The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Carry banner of Christ, not rebel ...

It was a group made up of black citizens, white citizens, and at least one self-described eth-nic mutt.

They hailed from Michigan, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, and who knows elsewhere; in fact, their place of origin seemed to matter not. What did matter was the common denominator: a belief that Blount County is at “a tipping point,” where words of reconciliation and restoration can create a beautiful mosaic of unity. The alternative: The generational curse of racism and ethnocentrism would continue unabated and our children’s children would be facing the same struggle 20 years from now.

The discussion turned to what effect the public reaction to recent racial incidents may have had on the Maryville school system’s decision to include the battle flag of the Confederacy, commonly called the “Rebel flag.”

Truth be known, I confessed to the group, my Virginia heritage left me torn over the issue of displaying the flag. Having spent a number of years in my birthplace of Richmond, Virginia, I embraced the words on a plaque in my Uncle Mike’s kitchen: “American by birth; Virginian by the grace of God.”

In the Virginia school system, my first recollection was that of learning my home state’s his-tory, with the belief that U.S. history owes much to Virginia history. For a young history buff, Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown were mystical places that spoke to my spirit. Rich-mond was something of a mecca for those who had an interest in the Revolutionary War as well as the Civil War.

As a 9-year-old, it was not uncommon to pass St. John’s Episcopal Church as we traveled to and from a favorite fishing hole, often reminded that in 1775 it was the very place where Pat-rick Henry rose to deliver the seven words that are now a hymn for freedom: “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Also called the “War Between the States,” I learned the Civil War was variously called “the War of Northern Aggression,” as well as “the Southern Rebellion.”

(This lesson of perspective in history is one I should have learned early on in life.)

In 1861, the capital of the Confederate States of America was moved from Montgomery, Ala., to Richmond.

In May 1862, Union Gen. George B. McClellan captured Yorktown and began an ad-vance on Richmond. In a confrontation known as the “Battles of the Seven Days,” Con-federate forces led by Gen. Robert E. Lee saved Richmond. That battle may have helped feed the late 19th century legend that, like Rome, Richmond was built on seven hills. Some even dubbed the city “Rome of the New World.”

But like Rome, Richmond fell April 2, 1865.

So it was that this controversy over the Confederate battle flag always left me a bit “double-minded.” My love for history, particularly as it pertained to Virginia, made me somewhat protective of associated historical imagery and artifacts — particularly when I learned of a movement to remove the Confederate statues from Monument Avenue.

But in recent years, I began to look at this matter in a different context — one dealing with the spirit in which something is displayed, and listening to the Holy Spirit.

As I sat within this group of new friends and heard the stories, and sensed the hurt, what was once a thought became a final certainty that I believe was spawned by the Holy Spirit: There is a spirit of unity, and there is a spirit of dissension when it comes to matters historical and otherwise.

We are united by our history, black and white, and we have the opportunity to be united in love: love of God, love of our fellow brothers and sisters. That is a spirit of unity, and it offers great opportunities.

But this thing of pride — white pride, black pride, Southern pride, Virginia pride, “Red” pride, “Blue” pride, and even Tennessee pride (and I’m not referring to the sausage) — this thing of pride leads to dissension and grieves the Spirit.

In the Christian context, it is a thing of the flesh, not of the Spirit. It is not walking in the Spirit of Christ, but is anti-Christ.

And if we in Blount County live in the flesh of pride, we will die in the flesh.
H.K. Edgerton chose to pass through Blount County last week while shouldering a replica of the Confederate battle flag. As a pastor, it pains me to say that I’m glad he kept on walking; in fact, I wish he had just passed us by. We would not have missed him.

On the day of his visit, I was in Lexington, Tenn., celebrating the Fourth of July not far from Shiloh Battlefield, the scene of a bloody clash between Confederate and Union forces in 1862.

I returned to learn of Mr. Edgerton’s visit, as well as the pain he left in his wake.

By the way, Mr. Edgerton, Union forces won the Battle of Shiloh and I daresay helped guarantee your right to carry that ‘banner of Southern pride’ along the way. Otherwise, I’m not sure what you would be doing today, but I doubt you would have been parading around the Blount County courthouse.

Mr. Edgerton is gone, but we are still here — and the responsibility for building a commu-nity of love and unity belongs with those of us who live and work in this community.

Richmond fell, Rome fell, and if we fail to walk with Christ in certain matters, the Church and this community will fall.

Are you listening, Blount County?

More importantly, are you listening, Church?

Grace and peace ...