What started as a single protest by Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers has moved from the NFL to college football, and now into the high school arena. On Friday night, our students and fans got to see first hand some of the protests that are popping up all over the country. In fact, Colin made his way to the sidelines of Kellogg field at The King’s Academy, and participated with the Castlemont team protest during the playing of the national anthem. Team members from the Knights of Castlemont High School in Oakland, CA, decided to lay down on the sidelines of the field with their arms raised, simulating being shot while surrendering to police. Prior to the game, I had sent an email to our staff giving them a “heads up” that something might happen at the game. This was not the first protest by Castlemont High. I was very proud of the way our fans and team responded to the protest, so I have decided that I would share some of my thoughts on how Christians should be acting during these strangest of times.
My first reaction to these protests has been, and always will be, that all Americans have a right to peacefully protest. It is one of the fundamental rights we have as citizens in this great country. Voicing ones opinion, no matter how misguided, is protected by the first amendment to the constitution. However, actions have consequences and every athlete who makes a decision to protest will have to face the potential backlash from sponsors, fans, and first responders. With that said, I personally believe these protests that are staged at athletic competitions to be offensive to many, inappropriate for the situation, and lastly, very ineffective.
The protest of not standing at attention to the flag while the Star-Spangled Banner is being played at any competition seems out of place for the purpose of protesting officer misconduct. Don’t get me wrong; we do have injustices in our legal system. There have been some disturbing situations that raise legitimate concerns for minorities, including questionable shootings by police officers. However, the vast majority of officers are wonderful people who put themselves in harm’s way daily to protect and serve everyone. However, not honoring the United States flag sends the wrong message. Our flag represents all that is good in our country. It represents the many lives of our military personnel including African Americans, who have sacrificed to give us the very freedom to protest.
In the Civil War of the United States, the flag was carried into every battle and became the symbol of liberty for people of all races. It stood for ending slavery. The slaves in the Union armies were given their freedom and they joined the conflict. Over 179,000 black troops served in the Union armies, and another 40,000 in the navy. Many of these soldiers are buried in sections 27 and 23 at Arlington National Cemetery.
While I firmly believe these protests at football games are inappropriate and ineffective, how should we as Christians respond? Should we yell hateful words towards our neighbors? Should we join in the protests to show solidarity? Our young people are watching how the adults respond. If we follow the Biblical model, and we should, then we would do as Jesus commands and love our neighbor as ourselves. We would not shout unseemly things toward those who do not see things the same way. Our goal should be to model Christ to the lost world. We should stand proudly during our national anthem in respect to our flag, understanding it is also the flag of those protesting. Although their protest is disgraceful to those of us who have lost loved ones during a military conflict, will our actions be a reproach to the name of Christ? If we honor the flag, isn’t that all that Christ commands? Does the Bible not say, “so then everyone of us will give an account of himself before God”? Nothing else matters except that we must act right before Him.
This weekend my wife and I went to watch the movie Sully. The movie was based upon the real life story of Captain Chesley Sullenberger III who successfully landed his Airbus A320 on the Hudson River saving the lives of all 155 on board. When Sully was praised for his daring landing, he was quick to point to the work of the emergency responders, his crew, and the police officers who jumped into the river, risking their own lives to save the lives of others. As I watched these brave men and women jump into the freezing waters of the Hudson to help strangers, people they didn’t know, I was reminded of the first responders who went into the twin towers during 9-11. It makes me very proud of our policemen, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel who every day go out and serves the people of this great country. Our nation is not perfect. There are injustices. Discrimination against certain races has and does exist. We need to fight to end racial inequality, but do it in a way that reflects Christ’s love.
At the game this past weekend, one lone player from Castlemont walked away from his team towards the flag. He stood at attention and saluted the flag. That took real courage. May we all have the courage of this young man as we stand for Christ!