Chaplains Comments


Father Alister C. Anderson,

Past Chaplain in Chief, Sons of Confederate Veterans


Reprinted from the Confederate Veteran - Volume 1, 2000.


Father Joseph Abram Ryan has been called the "poet-priest" of the Confederacy He was a devout Southerner and his poems will be read with grateful hearts as long as mankind exists on earth. One of his most beloved poems is The Conquered Banner, and is of often referred to as "the Requiem of the Lost Cause." It describes Fr. Ryan's overwhelming sadness about the hundreds of thousands of Confederate soldiers and civilians, both Black and White, who gave their lives in a noble and valiant attempt to create a free and independent Southern nation. Written in just one afternoon and soon after General Lee's surrender of the army it gives words to the painful feelings of our ancestors, as they comprehended the reality of a total military defeat and the vast loss of human life, personal possessions and property. Every time I read this poem, I feel a great sadness in having to accept the hard, cold fact that our ancestors had no other option then but to furl the Confederate Battle Flag. Fr. Ryan expressed his sadness in these lines from this poem

Furl that Banner, softly, slowly! Treat it gently it is holy-For it droops above the dead. Touch it not -- unfold it never, Let it droop there, furled forever. For its peoples' hopes are dead!

This poem haunts me in a most frustrating way because it describes how many descendants of our ancestors, having surrendered to political correctness, feel about our flag. They do not understand nor seem to care that the South, having endured one horrible reconstruction, is now in the process of being enslaved by another equally demonic reconstruction. Wee must not furl the flag this time!

Even in the time of our ancestors there were people who challenged them to unfurl the flag. Recently I discovered a poem written by Sir Henry Houghton, an English author (1809- 1885) and a friend of Tennvson and Thackery and a Southern sympathizer. In a poem he entitled A Reply to the Conquered Banner, he wrote:

Gallant nation, foiled by numbers Say not that our hopes are fled, Keep that glorious flag which slumbers, One day to avenge your dead. Think not that its work is done. Millions here deplore the stain Shame, alas! for England's glory Freedom called, and called in vain! Treat it gently, for 'tis holy; Then once more unfurl it gladly - Conquered banner! Keep it still!

I rejoice that an Englishman in his day encourages us in our day to unfurl our flag in defense of the principles for which our ancestors were willing to die. I rejoice even more upon reading an article Black journalist, W. Earl Douglas, who writing Charleston News and Courier in our time calls upon us to wave the flag proudly and defiantly if necessary. He writes:

No! Don't furl that Confederate Battle Flag. Let it wave all across the South to remind all Americans that there exists here a yearning for liberty freedom and independence that will not be denied. Let it fly as a testimonial to real men and real women who would rather work and fight than shed tears and beg for government charity. Let it act as a cohesive force, drawing all Southerners together in the cause of freedom.

While the words of Sir Henry Houghton and W Earl Douglas are enough to set my heart and mind on fire to wave our flag defiantly, it was a few sentences from an article written by a Scott McLaughlin, about whom I know nothing but hope to meet someday that convinced me that I had to be marching to the South Carolina State Capitol buildings on the morning of the eighth of January 2000. Mr..McLaughlin writes:

In these days the flag is attacked because it is the most potent symbol opposed to the forces of political correctness. The politically correct movement is a social agenda engineered to distort and destroy Southern culture and to revise the rational study of history and replace it with a dogmatic formula of Nihilistic cant.

The Politically Correct movement is disgustingly and wickedly, and tragically for us as Southerners, succeeding for the time being in destroying the idea of individual merit, effort, achievement and success. Pride in one's family, race, or culture is condemned while praise is heaped upon a mythological brotherhood of equality and a totally false understanding of true multiculturalism. The Flag is under attack because it is a symbol of freedom and independence.

But as a clergyman, I dare say it is much more than that. When the leaders of the NAACP attack the flag and call it a racist symbol; when they call it an odious blight upon the universe; when they call our flag an ugly symbol of idiotic White supremacy racism and denigration as they have in their published manifesto entitled Resolution Abhorring the Confederate Battle Flag, they are, in effect, deny ing the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ and God's divine role in our nation's history, culture and life. The Confederate Flag has become the focus of hate far deeper than the pandering howls of the politically correct. The Flag and all that it symbolizes is being erased from history and eternally shamed and permanently disgraced for the sake of the world view of secular humanism and collectivism. All those who curse our flag and try to eliminate the monuments to our beloved dead are also trying to dethrone God, whether they know it or not!

On that beautiful Saturday morning, the eighth of January, more than eight thousand men, women and children some of whom were Black citizens, and all proudly unreconstructed Southerners, marched through cheering crowds to the State Capitol. In the vanguard were the bagpipes, and the kilt-clad flag bearers who carried the United States flag and the Confederate Battle flag, which bears the cross of the Apostle Saint Andrew on its canton. Saint Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland, and we know that he brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the Holy Land to countries bordering the Black Sea. Then he preached that gospel in Thrace, Macedonia and again into Greece where he was martyred for his faith. He was condemned to death by crucifixion, but he requested that he not be executed, as was Jesus. The Romans, therefore, ordered his cross to be turned on its side. Thus, the Confederate Battle Flag is not only the national military flag of the Confederacy; it is a religious flag as well. The cross of Christ turned on its side in the diagonal position Corms the Creek letter "X"..., which is Chi, the letter abbreviation for Christ.

Behind the marching bag-pipers and flag-bearers, the marshals of the march placed approximately fifty ordained ministers, priests and the chaplains of many SCV camps. In front and rear of the marching clergy of many different religious denominations, several compatriots

carried two large banners which displayed the words "No King but King Jesus" and "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God" It is obvious that this march was more than just a parade to keep the Confederate Battle Flag flying on top the Capitol dome. The presence of so many clergy demonstrated the truth that this flag is more than a symbol of a once newly formed Southern Nation fighting for her independence. It is an Icon today of the forces of Light and Truth fighting the forces of Darkness and Ignorance. Many clergy marched because we believe that our beloved ancestors fought for a Righteous Cause and we will always honor them for their great sacrifice for truth. We clergy believe what the Reverend James Thomwell, President of South Carolina College, spoke even before the War Between the States began:

"The parties in this conflict are not merely abolitionists and slaveholders -- they are instead atheists, socialists, communists, red republicans, Jacobins, on the one side; and the friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. In one word, the world is a battleground Christianity and atheism are the combatants and the progress of humanity is at stake."

Following the clergy thousands upon thousands of Southern army re-enactors under arms, women and children in period dress, members of the SCV, MOSB, UDC and fellow citizens marched to the Capitol. We marched to proclaim that the flag must never be furled and that we win wave it proudly and, if necessary, defiantly. We will no longer tolerate our ancestors being depicted as evil racists and bigots and, by implication as their descendants, being labeled also as racists and bigots. We marched and waved the flag because we are determined to eradicate the evil anti-Christian assumption that twenty-first century men and women are wiser and morally superior to our faithful beloved ancestors. We marched to recall what Jesus Christ said to us Southerners and to all those in this world. He wants to save including our public antagonists, those who are politically correct and their racist demagogues. He said, "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven" (St. Luke 6:37). Ultimately we marched and wave the Battle Flag so that we, our children and our children's children will remember what Jesus Christ said, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." (St. John 8:32).