You can see him there between the Gatorade coolers, seated, while everyone else is standing to honor America. The National Anthem is playing and Colin Kaepernick, the (likely 2nd string) quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, is seated. It wasn’t an accident. He was doing it as a protest. When asked, he said,
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 getting paid leave and getting away with murder.
As you can imagine, the backlash has been pretty harsh; even quite a few NFL players have joined in and registered their disagreement with the QB’s decision.
Let me say four things briefly.
1. Colin Kaepernick has every right to express his disdain for our nation and his disagreement with its policies.
That’s what Freedom of Speech is all about. I love America and would never intentionally disrespect the flag. I was watching Olympic champions running their victory laps wrapped in the flag, celebrating patriotically, while also thinking, “They shouldn’t be letting those flags touch the ground.”
But free speech is not just for Christian conservatives.
- Atheists have the right to insult our God or any other god and to loudly proclaim their disbelief.
- Muslims can praise Allah and promote the cause of Islam.
- White supremacists, as despicable as their message is, have the right to believe their lies and to speak them.
- Jerks can be jerks. We can think less of them, but we should recognize their right to be jerks.
The core of free speech is the right of individual Americans to express their dissent from the government, their disdain for their homeland, and their ire for American policy.
If you only support the right of those you agree with to express their views, you are an opponent of free speech. Supporters of free speech give those who disagree with them the freedom to speak without governmental or official sanction.
It is Kaepernick’s right to do what he did.
2. Racial tensions are rising and the church is God’s solution.
I hear it all the time. “That racial stuff is in the past. Why do you keep bringing it up?” Balderdash. The racial tensions in America are rising and they will continue to rise. There is no solution but the GOSPEL solution that the Bible gives.
God sent his Son to die for the sins of all the world to save people AND to bring them together into ONE BODY. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that unites Black and White and Asian and Hispanic and Native peoples into one. Liberalism can’t do it. Ecumenism can’t do it. Jesus can. He will. That is why we must not only proclaim the gospel but keep reminding people that racial reconciliation is a part of the intrinsic intent of the gospel.
Jesus didn’t just die to save a bunch of individuals and take them to heaven. He died to unite the redeemed into ONE NEW MAN in which human distinctions pale in comparison to our identity in Christ.
3. Colin Kaepernick is free to express his views; I am free to cheer against him.
I used to like him – his first year when he led SF to the Super Bowl and should have won it if it weren’t for a terrible call (sorry, I should let that go, I guess) is a great story. But now he’s another angry America-hater. That’s fine. He can join with all those Hollywood actors whose movies I refuse to watch. No, I’m not organizing any boycotts – those tend to be stupid. But I am as free personally to cheer against an athlete for his political views as he is to express them.
Kaepernick can disrespect America – it’s legal. But I have every right to NOT cheer for him, in fact, to cheer against him. I will.
4. The Social Media terror tactics are ridiculous.
I would love to find out how Megan Crosby is doing. About 15 months ago, she became the villain of the week when she committed a couple of very dirty plays in Texas state HS softball championship game. Plain old poor sportsmanship and dirty play. She received death threats and actually had to receive police protection because people were stalking her home. She, of course, had to shut down her Facebook, Twitter, and other social media because of the brutal harassment from some.
I wonder how she’s doing now? Has her life gotten back to normal? Is she still a pariah? I wonder.
There’s just no point in it. What eternal, Kingdom good is accomplished by publicly bashing Kaepernick? Venting your anger only leads to more anger.
Have you ever observed any of the blogging wars, the twitter and social media assaults by the discernment mavens? Do they ever accomplish anything positive? Just stay out of them.
So, what is a Christian response to Colin Kaepernick? Simply put, I’d suggest this.
- Respect his right to speak his mind.
- Take up the cause of Christ-focused racial reconciliation – working in the power of the Spirit to help build the Body Christ intended – one Body from all nations.
- It might also be a good idea to remember that Kaepernick speaks for millions of minorities – there are a lot of angry people out there who feel like they treated unjustly. Empathy, folks, empathy. Instead of just venting your anger against him, why not ask yourself, “Why does he feel this way, and why do so many agree with him.” Seek to understand.
- Feel free, like me, to cheer against Colin Kaepernick, but don’t join the social media assault.
We have the only real solution to the racial problems in America. I continue to pray that the American church will beat with the heart of God in this issue.