I grew up in the South.
My dad's work with the Air Force and as a preacher kept us on the move, and my elementary school years were split among Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and Tennessee.
As a boy, I don't know that I thought much about race. My best friend in the fourth grade was black. My parents were surprised (and proud) the first time I brought Tyra home from school because I'd talked incessantly about him but never mentioned his color.
Some of my earliest memories of my Papa and Grandma Ross — who lived in southeastern Missouri's Bootheel — involve a light blue church bus that drove all over the countryside, picking up children and taking them to worship. Only years later did I learn that not everyone had appreciated Papa and Grandma’s bus ministry. You start filling a white church’s pews with black children, especially in the 1970s, and people talk.
I trace my exposure to the Confederate flag to watching "The Dukes of Hazzard" on Friday nights and seeing General Lee — Bo and Luke Duke's red 1969 Dodge Charger with the flag emblem atop it — fly through the air:
But honestly, I've never really taken the time to confront or understand the emotions associated with the Confederate flag — on all sides.
That is, until the issue burst into the news in the wake of last week's shooting massacre at the Emanuel African American Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.:
The Washington Post reported earlier this week:
After decades of bitter debate over whether the Confederate battle flag is a proud symbol of regional heritage or a shameful emblem of this nation’s most grievous sins, the argument may finally be moving toward an end.
South Carolina is leading the way for other states, as it considers removing the flag from its capitol grounds in the wake of a horrific racial hate crime.
The historical poignancy is heavy and resonant, given that the killings last week of nine African Americans took place in a church basement just a few miles from where the first shots of the Civil War were exchanged in 1861. Photos that have since surfaced of the accused killer, Dylann Roof, show himposing with the Confederate flag.
The banner was long considered politically sacrosanct in the South, at least among conservative whites. It now appears that a rush is on to banish it, along with other images that evoke the Confederacy and sow racial divisiveness.
“It’s a baby step of progress, but we had to step through the blood of nine dead people,” said former College of Charleston president Alex Sanders, a longtime critic of the flag.
So is there a religion angle to this story?
Except that The New York Times has managed to produce a string of coverage totally haunted by holy ghosts:
However, some other major news organizations have emphasized the role of religion in this story:
Washington (CNN) As more photos emerge of Dylann Roof, the confessed killer in the Charleston church massacre, holding a Confederate flag, calls are increasing to remove the symbol from public property.
And some of the urgings are coming from a community that has often defended the flag: white southern conservative Christian leaders.
"It is at a level of intensity that is new," said Barnabas Piper, a Southern Baptist author who writes about the intersection of Christianity and culture. "This is not something you see tweeted about on a regular basis. But after the attack in Charleston and the prominence that the flag took, it feels as if it is now being rubbed in our faces."
Other excellent coverage has come from two predictable (because of their awesomeness) sources: Religion News Service's Adelle Banks and The Washington Post's Sarah Pulliam Bailey (a former GetReligionista):
Undoubtedly, I've missed some relevant stories — good and bad — in my quick Googling, so please feel free to share links below or by tweeting us at @GetReligion.
Meanwhile, here's my question for you, kind GetReligion readers: Am I right in my assertion that it's impossible to tell this story without including the religion angle? Why or why not?
If you comment, please remember that this website focuses on journalism, so we're interested in discussing media coverage, not your opinion — pro or con — of the Confederate flag.