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Greetings from Pastor Ben

Four years ago I was visiting family in North Carolina on a summer vacation. We happened to be there over the Fourth of July weekend, and as many Americans do, we went to the morning parade. What astounded me, growing up in Iowa my whole life, were a handful of trucks and tractors flying Confederate battle flags in the Independence Day parade. Sure, you see that flag on things from the ‘69 Dodge Charger on “The Dukes of Hazzard” to beer koozies.

But to see it flown with pride during a celebration of American freedom is both an oxymoron and an offense. It’s an oxymoron because the Confederate battle flag was flown during battles when the losing side was fighting to maintain the institution of slavery; the antithesis of freedom. The offense this symbol of rebellion and slavery gives is certainly understandable for those of African descent, whose ancestors may have been enslaved in this country or who have experienced the horrors of social and institutional racism for themselves. But this flag should offend all Americans when it is flown as a symbol of pride, just as most Americans would react to seeing a Nazi swastika flown on the grounds of a state capital.

The tragic deaths of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC has once again sparked an outcry for addressing issues of racism, violence and terrorism. This tragedy hits close to home for us as ELCA members . . .

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