Give me Liberty…to Think!

Within the last couple of weeks, the symbol of “Southernism” has come under attack. The Confederate flag, ignorantly brandished by a psychotic shooter in Charleston, South Carolina, has been curtly and abruptly considered foul and racist. Retailers like Amazon and Walmart (to name only an extreme few) have banned all sales of products using the image of the flag. Disregard the fact, however, that Nazi flags, ISIS flags, and rainbow flags, all symbols of either hate, racism, and division, are still available for purchase. Did you hear about the man who went into Walmart and ordered a cake with the Rebel flag on top? Walmart said, “No!” They would not make a cake with that symbol of racism on it. However, the next day, the same man went to the same store, bringing with him graphics for the ISIS flag. The cake was ordered, made, and purchased. That, my friends, is the epitome of ignorance, bigotry, and hypocrisy.
With all deference to my many friends who live north of the Mason-Dixon line, the Rebel flag has always reminded me of my heritage. When I see the flag, I think of Southern things, Southern states, and “The South will Rise Again!” However, I do not think of racism. To me, the flag has never been about racism. I am educated enough to know that the Civil War was about state’s rights! I am also educated enough to know that slavery was prolific in the North, too.  
This is not my attempt to condone slavery. Although opinion regarding slavery was split in the South, many Christians worked tirelessly to free the slaves. Slavery was wrong, and it was abolished. However, “The War of Northern Aggression” continues to be waged by race baiters who profit mightily off skewing history and fomenting racial division.  
Having said that, I grew up in Dixie hearing MANY more insults about “Yankees” than I ever did about blacks or other races. The flag symbolized love for our heritage, not hatred for others. It symbolized respect for the Confederacy and their fight for federalism.  
As a preacher of the gospel, the events of the last two weeks alarm me for one particular reason. Whether it is same-sex marriage or the banning of the Confederate flag, the issue is not the issue itself at all. The real issue is soul liberty, freedom of thought and conscience. The culture does not only want same-sex marriage legalized; they want to make you agree that it is right. You can burn the American flag, but you had better not own or purchase a Rebel flag. Better yet, cave and tell us that you believe it is a symbol of racism. Sorry, but the answer is “No!”  
These “thought police” have NEVER been forced to defend the merits of same-sex marriage in the public forum This is the reason the Genesis account of creation is given zero air time in the public school class room. It is not even allowed as a “devil’s advocate” position; it is outlawed. In 2015 America, you are not allowed to think for yourself. “We will tell you what you will accept, and you are not allowed to disagree.”  
Such practice is wrong, and extremely dangerous! As a proud Baptist, my forefathers recognized that man has a free will, and as a free moral agent, may lawfully practice the dictates of his conscience, answering to God, not government. Baptist people have never sought to build a state-church or to legislate morality.   
In 1802, Thomas Jefferson responded to the Danbury Baptist Society in kind by saying, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state…Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.” Jefferson understood that it was the government’s responsibility to build a wall of protection against the building of a state church, as well as to ensure that government not intervene in matters of a man’s free conscience and opinions deeply held concerning his God.
We live in dangerous times. When our “culture” decides that something is wrong, it is necessarily considered wrong for all. When the “culture” decides that something is acceptable, it is acceptable to all and seen as bigoted to revolt against popular opinion. The Kardashians? Right! The Dukes of Hazard? Wrong! Approval of same-sex marriage? Right! Dissent against homosexuality according to God’s Word? Wrong! The theory of evolution? Right! Adamantly right! Absolutely, unquestionably, and unopposedly right! The Genesis Account of Creation? Wrong!  
The real casualty will not be the Supreme Court’s overreaching legalization of same-sex marriage in all fifty states. The real casualty would be people like me and you agreeing to agree, despite the dictates of our conscience. I am not suggested that you go out today and purchase a large Confederate flag and hoist it high in the front yard. I am suggesting that you do not have to agree with popular opinion. You can disagree. Millions of American soldiers gave their lives for that privilege. Freedom of speech led to the ruling by the Supreme Court; religious dissent might be our only hope of reversing it.  
“Give me liberty, or give me death!” Happy 4th!

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