When one points to the admonitions of 1 Corinthians 13 and other passages that enjoin love, unity, gentleness, and peace, he is often met with disdain. Those who are discerning, theological types find all that hippie-dippie, touchy-feely stuff annoying. Talking about those things evidences a lack of conviction, doctrinal weakness, and perhaps charismatic sympathies!
But in the recent national anthem debates raging in sports stadiums across the nation, a microcosm of our racial issues in general, a little bit of that flower child stuff might not be so bad! We have gone to the other extreme, digging our trenches and hardening our positions, readying powerful weapons at any who disagree.
- I am through with the NFL. Those players are disrespecting the flag of the nation I love and I am not going to support them anymore. They are insulting the men and women who have bled and died to give them the freedom to make millions and protest the flag I love. If they hate this nation so much, maybe they should pack up and leave.
- They are a bunch of alt-right, Trump-loving, white supremacists. They benefit from white privilege and have never suffered the sting of injustice, so they have no understanding of what we are going through. They care more about protecting their privileged culture than seeking justice, even if that system dehumanizes us. All this flag-waving is just a front for racism.
I would like to share something about myself that most of you don’t know. I like sports. Don’t tell anyone. But I am weary of turning to ESPN and thinking I punched in MSNBC by mistake. Politics has overwhelmed sports. It isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last, but this national anthem issue isn’t going away anytime soon.
I am not going to argue the merits of the protests. Others have done that eloquently and my purpose is to discuss process more than content. As I read social media, I think the way we are dealing with the conflict is not just lacking that loving feeling, it is contrary to the commands of the word of God!
1. Demonization is not godly.
Turn to any page in Paul’s letters and you will find a significant teaching on love and unity. In 1 Corinthians 13, he tells us that nothing we do matters without love. NOTHING. And love “always believes, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Ought not Christians be people who are looking for the best in one another? Shouldn’t we be the ones who seek peace, not draw the lines of battle?
But we tend to demonize those who differ on issues, painting them in the worst possible light and demonstrating more of the works of the flesh than the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-23). Demonizing others is a violation of Scripture. Yes, there are heretics whose views are rightly anathematized, but when we paint the views of brothers and sisters in Christ in the worst possible light and withhold grace, we err. We are to look for the best in others, not assume the worst.
And when it comes to racial debates, we inevitably end up seeing the worst in others. Alt-right. White supremacists. Race-baiters. Trouble-makers. We use ugly colors and broad brush strokes to paint our opponents.
2. Empathy is essential.
We need to try to understand the other side. That isn’t that complicated, is it? As I read social media posts, what I see is everyone (and most of my “friends” are Christians) bellowing their opinions, declaring both the justice of their cause and their righteous indignation against those on the other side of the issue.
I’m no Colin Kaepernick fan, and these national anthem protests annoy me. I was taught to stand at attention when the national anthem plays. I love my country and the sitting, kneeling and such is never going to be anything but offensive to me.
But as a Christian, is it my only duty to make sure everyone knows where I stand? Shouldn’t I also make a good-faith effort to understand why my minority brothers and sisters in Christ (or even LOST minorities?) feel differently than I do about the red, white, and blue? Would we not benefit if we started out by listening to what “they” were saying instead of trying to shout them down and make sure they hear us?
Sometimes, when I read what Dwight McKissic or Kyle Howard have written here at Voices and I am shocked. Sometimes I am baffled. There are times I disagree. Should I assume that I am right and they are wrong and set out to correct them when I disagree? Or perhaps I could realize that these men are coming from a different set of life experiences than I have. I have never had a cashier eye me suspiciously in a store just because I walked in with black skin. I have never been stopped by the police for DWB. I have never dealt with the assumptions and the disrespect and the injustice and all the things that minorities in this country have faced on a daily basis.
So, maybe, when I hear something that troubles me, I should listen and try to understand instead of just going into knee-jerk, self-defense mode. Maybe my first response shouldn’t be to show them why they are wrong but to figure out why their thinking differs from mine. Perhaps I shouldn’t assume that my perspective is the only perspective.
Brothers and sisters who are angry at the NFL players during the anthem, would it not do us well to stop spouting and start talking – to ask some of our minority friends why people feel this way? “Explain this to me. What is driving this? I want to understand.” Maybe there is something other than a hatred for America behind it. Maybe we can learn something if we talk to each other, empathize with each other, and learn.
And, with trepidation, I add that some on the social justice side of this could benefit from having conversations with conservatives and trying to understand where white folks are coming from. Every impulse in white, conservative America is not driven by racism or a love for injustice. All conservatives are not white supremacists, despite what ESPN tells us every day. (I mentioned Dwight McKissic and Kyle Howard earlier, because we have posted their articles here. Please do not assume that this comment is directed at them.)
The demonization must stop. In the Calvinism wars, we turned to demonization and have risked dividing the convention. During the Baptist Identity kerfuffle of a decade ago, demonization turned minors into majors and brethren into enemies.
Let’s leave that behind.
3. Too much finger-pointing; not enough mirror-gazing.
Finger pointing starts almost immediately when race is the topic. Something deep inside us needs to blame THEM, not US. They started it. We point the finger of condemnation at the other side and generally refuse to examine our own hearts for attitudes contrary to Christ.
That is not the godly way.
Yes, there’s a time to call out sin, and when racism rears its head, the time is NOW. But each of us must walk in humility as well, letting the Spirit hold the word before us like a mirror to our soul. Would that we spent as much time examining ourselves as we do “discerning” the sins of others.
Yes, we have some real differences, and the racial dialogue must take place. Racism has not disappeared from the SBC and until it does, the fight goes on. But the process will be aided by a genuine attempt by every person to show grace and to understand what those with different views actually think. Caricatures that demonize must go as we seek to walk in the Spirit not in the flesh. We must make a genuine effort to try to understand what those who disagree with us think and why.
Okay. I have some tie-dyed shirts I’m working on before I go out and gather flowers. Peace.