I want to preface my thoughts this week by stating— I love the fact that I live in the United States of America. I can’t think of any place in the world I would rather live. I love the freedoms we enjoy. I appreciate the uniqueness that is America. I consider myself a very patriotic person. I love to study American history and to see God’s Providential hand in our nation— the pilgrims, the Great Awakenings, the War for Independence, up thru the present day. I love fireworks on the fourth of July. Watching fireworks over Mt. Rushmore was a highlight in my life. I love the fact that our form of government has a basis in Presbyterian government and a Judeo-Christian moral ethic. We need checks and balances because man is sinful. And yes we realize that government (at any level) doesn’t always work as well as it should because of that sinfulness.
I also have to admit up front that I am late to the Colin Kaepernick story. As a recovering NFL addict, I haven’t followed football much in the last few years so I didn’t think much about the story. However, seeing the anger, frustration and resentment erupt in social media over his refusal to stand for the national anthem prior to a football game I have to wonder as a nation where our priorities lie. Don’t the freedoms in America give us the freedom to choose what say, do, worship? Or are these freedoms limited to the will of the majority? Or is this another example of being forced to comply to a nationalistic standard? In the famous photo in 1936, we applaud the man who refuses to salute the Nazi party (see link here http://rarehistoricalphotos.com/lone-man-refusing-nazi-salute-1936/). But in 21st century America if you don’t do what culture expects then you may be ridiculed or ostracized. We have recently heard of business owners being condemned who have refused to acknowledge and accept homosexuality by refusing to bake cake or take photographs of occasions that go against their beliefs. A year ago I attended a baseball game in Philadelphia and I stood and placed my hand over my heart for the national anthem. But what if I hadn’t have stood? Or what if some of the players had not? Will stadiums and ballfields erupt into fistfights for those who do not comply?
The real question to this story about Colin Kaepernick is not whether or not I think he should have stood for the national anthem. My opinion, your opinion, opinions in social media, are not the real issue but the issue revolves around forcing others to believe and think the way I do and shaming them if they don’t.
My devotion to America is limited. I think we should be respectful and shouldn’t disrespect the nation, or the flag or patriotism. But let us be careful that we are not the ones who cast stones to those who may not meet a national or cultural norm. When the fourth of July falls on a Sunday, I’m sorry, but I will have to celebrate American Independence on the 3rd or the 5th that year because the Lord and His Day has a higher priority. If it is His day other things have to happen prior to or after that day. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like America or Independence, I’ve already stated above that I do, but my ultimate citizenship is in Heaven not the good old USA. I ultimately look forward to eternity spent with those from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.
I saw a “Presbyterian Meme” this week that stated, “NFL quarterback violates the Sabbath weekly, no one bats an eye. Quarterback refuses to venerate symbol of nationalistic religion, everyone loses their minds.” Where is the outrage that thousands, no millions, each week violate the Lord’s Day to worship sports and entertainment? Where is the outrage that the sabbath is desecrated week after week (or the breaking of any of the other commandments)? Where are the cries of horror and despair that God’s name is maligned, rather than one man not standing for the national anthem? Perhaps the lack of outrage simply shows that in our culture today America and national pride has a higher standing in our eyes than God does. Evidently, we are more concerned with preserving the respect for our country and our flag than we are for preserving and respecting the name and the will of God. Perhaps the fact that millions of Christian are not sick to their stomachs that the NFL is merely operating every Sunday reveals accurately the true spiritual state of America in the year of our Lord 2016.