To Stand or Not to Stand (Part 1 of 2)

kaepernickSome people applaud Colin Kaepernick’s method of protest, while others load up for bear. Because I’m aware of the demographic of the bulk of my “readers” I feel the greater need to speak initially to the latter, to appeal to you to put lower your weapon and put it on safety.

You may not appreciate the means Kaepernick chose or care much for the messenger himself for using those means, but I’d like to propose that rather than degenerate to rhetoric-laden rancor, let’s see if we can’t turn this into an opportunity for dialog and even open-minded debate. I trust that you’re discontent with an immature knee-jerk reaction of self-righteous one-liners. Don’t make this into a Left versus Right, Us versus Them, Black versus Blue. Let’s do our best to focus on right versus wrong. I’m not talking about “I’m all right and you’re all wrong!

Instead, let’s try to get into the Maker’s head for a moment and imagine what he might be thinking about all this. After all, it is him to whom we have to give an account. It’s not our party, our people, or our personal preferences that matter as much as what the Creator wants––the One Who requires that we love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.

I love our country as much as most. And when I see her citizens (especially those who are in the Church) acting badly I pray and then sometimes, if I have the leading of the Spirit and a platform for it, I say something. I’m sure you do the same. I also love our nation’s anthem. I always stand when it’s sung at baseball games and often have a tear in my eyes for the privilege I feel about being an American.

I have to admit that irritation was my first reaction to the news of the Kaepernick protest. Off the top of my head, which is not usually the best part of my head, it was the wrong thing at the wrong place at the wrong time to make a statement about police brutality. After further review, all I can say is maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t. Only God knows for sure.

I don’t know if Kaepernick loves this country or not, but he did observe some of her citizens acting badly, some law enforcement officers in particular. He saw what we all should see and care about, that in a number of cases, police have treated their own fellow citizens with brutality, and evidently he felt he had to do something, to make a statement.

I said that I speak up “when I have a platform” to do so. Being a flawed spokesman, sometimes I say or do the wrong thing in the wrong spirit. When I become aware of it I regret it. Sometimes the truth I speak is not in love and sometimes I wimp out and err on the side of what I think is “love” and fail to speak at all. Is it possible that Kaepernick’s method was misplaced and he used his “platform” unwisely? Sure. But I don’t know for sure.

What I do know is that his cause is just and whatever you think of the messenger, his message should be heard. In many many ways we’re obviously not as great a nation as we should be by now. Systemic racism and our gratuitous use of violence both in the hood (black on black) and in law enforcement (blue on black) is clear evidence of that.

Billy Graham has said many times that racism is the world’s biggest social ill. If we want to “make America great again”––to coin a phrase––I suggest that these are some of the major sins we should be looking at and repenting of.

Have you noticed that it’s the ones for whom the status quo is working just fine, those who are most benefitted by the present state of things, are the ones who fight the most vehemently to retain it? Some people are simply ignorant that there are those in the world for whom the status quo isn’t working. They don’t see, and often don’t want to see, the inherent privilege that belongs to them as members of the majority culture. Others, with a clear vested interest in the status quo, see the obvious disparity between them and those who possess no such privilege and they posture themselves to protect their position with whatever means necessary. In their own minds their might makes them right.

The status quo doesn’t work for those with fewer rights or the might to protect them. The prophet said, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24) But unchecked, injustice will also roll on like a river, a stream of social inequities. If no one stands when everyone else sits or kneels when the rest stand that current will continue.

I don’t know what’s it’s like to be black in America or to be a cop in Chicago or Oakland, but I agree with John Perkins who said, “There is no reconciliation until you recognize the dignity of the other, until you see their view- you have to enter into the pain of the people. You’ve got to feel their need.”

Did Colin Kaepernick do it right? I’m not sure. But I am sure that if we want to get it right, the last thing we need is a bunch of rankled, self-righteous rhetoric from Christians. Instead, let’s look at this as an opportunity for some humble dialog with grace-seasoned speech. Let’s talk TO each other and not ABOUT or OVER one another. Of all people, it’s the lovers of Jesus who should declare a ceasefire long enough to let his kingdom come and his will be done in America as it is in heaven.

Next time I’ll talk about the anthem as a symbol of patriotism, not necessarily as a sign that one is truly patriotic…

If you want to, let’s have some grace-imbued conversation about this. And even if we disagree, let’s disagree agreeably in a God pleasing way.

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1

5 Replies to “To Stand or Not to Stand (Part 1 of 2)”

  1. I don’t stand for the anthem. I have not done so in years. And in fact, I refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag.

    You would think this means I back the football guy… What was his name? (I am not a sport fan either, btw). But it does not. And in fact, I have a lot of feeling and thought about the issue he has suddenly shed light on that have nothing to do with is protest, but which I now suffer greater scrutiny because of…

    I used to substitute teach in school, and now days I work in law enforcement. Both places practice the tradition of pledging allegiance – something I abstain from while ON THE JOB. A few weeks ago, my abstinence drew inquiry from several of my co-workers (shortly before the football scandal broke out).

    Let me back up and say, I have NOT made a parade or protest of my abstinence at all. I have quietly abstained in the back of the room. And pledging allegiance is always followed by the “moment of silence” where you then pray (if you so choose) to the god of your choice quietly – and if not then you are supposed to remain silent out of respect for those who do.

    Here is where my reaction starts to go in dozens of directions that only marginally impinge on the football player’s protest….

    First off… The Moment of Silence (MOS) is never really honored. It is not silent. If follows the pledge, but the bulk of adherents actually use that time to jingle their keys, grab up their gear/back packs etc – whatever fidgeting is required before going on with the day. It is not actually silent at all – even though the pledge (time it and see) takes 15 seconds and always has almost complete lock-step unison – I mean Jesus should be jealous!

    I have chosen to pray silently throughout both moments. And I always pray the Lord’s Prayer and the Shema. But I have been studying Shema lately and it is a unique prayer alright. In fact, it is possibly the only one addressed to Israel instead of to God. But to pray it, at least with the mentality of a 2nd Temple Jew, is to devote oneself to God’s Kingdom Rule! Basically, it is a pledge of allegiance to the Kingdom of God! And like allegiance in any army, you had better not adulterate it with allegiances to other entities with whom your chosen allegiance recipient might come into conflict!

    I am certain we do not want any of our Marines swearing oath to ISIS during the MOS after pledging allegiance to our flag! But then the MOS really is not being honored and/or respected by those who recite the pledge to begin with – AND WHY WOULD THEY. The fact that it is a moment of SILENCE already says that it is devoted to a god of your choice, and why would anyone respect that? I don’t.

    And so when my coworkers recently queried me about my abstinence, which they had in fact noticed despite my quiet refrain, I let em have it with both barrels. That flag stands for a guest on planet earth that has been quite rude, crude, and lude to its host ever since the beginning when the founding fathers very purposefully cut God out of the governing business in what Thomas Jefferson called a “Separation of Church and State” – to coin a phrase.

    That flag betrays the Jesus it supposedly honors EVERY DAY in millions of ways with horrific consequences. Why on earth would I split my allegiance between Jesus and that flag? That flag cant see fit to align itself with Jesus, never has, and never will. I sure will not extend my allegiance to it in that case, and if it did align itself with Jesus, there would be no need.

    Moot point.

    That said, I share the football player’s concerns, of course. But his chosen protest certainly muddies the waters for me… and draws that much more ire on me amid a public unwilling to even analyze this stuff at this level.

    So, if you ask me if I support his cause, I must say I have great sensitivity for it. And while his chosen method of protest is not skin off my nose ideologically, it is putting heat on my practice inadvertently… which for the Name of Jesus, I am willing to suffer, but would rather the football player saved that method of protest for an even greater cause.

    There. That is about as nutshell as I can get it.

    Appreciate you opening up the topic for discussion.



  2. Hey Barney, I just want to say how much I appreciate your open heart and vulnerability on this topic. As someone who identifies as Black this matter is really close to my heart. I never thought I would see so many hateful comments from self professed Christians on Colin’s protest. I personally feel like his actions were appropriate and inspiring. The fact that you wrote this blog shows how influential his protest is. I look forward to part 2.


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