Over the past several weeks, protesters across the country have called for the removal of statues and symbols that honor the Confederacy. From the White House to the race track, those fighting for racial equality view the Confederate flag as a “symbol of hatred” against people of color.
The largest religious group in Mississippi is now putting its foot down as well. It is requesting lawmakers to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag.
The Mississippi Baptist Convention on Tuesday announced its position on the state flag. Those who have the power to do so need to make a change. Shawn Parker, executive director and treasurer of the MBC, spoke on behalf of the organization.
“While some may see the current flag as a celebration of heritage, a significant portion of our state sees it as a relic of racism… The racial overtones of this flag’s appearance make this discussion a moral issue. It is therefore apparent that the need to change the flag is a matter of discipleship for every follower of Jesus Christ.”
Parker also noted that African Americans make up 28% of Mississippi’s population. He believes that “what offends them should offend us.”
The convention’s 16-member executive committee discussed the issue of the flag before voting unanimously to call for a change. In fact, every president of the MBC — whether past or present — stood in solidarity with the resolution.
“We encourage our governor and state legislature to take the necessary steps to adopt a new flag for the state of Mississippi that represents the dignity of every Mississippian and promotes unity rather than division,” Parker said.
The Mississippi Baptist Convention represents over 2,200 churches in the state. Its decision to join with other organizations to change the state flag carries “a lot of influence.”
“So you would think that this would have an effect on a lot of voters when the religious leaders that a lot of them look to every Sunday are saying, look this needs to change,” Mike Nelson, political analyst for the local news, said.
The churches that are a part of the convention are “independent,” Parker said. Most of them agree, however, that the confederate symbol needs to be removed from the flag. The decision, he said, is not one of political agenda.
“This was not motivated by politics… or economics. It wasn’t motivated by athletics. This is based on our understanding of Jesus Christ,” said Parker.