The editor of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s in-house publication, “The Pathway,” has strongly defended the controversial Confederate battle flag and aggressively attacked those who challenge it.
In his book Embattled Banner: A Reasonable Defense of the Confederate Battle Flag, Don Hinkle called himself “an unReconstructed Confederate” and dismissed critics of the flag as “a small group of malcontents and bigots.”
MBC interim Executive Director David Tolliver, recently condemned the flag in a column in The Pathway because it “represents hate” and “depicts deep-rooted racial bigotry and hatred.” As a result, Tolliver argued that Christians should not fly the flag. Meanwhile, a Web site run by his organization is promoting Hinkle’s decade-old book defending that very symbol.
Hinkle argued in his book that the flag is actually a Christian symbol because it features St. Andrew’s Cross and because the Confederate Constitution acknowledged God while the U.S. Constitution does not. His book even included a photo of the flag flying next to the Christian flag.
In his book, the Confederate’s fight becomes a religious mission, and this fight is not yet over. He even argued that those attacking the flag should remember that Southerners “will ‘draw their sabers’ in a second if they feel their honor has been questioned” and pointed to Union cemeteries as proof.
After asking if the flag is a “racist relic,” Hinkle declared, “Absolutely not!” He added that “the battle flag was not–nor will ever be–symbolic of slavery or racism.”
Rather than seeing the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of hate, Hinkle asserted that it is the “anti-flag minority” who are trying to “bully” the South through “character assassination.” He also accused critics of using “petty politics based on distortion and bigotry.”
He declared the attacks to be “cultural genocide” and even argued that Missouri was among the states hurt by the attacks on the flag. Among his examples of “attacks being launched against Southern culture” is criticism of William Jewell College, which at the time was affiliated with the MBC, for not allowing the flag flown during a ceremony in the school’s chapel.
Hinkle claimed that many of critics of the Confederate flag are actually also opposed to the American flag. He suggested that this movement would result in “feeding the Constitution to a shredder” and remove American historical artifacts “like what the Communists did to rewrite Russian history after the fall of the Czar.”
Hinkle even compared the NAACP to the KKK and asserted that it was “closer to becoming just another hate group.” He claimed the NAACP’s opposition to the Confederate flag was an attempt to “whip blacks into an emotional tizzy.”
African-Americans peacefully requesting a Confederate flag be taken down are called “[r]adical blacks” and a “mob” by Hinkle.
He argued that since many African-Americans fought for the Confederacy, “there is no reason why blacks shouldn’t view the Confederate battle flag with as much pride as anyone if they so choose.” He claimed that the slaves who fought for the Confederacy did so because most slave owners “took good care of them.” He insisted that critics of slavery “wrongfully apply today’s moral to a world that was vastly different.”
“Many white Southerners were trying to figure out a way to end the ‘peculiar institution’ when the intolerant abolitionists went nuts over the issue,” Hinkle wrote.
Hinkle also described slavery as “the misfortunate of blacks” and claimed that Reconstruction actually produced greater injustices than slavery or Jim Crow laws.
“The only connection I can see between Jim Crow and the war, much less the flag, is that it may have been the white Southerners’ way of retaliating against some blacks who took advantage of them during the most corrupt and disgraceful period in our nation’s history, Reconstruction,” Hinkle asserted. “Such wrongful retaliation occurs whenever the majority regains control after the minority has abused the majority.”
Dr. W. Scott Poole, assistant professor of history at the College of Charleston, offered a devastating critique of Hinkle’s book. Writing a chapter in the book National Symbols, Fractured Identities, Poole argued that Hinkle’s book “represents a bizarre outcropping of the ‘neo-Confederate’ movement.”
“Hinkle’s diatribe makes frequent use of class language, often couched in the vocabulary of Confederate nationalism,” Poole wrote. “The tract resists easy analysis. Poorly written and edited, it is a farrago of ahistorical meandering, tendentious claims, and a disturbing number of unctuous threats. The author employs a rhetorical strategy of verbal violence against the elites who are allegedly marginalizing white southerners.”
Poole also noted that that “Hinkle insists on condemning Lincoln to hellfire.” Hinkle gleefully suggested that Lincoln is in Hell, which he sees as justified punishment for a man that waged war against the South.
Since working for The Pathway, Hinkle has briefly praised Confederate General Robert E. Lee. He also launched an attack on the Baptist World Alliance that included criticism of former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a black religious leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end apartheid in South Africa and bring racial reconciliation to the nation.
Brian Kaylor is communications specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.