Sitting This One Out — A Response to the Current Outrage re: the National Anthem

Sitting at my desk this morning I’m growing more and more confused about the ensuing outrage about a football player not standing for the National Anthem. Our nation appears to be deeply divided on the issue. Whites and blacks, conservatives and liberals, republicans and democrats. Now, to get this out of the way, I’m white and a conservative when it comes to the political sphere, but above all else a follower of Jesus. I would also consider myself an American, not because I fly the flag or know the words to God Bless America. I’m an American because I live here in the US and have citizenship here. I have family in the military whom I admire and support. I like this country and have made it my home.

I also have a 13-year-old black daughter. This doesn’t make me an expert on race, but it does open up my eyes to some different perspectives on the topic of oppression, inclusion, fear, and voice.

So here is a response to some of my conservative Christian friends out there who are outraged by the audacity of someone to sit during the playing of the national anthem. I’m not writing to make you pick a side, nor to judge you, nor to support you. Rather to sit with you over a coffee or an Anchor Steam and have a conversation. Three short things for us to think about:

Be slow to speak, slow to become angry, and quick to listen — I think that’s in the Bible somewhere? I find it alarming that we are always so fast to respond with critical words on social media. Memes, like, “So let me get this straight, you get paid millions of dollars to throw a football and you’re oppressed?” are as numerous as Bud Lite bottles at a Pats game. We, and I include myself, have an opinion on everything. The moment someone does something or says something we don’t agree with we jump on the train headed for Judgement Station, one stop after Offense Square. I’m pretty sure we, as people who follow Jesus, should be the first ones to close our mouths, open our ears and hearts, and attempt to understand what people are saying/doing and why they have responded that way…not be the first to hurl insults and post our rantings. When we react or combat people were are simply making the wall higher or the divide wider in which we have to cross to build relationship. Our purpose is not to defend America, nor is it to make everyone believe and act like us. Our purpose is to love God, love people, and make disciples of Jesus.

Put down your offense and pick up your cross. In these days, and in this culture, you will have your feelings hurt. The things most valuable to you will be trampled down and destroyed by others. It may be the US flag, and what it represents, it may be your right to enter a bathroom, it may be how law enforcement perceives you. We live in a broken world that isn’t going to fix itself anytime soon. So, before we form an opinion on sitting for the national anthem or declaring how ungrateful and irresponsible a person is for attempting to bring attention to a serious issue, perhaps you need to ask yourself, “Why am I so upset?” If you have been personally wronged by this action, then you will need to forgive and make peace. If you are offended, then you will need to put down your offense and ask for forgiveness for bearing your offense. The way of Jesus is not easy. We lay down our “rights” and pick up a towel and wash feet. We don’t get to just wash the feet of people we agree with, but rather those we don’t like, are different from, and sometimes don’t like us.

Don’t make the issue personal, but make the person/people involved personal. You may feel like someone not standing during the anthem is a personal attack against you. It may or may not be…if it is, see the previous paragraph. If it isn’t, then don’t respond personally. We mirror our current culture so much that when issues arise where there is such sharp disagreement we take our ball and go home leaving others behind. If I think there are deep seated issues of racism in our country and you don’t, does that mean we can’t have relationship? Apparently so. If I have the opinion that a man can make whatever choice he desires when it comes to standing for a national anthem and you disagree, does that mean we cannot be united together in the body of Christ? People are more important. Try knowing a person rather than having an idea about that person. Take a look at the disciples Jesus chose; a zealot and a tax collector carrying around baskets of fish and bread together serving peasants. I imagine them getting into an argument and Jesus making them hold hands while picking up the leftovers. Did Simon and Matthew have the same “political” (lowercase “p”) view on things? I doubt it. However, somehow, they saw Jesus as a person who united them. Jesus represented a Kingdom so much bigger than anything that had previously divided them. I don’t know if they ever became best friends; I do know they suffered the same fate.

I would continue on…but I’m afraid our attention span is a little too short to keep interest in such matters, especially if you don’t agree. Tomorrow we will have moved on to the next outlandish life altering dilemma when someone else does something we disagree with. Let’s assume Colin was wrong to sit during the anthem. Let’s assume he will do it again, and again, and again, and never come over to your side of the fence on the issue. Your response is to love, to accept, and to forgive. Now that seems like an appropriate meme.