Former state GOP executive director, elected Republican official, and chief of staff to Kirk Fordice, Mississippi’s first Republican Governor, Andy Taggart has publicly challenged his party to step up and “lead the charge in finally removing from our state flag the representation of the Confederate battle flag.”
Saying such a move “will make a strong, moral statement” acknowledging “our current state flag is divisive and hurtful to a significant number of our fellow Mississippians,” Taggart joins Republican Speaker of the House Philip Gunn in taking a stand against the controversial flag.
“Changing the flag is the right thing to do,” Speaker Gunn said last year. “We can deal with it now or leave for future generations to address. I believe our state needs to address it now.”
Over a decade ago, another longtime Republican leader spoke out strongly on racism, retired Federal Judge Charles Pickering.
All active Baptists, these three leaders align with the moral approach against racism pursued by the Southern Baptist Convention. In its historic resolution on racial reconciliation adopted in 1995, Convention members resolved to “commit ourselves to be doers of the Word (James 1:22) by pursuing racial reconciliation in all our relationships, especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 2:6), to the end that our light would so shine before others, that they may see (our) good works and glorify (our) Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).”
Last year, the Convention encouraged members to stop displaying the Confederate flag.
And this past June, the Convention called every form of racism “antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and resolved “we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst.”
Other denominations are taking stands too. For example, following the Charlottesville upheaval, a diverse group of ministers held an outdoor, public prayer gathering in Meridian. Their theme was “let’s talk” and their goal was to get black and white to understand each other better and live together better. Among them was Dr. Rhett Payne, III, a Reformed theology pastor at predominantly white First Presbyterian Church in Meridian. Back in church, Dr. Payne preached on “Truth, Satan, The Christian Mind…and Racism,” declaring racism as “offensive to God.”
Recently, the Daily Journal’s Bobby Harrison wrote an epic column on Southern heritage. In it he empathizes with the heritage sentiment of some flag supporters, noting there may have been people marching in Charlottesville “with pride and heritage in their heart, not hate.”
“But,” he continued, “it was difficult to find those in the midst of all those who were there with hate and bigotry in their hearts, waving not only Confederate battle flags, but Nazi swastikas. When the symbol is more identified with hate and bigotry, it is reasonable to argue that creates a problem for a government that still flies the emblem as part of its official banner as Mississippi does.”
“The truth is that it might be too late to separate the banner from hate,” Harrison concluded.
Taggart was lambasted in political blogs, but garnered some praise for putting morality ahead of heritage regarding the flag conflict.
Where there is faith, there is hope.
» Bill Crawford is syndicated columnist from Meridian (email@example.com)