(Originally written on Sept. 26, 2017)
I have noticed an interesting phenomenon regarding the national anthem controversy in the NFL. Everyone seems to have an opinion! I have done some informal polling, and I have yet to come across anyone who doesn’t have a strong opinion about this on one side or the other.
I am a white pastor of a predominantly African American church in the Bronx. My family is white. When I was growing up, most of my friends were white. But presently I serve in an African American community. At this point in my life, probably most of my friends are African American (although I honestly haven’t tallied this up, and I have no interest in doing so). Some might say that my history gives me a well-rounded perspective. Others might say I just need to “pick a side!”
I have listed what I would like to call “Pastor Joe’s Six Obvious Truths” concerning this controversy. I am reasonably sure that this will annoy many on both sides of this issue. But remember, the truth isn’t supposed to annoy us. It is supposed to set us free!
1. Someone can stand for the national anthem and still recognize that there are things wrong with our country.
2. Someone can kneel during the national anthem and still love our country.
3. Many white people, when they hear our national anthem, get a strong, patriotic feeling. They think about courageous soldiers, past and present, who have sacrificed greatly for our country: They celebrate that the US is “the home of the Brave.”
4. When many African American people hear our national anthem they do not get a patriotic feeling. They have a problem with the reference to “the land of the free”—especially since the Star Spangled Banner was written when slavery was the law of the land (at least in South).
5. When our president calls someone who kneels during the national anthem a “son of a bitch,”* this will not do anything to bring our country together. It is, rather, divisive.
6. When Colin Kaepernick wears socks depicting pigs wearing police hats, this will not bring our country together. It is, rather, divisive.
I have not written this article in any attempt to solve this. I am not that naïve. And I am not that arrogant! I have written this to give another side of the issue to people on both sides of the issue. And just maybe, if well-meaning people on both sides of this issue can at least agree with these six statements, it might begin some sort of constructive dialogue.
For those of us who are Christians, we have the unique privilege of knowing that there aren’t (or at least shouldn’t be) any racial issues between us. Paul put it well:
“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (I Cor. 12:13 NIV)
*I apologize for the languate, but I thought it necessary to use Trump’s exact words to make my point