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Faithfully Podcast 5: Christians, the Confederate Flag and the Civil War

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Why do some white Christians from the South feel so strongly about the Confederate flag? Was the Civil War really about states’ rights or was the conflict ultimately about slavery? — These are just some of the questions a Mississippi history professor, who happens to be white, takes on in episode 5 of Faithfully Podcast.

Faithfully Magazine first learned of Dr. Otis W. Pickett, an assistant professor of history at Mississippi College, after his column on the Confederate flag appeared in The Clarion-Ledger.

Pickett, also co-founder of the Prison to College Pipeline Program, counts Religion, the U.S. South, Education, Race, Prison Studies, and Reconciliation among his interests, as explained on his faculty page.

As you will hear Pickett mention in Faithfully Podcast, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant proclaimed earlier this year that April would be “Confederate Heritage Month.”

In his faith column, “Let Confederate emblem on Mississippi flag go,” Pickett, a South Carolina native, writes:

If there is anyone in Mississippi who can claim a Confederate heritage and a reason to celebrate it for a month, it’s me. I grew up on Sullivan’s Island in Charleston Harbor, just a few hundred yards away from where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

I grew up inundated with stories of direct descendants on both sides of my family who served in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. While my branch of the Pickett family moved from Virginia to South Carolina in the 18th century, we are distantly related to the Virginian Gen. George E. Pickett, who led Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, which is considered the ‘high-water mark’ of the Confederate Army.

As Pickett shares in the rest of his column, he started to question his Confederate heritage as it had been handed down to him after coming to faith in a church led by an African-American Baptist minister named the Rev. Herman Robinson and developing a friendship with him throughout college.

In this episode of Faithfully Podcast, Pickett breaks down typical Southern views about the Civil War, and by default the Confederate flag, and how these views are handed down from generation to generation. According to the professor, a mix of ancestral pride and ignorance of the war’s true context and history is what makes some whites deaf to the concerns of their black neighbors in the South on these issues.

He explained that although the reconciliation work that he does comes with its challenges, he believes it is work that nevertheless must be done. Pickett also invited white listeners of Faithfully Podcast to consider what roles they can play in the area of racial reconciliation, particularly in their churches.

“I’ve been a part of a lot racial reconciliation organizations. I’ve been a part of a lot of different movements. I’ve been a part of a lot of different groups…,” Pickett said. “I’m convinced that this work needs to be done in the church. I’m convinced that our churches need to think through how we can be more multi-ethnic. I think our churches need to think through how we need to repent and have corporate confession and have times of discussion over these issues.

“My white listeners if you’re listening, I think you need to honestly and openly assess what the history is, allow the Holy Spirit to do a work in you, remove the fear that is in your heart to speak and act and be advocates. And I think if the church rose up in the South and white Christians in the South rose up to be advocates, that we’d see change a whole lot quicker.”

Listen via SoundCloud.

Listen to Faithfully Podcast 5 at SoundCloud or on iTunes (where you should subscribe to the podcast and give it a rating). Sign up for the newsletter at the bottom to stay updated on upcoming guests and new episodes.

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