Some thoughts concerning the NFL protests.
1) I find it difficult to believe the claim that the NFL protests aren’t about the flag, when the action of the protests is a deviation from respectful attention to the flag. I understand that there is a substantive issue here that deserves to be heard. However, the chosen voicing of the issue is directed at the flag, and by extension, the nation as a whole.
Colin Kaepernick, who began this movement, actually said his protest was directed at the flag. He stated, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” This is pretty clear. Kaepernick sees racism in the United States. As a result, he does not show respect to the flag, the symbol of our nation. The substance of the protest is carried out in an action that displays lack of respect for that which symbolizes the United States.
2) While I understand the disappointment with the protest, many Christians are not responding as though they are citizens of another Kingdom. The fact of the matter is, Jesus did not die to make our nation great. He died to gather a kingdom for himself. He died to gather sinners to himself; sinners such as those who are protesting, and those who are counter-protesting. The Christian’s priority is not to be defense of a flag, but the proclamation of a cross.
My children’s school district is involved with a program called “The Leader In Me.” There are principles on which they focus in becoming leaders. One of these principles is “Seek to understand before being understood.” As Christians, should we not be most gracious concerning the offenses of others? After all, we found grace though we had offended the God of the universe. We had nothing of value to offer him. We had nothing to contribute to our salvation but the sin that made it necessary. Yet, we were forgiven. Now are we going to type angry and hateful words toward those who offend us?
I am very concerned that we have moved beyond patriotism to an idolatry of America. We are more concerned that the flag is disrespected by a relatively few athletes a couple of times a week than we are that God is disrespected by hundreds of millions of people every day. Is our ultimate allegiance pledged to a flag or a cross? Prove it.
3) I live in a city in which the population is approximately 2% African-American. I have no experience that would allow to speak with intellectual honesty concerning the experiences of African-Americans in this country. I have heard stories of black people’s every step being watched by a mall’s security officer. I have heard of African-Americans being pulled over by police in “nice neighborhoods” for no apparent reason. These stories are easy to dismiss in my 90+% white bubble of a hometown. But, as a Christian, the Bible calls me to be concerned about injustice. If I dismiss such stories so easily, I could very well be turning a blind eye to injustice.
This issue of race in America is a complex issue. Some of what is called racism is a socio-economic issue rather than a race issue. There are poor, white neighborhoods with high incarceration rates. However, there are many more poor, black neighborhoods than there are poor, white neighborhoods. Why is that? Many will point to the abandonment of the family by fathers. Fatherlessness is rampant in poor, black communities. But, why is that?
Those of us in the white bubble tend to give sociological explanations for crime rates, incarceration rates, poverty rates, etc. But why are these sociological factors more prevalent in black communities than in white communities? Is it possible that there is a systemic, institutional bias? I’m not saying there is. I’m also not saying there isn’t. We need to be willing to ask these questions.
4) I don’t believe the media. At all. On the left or the right. Mike Tomlin, the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, kept his team in the locker during the national anthem of last week’s game. His purpose was to keep his team from being divided by the political nonsense. Tomlin said they were there to play football, not make political statements. The right-wing media roasted Tomlin for protesting the national anthem.
If there is an objective media outlet left, please let me know what it is. I can’t find one. The left-wing media has a narrative it encourages. They choose stories, include quotes, and offer statistics that support their narrative. The right-wing media also has a narrative. They choose stories, include quotes, and offer statistics that support their narrative. As much as we would like to believe that the media that is sympathetic to the wing we support is as pure as the wind-driven snow, it’s just not the case.
To be honest, I am really tired of all of it. Racism is absolutely wicked. So is self-righteous judgmentalism. So is distorting the truth to advance your narrative. So is ignoring stories that don’t fit your experience. I’m certain my motives are not altogether pure in typing this rant.
God, help us! The gospel speaks to all of this mess. In the gospel, there are no racial divides. All men stand on equal footing in need of a Savior. All men have equal opportunity to repent of sin and embrace Jesus. The gospel is a humbling grace, because we must give up on ourselves and fully rely upon Another. The gospel is the answer for self-righteous judgmentalism because there is no righteousness in oneself. None! Those who call themselves followers of Jesus, who said that he is the Truth, by the way, must be in pursuit of truth, unspun, unvarnished.