(This walking path symbol reminds me of the verse, “…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” ~Micah 6:8, NRSV)
Symbols have become the object of many on-going debates in our country. We hear arguments about standing or kneeling for the American flag, keeping or removing confederate statues, or even the seasonal debate of using the greetings, “Merry Christmas!” vs. “Happy Holidays!” All of these debates and stances stem from how different people perceive and interpret symbols. (Holiday greetings have become symbolic of faith stances.) Our arguments on either side of these debates arise from how we have personally experienced these symbols in our lives.
For many, the American flag is a symbol of patriotism and pride for the United States. For many, it is a sad reminder of the great sacrifices loved ones have made to preserve our freedoms. And for many, it is a cry for help in our country that still has a long way to ensure “liberty and justice for all.”
While the confederate statues don’t create an inner turmoil for me, I can certainly imagine why they may in others! If I even imagine seeing statues of Hitler or Osama bin Laden (they are part of our history), my stomach turns.
I may say, “Merry Christmas” to my family and friends in faith. But for over thirty years I was fortunate to live in a community with a Jewish Community Center and a Hindu Temple. The whole area was blessed by these faith communities who provided lovely festivals, places for health and recreation, social good, and cultural understanding. During these years I grew to understand that “Merry Christmas” may not be an appropriate greeting for everyone. I also never had anyone wish me, “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Diwali.” A respectful mutuality seemed to flourish.
People are more important than symbols. I’m sad that we seem to be more upset about how these symbols are treated, than in trying to resolve the underlying problems that create these divisions. Can we learn to recognize and respect the personal stories and feelings on both sides? Can we become people who value and honor the pride and sacrifice for many- but also comprehend the despair and oppression of others? Can we preserve our history as a teaching lesson- but be willing to remove statues that are painful reminders for those still held captive by systemic injustice? Can we honor one another’s different faiths- while we remain united in love?
Can we learn how to respect, honor, recognize, communicate- and work together for the good of others?
1 Corinthians 13:5 “Love… does not insist on its own way.”