Symbols, Anthems and Idols

After days of serious thought, I’ve concluded that it’s time to address the Kaepernick issue…

I address this very frank and sincere blog entry to the American Christian community, to whom the Words of Christ: “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is more than just a proverb.

For those of you living under a rock, Colin Kaepernick is an American football quarterback who played college football at the University of Nevada, where he was named the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Offensive Player of the Year TWICE and became the ONLY player in NCAA Division I FBS history to amass 10,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards in a single career. After graduating, he was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Oh yeah…and he’s Black.

As you well know, at the beginning of every NFL game everyone stands in the presence of the American Flag for the singing of the National Anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

At the 49ers’ third preseason game in 2016 it was noticed that Kaepernick sat during the anthem despite not dressing for play. During a post-game interview, he explained his position stating,

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people [cops] getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

At the 49ers’ final 2016 preseason game on September 1, 2016, Kaepernick opted to kneel during the U.S. national anthem rather than sit as he did in their previous games. He explained that his decision to switch was an attempt to show more respect to former and current U.S. military members while still protesting during the anthem after having a conversation with former NFL player and U.S. military veteran Nate Boyer.

At this point I’m going to address my American siblings in Christ in a language that we all understand; if you don’t believe in Christ and are unfamiliar with the terms I’m going to use, I offer my apologies…you may cease from reading if you wish.

Both my father and stepfather (now both deceased) were American Army veterans that served in the WW2 and Vietnam wars, respectively. I myself intended to join military service, but was led by God in another direction. I am a proud American and completely identify with the American Experience.

However, my Christian citizenship takes precedence over, above and beyond my American citizenship, just as the Kingdom of Heaven is a far older and superior government than that of the U.S. and will continue thousands of millennia after the U.S.A. is long forgotten.

Since I moved to North Carolina in 2011, I’ve ministered as a musician for both white and black churches of multiple denominations (Foursquare, Baptist, Adventist, Pentecostal, Evangelical and Non-Denominational). In all that time, never once has a white believer came to me and said

“I think it’s a shame and a disgrace that our elected officials have redrawn the congressional districts to rob our African-American citizens of their political power.”

Or…

“My heart goes out to those Black protesters in Charlotte who feel that they have to riot to get their voices heard.”

Or…

“It doesn’t seem right that unarmed Black men are shot dead by the police for no good reason.”

Or…

“This mass-incarceration of Blacks since the Nixon Presidency is suspicious, and we should find out what’s really happening and do something about it.”

Or…

“I don’t agree with Kaepernick’s decision to disrespect the Flag, but I’d like to know / understand his side of the story.”

To be frank, I’ve lived in four states and have visited twenty states; and I am sorry to say that I do not recall any white Christian expressing any kind of compassion concerning the conditions facing their Black-American brothers and sisters in Christ.

Symbols are great and wonderful and important…and provide a simple way of communicating a library of truth and values; but when the truths and values those symbols represent are forgotten and overlooked, those symbols become idols.

Israel is a perfect example of this. During the days of the prophet Samuel Israel had lost their relationship with God; yet when faced with a military threat, they boldly took the Ark of the Covenant out of the Most Holy Place and with them into battle to try and force God to fight for them (1st Samuel Chapter Four). Unfortunately for Israel, God could not be coerced.

As with the Tabernacle built by Moses, when Solomon’s Temple (though it was designed by David) was built, there was at its Dedication a visible and marvelous Manifestation of the Glory of God (2nd Chronicles Chapter Seven), along with a warning:

“But if you turn aside and forsake My statutes and My commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from My land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for My Name, I will cast out of My Sight…”

Believe me, brothers and sisters: if something is cast so far away that God cannot see it, then no one else will see it either (that’s why the true Site of the Temple has been lost to history for so long).

America has become drunk with the blessings of Heaven and has forgotten why those blessings were given in the first place. As a result, OUR SYMBOLS HAVE BECOME MORE IMPORTANT THAN OUR FELLOW CITIZENS, and we no longer believe that the way we treat each other can impede the flow of those blessings…

…this is a perilous and foolish way of thinking, which leads to the ideas of “manifest destiny” and Divine entitlement which concludes that no matter how we behave, we will always have the Favor of God. The graveyard of nations is littered with monuments to societies that thought they would continue under God’s Favor forever.

There is a saying that I believe is true both in Heaven and on Earth:

“What happens to one of us, happens to all of us.”

Those of us who are members of the Body of Jesus should feel this more keenly than other Americans…but we don’t. That’s because our definition of “us” is awry, and needs to be corrected.

Jesus told the clever lawyer that, in order to inherit Eternal Life, he would have to love his neighbor as much as he loved himself (Luke 10:25-37). In response the lawyer requested the identification of his neighbor.

Jesus picked an ethnic group He knew the lawyer despised to teach true empathy and compassion.

As American Christians, that live under the blessing and care of One to Whom the souls of both Jews and gentiles are considered precious, let us try just a little bit harder to expand our definition of “us” to include those we may not have identified with in the past.

Amen.

(LISTEN to this blog-post on any of TEN podcast platforms!)

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