For decades, thousands have descended on the rural town of Diana, Tennessee on the second weekend in June (and September) for a two-day, Christian sing-along event known as “Diana Singing.” According to the Tennessean, those in attendance “assemble in a shed to sing together into the early morning hours.”
This year — as with others — the event went smoothly. But in the weeks following, the event’s organizers have come under fire for a photo and video they posted to the nearly 3000-member Diana Singing Facebook page of an impromptu, pre-event parade in which a man can be seen carrying a Confederate flag on a motorized scooter.
Madison Laird, a Bible workbook author who has been attending Diana Singing for 20 years, has been the most vocal critic of the post. Laird, 51, says he saw the images a week after the event and immediately alerted the Facebook administrators to remove them.
“I privately messaged the Facebook administrators that Bible verses make it clear that a Christian should not exercise their right if they’re potentially offending a brother and to please take it down,” Laird tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Three times I privately urged them to do this. They would not do it.”
After several failed attempts to get the offensive post removed, Laird and his wife decided to publicly condemn the organization for not taking action to remove the posts. Together, on his website and Facebook, they urged people to contact Diana Singing directly for the removal of the Confederate imagery.
Laird also took it upon himself to repost the photo in the closed Facebook group asking if members were okay with the Civil War-era flag. However, Laird received pushback from the Diana Singing facebook group members, with users commenting that “the gentleman was having fun with it and to leave him alone,” and “suggested that I not stir up trouble,” arguing that the flag was an intrinsic part of Southern heritage.
Laird, who was born and raised in Nashville, Tenn. but now lives in California, disagrees with this sentiment, comparing the parading of the Civil War-era symbol to waving the Nazi flag. “I would never make a choice to display this image, any more than I would display a swastika if I were German and that were a part of my heritage,” Laird wrote on his website, adding that it is illegal in Germany to display the Nazi symbol.
On top of that, Laird says that memorializing the Confederate flag is inconsistent with Christian values. “The Bible says enslaving people is wrong,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “The flag image conveys that notion to a lot of people. So they’re rightly offended by it.”
Following mounting public pressure, the Diana Singing group issued an apology on July 19, explaining their decision to remove the photo and video.
“The Diana Singing Board of Directors wishes to extend a most sincere apology to anyone who was offended by recent pictures/video posted on this Facebook page. In 51 years of existence, neither the Board nor the singing has ever raised or elevated the Confederate flag for observance or celebration, posted such pictures or support to any literature/websites/forums, or advocated for any type of discrimination whatsoever; nor do we condone such behavior/acts/statements or posts of such,” reads a statement from Diana Singing, obtained by Yahoo Lifestyle.
The statement adds that attendees who come from most states and foreign countries will “attest to the welcome and inviting atmosphere found at the singing.”
“Recognizing our responsibility to welcome all, the Board will take steps to prevent such potential offenses immediately. Please accept our humble apology.”
Although the Diana Singing board of directors have removed and apologized for the Confederate imagery on their page, Laird does not believe their apology was sincere and suggests that they’ve only taken action to mitigate public backlash.
“The really disturbing part to me is that they are not conducting themselves as Christians should. I know the people associated with them very well— and I love all these people,” Laird says of the difficulty he has had in speaking out against the organization that he says is “very near and dear to me.”
Laird has preached and lead singing at Diana Singing events, shared its music with hundreds online and even walked down the aisle to a recording by Diana Singing at his wedding.
But, after attending the semi-annual Gospel sing-along since childhood, and acknowledging the Diana Singing in his Bible Workbooks, Laird says he will no longer attend the event — and is expunging his acknowledgments of the organizations in his publications.
“I am not happy that I have to fight the fight, but if no one stands up to say this is not Christian behavior — this is not a Christian thing to do — then Christianity and the true message of the Gospel and of Jesus Christ gets a bad name—that is not okay,” Laird tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
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