In another time these three might not even be mention together, but they are in a very ironic way. I find the irony disgusting at worst and tragic at best because the Church gets hurt in instances like these. So, what are the issues? How is it ironic? What is the solution?
Protesting During the Anthem Was Never About the Flag.
As a veteran of the Iraq war with the United States Marine Corps, I love my country, and I love my flag. I always have and I always will. That said, objectivity is critical here. In 2016 Collin Kaepernick began protesting during the national anthem by taking a knee. When asked to expand on his protest on August 28, 2016, Kaepernick stated,
….I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom; they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That’s something that’s not happening. I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstances, where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought, have for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right.
As seen in the quote, Kaepernick notes his connection and affinity for those in the military. His protest and the many that followed were merely about the apparent police brutality towards African-American males.
In response, the President of the United States, Donald Trump redirected the protest from police treatment of African American males to the issue of denigrating the flag by not standing, suggesting that those who don’t stand should be fire. Furthermore, this past week the NFL passed a rule requiring all players to stand for the anthem or face fines. In my observations since Kaepernick’s protest, the president’s response, and the NFL rule most Christians stand on the side of the president and the NFL.
Christian Evangelicals Support for Roseanne Barr
On Tuesday, ABC cancelled its hit reboot of Roseanne, (which made its debut in 1988 and was reintroduced to households across the country this past March), after tweeting racist remarks about Valerie Jarrett, former President Obama’s senior advisor. In response, many Christian evangelicals shouted from the rooftops how unfair it was to cancel Roseanne in light of Barr merely applying the first amendment. Some even joined in on the “Stand with Roseanne” movement currently making its rounds on Twitter and Facebook.
I find it ironic that Christian evangelicals would rally around Roseanne Barr for any particular reason given the overall disdain for the show in the 80’s and 90’s. Roseanne, in its first go-around, was arguably the most progressive sitcom in television history at the time. It promoted such things as abortion and gay marriage. Even in the reboot, the first episode featured a cross-dressing boy. With all this in mind, why would the conservative, Christian evangelical community support Roseanne Barr? Some may say that they don’t agree with her political stances, but she shouldn’t be taken off the air for exercising her first amendment (although in my opinion, it was a heinous act) right, no matter how grotesque it might seem. Some may say that is why the first amendment is there, not so we can talk about the weather, but to make controversial statements.
If that is the case, then wouldn’t the same reasoning apply to NFL players who protest during the national anthem? It seems to me, that if the Christian community is going to get behind a progressive-liberal like Roseanne Barr and her right to free speech without being penalized, why support the penalization of NFL players for expressing their first amendment right to peacefully protest? In my opinion, this is merely a matter of cherry picking regarding the topic of free speech. If someone protests during the national anthem then it means they aren’t a patriot, they don’t love America, and they should be punished. If someone makes a racist tweet about a former Obama advisor (a political nemesis) and gets fired for it, why, then someone should pay for burning up the constitution!
The problem in all of this is not only the double talk from Christian evangelicals but the fact that for too long the Church has been wedded to politics in hopes of cleaning up the culture. For the Christian right, it has married itself to a political party which for far too long has promised them a conservative Christian utopia and delivered little. The Church, since the formation of the Moral Majority in the 1980’s is quickly becoming the political minority because of instances like the ones described here. In the long run, the overall mission of the Church, making disciples (Mt. 28:16) will be even more difficult than it already is because the secular culture will be unable to distinguish between the mission of the Church and the purpose of the political entities she’s wed too.
Be the Church of the Bible rather than the Church of the Beltway. Yes, participate in politics: vote, run for office, peacefully protest, become a judge, a congressional aide, run for president. But we can do all of that while being objective in our analysis of both parties. One way to do that is to be consistent in the application of the constitution. If Barr shouldn’t be penalized for her tweet, the NFL players shouldn’t be punished for their peaceful protest.
The goal of the Church is to fill people far from God with life in Christ. Jesus gave us the command to go and make disciples, not wed ourselves to the government. For example, Thessalonica was a political hub of the Roman empire, and Paul wrote two letters to the Christians residing in the city. If you read the letters carefully, you’ll notice Paul never mentions the necessity of Christians dominating the government to clean up the culture, but rather the centrality of Christ to clean up self. Therefore, as Christ takes hold of the human being, it is noticed and inquired by those in the culture who will either accept, ask more questions, or reject it. We, the Church should return to this model. The sooner, the better. And while we’re at it, if we’re going to reference the Constitute, let’s be consistent.