On Colin Kaepernick
There has been a considerable amount of uproar for the past week over the refusal by SF 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to stand for the national anthem. While the NFL says that players are “encouraged but not required” to stand the overwhelming response has been negative. People are furious with him, with the 49ers, and the NFL. I’ve been wondering what I, as a Christian, should think about this; particularly since many of my Christian friends have joined the negative chorus.
My first thought is that this is not a Christian issue at all. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Bible verse to condemn this. Some have tried to shoe-horn this into respecting authority but this seems flawed. Even flag burning, while obnoxious to many, is a proven right of free speech in our land so there is no “obedience” issue here.
My second thought is that Kaepernick has taken quite a risk to protest what he sees as unjust killings by police and there are certainly all too many recent cases of unarmed young black men being killed for what seems to be dubious reasons. Kaepernick could easily lose endorsement money and some say his NFL career is in jeopardy. He seems prepared to pay that price.
My next thought is that it seems odd that so many are outraged about the “disrespect” Kaepernick gives to the anthem but not outraged by the killings of unarmed black men. It reminds me of pastor and author Tony Campolo’s lament that, when he said “There are millions of people going to bed hungry every day and most people don’t give a s**t,” more people were upset by the profanity than the hunger.
But, above all, it has made me wonder about the etiquette surrounding the national anthem. You know the drill. We are all supposed to stand, take off our hats, place our hands over our hearts, and sing; or at the very least stand solemnly. This ritual reminds me a little too much of the story of the golden image in Daniel 3 where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and worship it and found themselves tossed into the fiery furnace.
To be sure, nobody believes themselves to be worshipping in the ritual that comes with the anthem. But when it is culturally required if you want to avoid the wrath of public opinion it comes closer than I am comfortable with. It becomes a form of patriotism that could easily be called nationalism. True patriots aren’t blind to the ways in which life within their country could be better. Nationalists refuse to see the problems of the country. They demand a type of blind allegiance that assumes it is never wrong.
Christians, like everyone else, get to agree or disagree with Colin Kaepernick. But there was one Christian’s comment that I disagree with. He castigated Kaepernick for disrespecting “a country that gave him so much.” We can love our country and feel blessed to live here but God is the giver of good and perfect gifts, not our country.