“He should stand.” My wife told me this when Colin Kaepernick began sitting during the national anthem. We disagreed. The conversation revealed our cultural differences. Her people honored the country through patriotic songs and regalia. My people love the country but were skeptical of it. We didn’t celebrate freedom on the Fourth of July because our freedom came much later. I stopped pledging allegiance to the flag. I don’t agree with the introduction of the pledge at such a young age.
My wife and I explained our stances in hopes of understanding each other. I shared several thoughts with her, and I want to share them with you. I pray this is helpful in helping the church think through these issues. First, I acknowledge that many of the NFL players are kneeling in response to comments made by our president. Yet, Colin was not alone in his stances. So I am speaking of those who are kneeling because of the racial injustices in America.
The Star-Spangled Banner Is a Diss Track
We don’t sing the entire Star Spangled Banner. The length is one reason the other reason is one of the following verses which is:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
The mention of the slave and hirelings expresses Francis Scott Key’s bitterness. Key was bitter about the runaway slaves who enlisted in the British army and fought against him. The Star-Spangled Banner seems more like a diss track than an ode to our country.
They Love this Country
The NFL players who are protesting are not terrorist. They don’t hate this country or want to see it divided. They love it. Their love for this country sparked their kneeling because they desire it to do better. They are hopeful. They have family in this country and want them to grow up in a better America.
I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.
James A. Baldwin
Hating this country would result in them allowing it to continue in its folly. But love motivates them to speak or kneel.
What Is A Better Option?
“It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro with no alternative”
Martin Luther King Jr.
These players hate seeing black people suffer. How should they respond to their people murdered in the streets and no one is convicted? How are they to respond when they look at the wealth gap in America? What should they say when they see the education gap? How should they respond when they oppose violence?
The conversation about racial equality has been going on for years in our country. It is why Frederick Douglass asked the question “What to the slave is the fourth of July?” It is why Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists at the Olympics. Racial inequality is the reason Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted. It is why Jackie Robinson spoke about black equality. What are their options for issues we have evaded for years?
Who Are They Harming?
These players are kneeling and locking arms during the national anthem. The First Amendment gives them to right to protest. Veterans fought for their right to do so. No property is being destroyed. No people are being threatened. No one is being hurt. Are they seeking to divide the country or are they asking it to do better? Who is being harmed?
Has Our Response Been Cultural Or Christian?
Nationalism is not Christian. Ethnocentrism is not Christian. No flag or ethnicity is higher than the blood-stained banner of Jesus. Our primary citizenship is in heaven. Though we are to seek the wellbeing of our nation this not home. We are exiles and sojourners in this land. Our concern ought not to be if people stand or kneel for a country, but our concern should be are they standing on the promises of God and kneeling down to pray. We ought to be seeking the kingdom and Jesus’ righteousness.
Scripture does demand we take care of the orphans and those who are in poverty. It does command us to take care of the foreigners in our land. By doing so we are reflecting the character of God. He executes justice and gives food to the hungry (Psalm 146:7). He is the one who watches over the sojourner and holds the widows (Psalm 146:9). He cares for the fatherless ( Psalm 146:9).
The players are kneeling to give a voice to the often unheard. Whether you stand or kneel you ought to seek to do the same.
Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute,
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.