A sermon delivered at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Huntington, West Virginia, on June 28, 2015.
On June 21, the Sunday following the shootings at Mother Emanuel Church, few if any preachers in America delivered the sermon they had prepared earlier in the week – the events overtook plans, and I spoke of faith that abides, that helps us deal with such tragic events.
The public and political reaction has been swift with moves to remove the Confederate battle flag from display as well as to possibly relocate or remove monuments to leaders of the CSA. It is not for me to say that this is or is not a good idea. I certainly have my own thoughts, but I don’t see the preacher’s job as being to address those specifics. It is my job to warn of a potential shortfall, because (in my opinion) if we were to erase any public evidence of the existence of the Confederacy from American soil, but failed to deal with the racism which plagues our country, we would have failed to live out our calling as people of faith.
This sermon tries to call people to conversation, both on racism in particular and other public events in general (and the two Supreme Court decisions of last week come readily to mind as examples). Conversation is not confrontation – we don’t need more sound bites forcefully advocating our own points of view. People who support, for example, keeping the battle flag as a mark of respect for heritage need to be able to hear the voices of those who say the flag is an offensive symbol of a society whose purpose was the continuation of slavery. And those who find it offensive need to hear why it is an important cultural icon to others. And everyone needs to clearly speak of the racist elements present in American society. If we do that well, it will bring good from the evil that took nine innocent lives in South Carolina.