone? Can't we see how these statues are reminders of the glorification of an oppressive, enslaving regime? Isn't it possible that the erecting of many of these statues during the Jim Crowe and Civil Rights years is not only a reminder of slavery, but also of the separate but equal culture that pervades or country even today in housing, schooling, systemic racism, and the criminal justice system? Isn't it possible that the statues which white supremacists so easily and willingly rally around may contain more than a noble and reverent history lesson? If these interpretations are even remotely possible conclusions that marginalized brothers and sisters could draw, why aren't many of us considered the snowflakes- those who can't stand to remove a simple, finite, inanimate, image-bearer for the sake of an immortal image-bearer who is created in the image of God? Why aren't we the wicked older brother who refuses to deny self, and embrace love and reunification?
Maybe I've offended you. Maybe you don't see the connection. Maybe you still think you're better than "them." Perhaps illuminating the other side of the coin would help. While I have seen many Christians roasting "snowflakes" over the past year, some of the anti-snowflakes have been snowflakes themselves. We demand the very thing to which we ourselves won't consent.
Take, for example, our flag. The American flag, like a statue, can stand for many things. It was born in rebellion against a government. It flew while slaves were bred and separated from their families. It flew while minorities were subjugated to work on the railroad. It flew during the Trail of Tears. It flew while poor children were worked to death in factories. It flew while females had no voice in government or little recourse when they were beaten by their husbands. It flew during our eugenics program, a precursor (or at least a sibling) to the Nazi program in Germany. It flew during Buck vs. Bell, when the Supreme Court decided that the mentally ill could be sterilized, which lead to tens of thousands of forced sterilizations. It flew during the Tuskegee Experiments when African Americans were purposefully injected with syphilis. It flew during our experimentation on prisoners. It flew during the Missouri Compromise, separate but equal rulings in education, and during Dred Scott. It flew during Jim Crow laws. It flew during lynchings and Emmit Till. It flew during Japanese internment camps. It flew during Roe vs. Wade. It flew and continues to fly over our military misdealings with other countries, as we intervene for economic interests, but not for non-beneficial genocides. It flies while we fund terror groups and use other countries for proxy wars that would be too costly for American blood. The American flag, to some, represents oppression - and rightfully so.
Despite the inexcusable atrocities committed by our actions and by our consent, there are many who see something different in the flag. They see a brilliant system of government. They see bravery and resilience of past immigrants. They see independence and entrepreneurship that leads to opportunity and material wealth. They see the sacrifice of soldiers who defend all this freedom. They see the generosity of a country that sends aid all over the world. They see so many historical wrongs righted. The American flag, to some, represents freedom and sacrifice- and rightfully so.
Yet when someone sees the flag in light of the first set of circumstances, and when that individual refuses to esteem the flag, many of the anti-snowflakes become snowflakes themselves. We don't only cry when a flag is burned, we will even cry at a flag spurned. "Who would dare not stand during the national anthem?" We are blind to any alternative expounding of our history. We don't demand tolerance of ideas. We demand respect and assimilation of our personal viewpoint and preferences. Does this seem like a double standard to anyone else?
The question I then have isn't "who is the bigger snowflake." We are all human and we all have our blind spots. We all want everyone else to see things as we see them. Rather, my question is "how do we deal with snowflakes as Christians?" Having experienced plenty of snow in my life and having a savior who had washed me as clean as snow, I have a metaphorical suggestion for us all. Cold snow that is formed and falls over thousands of turbulent feet of atmosphere, if left to fall to the ground, accumulates. This snow sticks to itself, insulates, and becomes heavier and harder to remove. A single snowflake, however, can be removed without any force at all. You merely hold out your exposed, warm palm, and embrace it.
As Christians we have a much higher calling than to figure out who is right, how to grasp power, and what everyone's perspective on social and political issues should be. As a Christian, it really doesn't matter how right we are on issues like what a statue should or should not represent. I don't know that our "rightness" is ever a primary question we're encouraged to ask. The Bible's questions seem to always revolve around relationship - our relationship with God and our relationship with each other. Jesus says that we will know we love him if we obey him, and others will know we follow him if we love each other. Our Savior tells us that this obedience means taking up our crosses, loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, loving one another, and being cognizant of our weaker brothers and sisters. This, the only person who ever held the right perspective on everything, denied himself and laid down his life for others - especially those who were oppressed, but even for his enemies.
If we truly care about what people should think and feel, why not begin with evaluating how we ourselves think and feel? Christians, who are we compared to who God says we should be? Perhaps if we begin embodying the biblical answer to that question rather than being syncretistic, Americanized Christian who are primarily concerned with our rights and our will, others might have the time and compulsion to come to a God who, unlike us, chose sacrifice over his rightness and his rights.