Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Star Spangled Sit-Down

It's been a few weeks since San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick did not stand--astonishingly--for the National Anthem before a preseason NFL game. Everyone's weighed in by now. Sides have been taken. Presumptions have been made. Condemnations declared. Justifications defended.

At the next game, Kaepernick chose not to sit, but to kneel, prayer-like. More reactions. More punditry.

I've bided my time, for the most part. Now it's my turn, or at least the turn I'm taking.

In the form of Tweets (extended a bit), here's what I'm thinking, how I'm responding:
  • If one hadn't heard of 'cultural religion,' Kaepernick's choice to defy one of its sacrosanct rituals introduces its power. Worth Googling and digging deeper.
  • For many people, American 'cultural religion' more controls personal and collective behavior than Christian religion, or at least trumps it. Thus, routine capitulation to 'just war' and suspending Biblical precept for national principle.
  • Poets and protesters have long challenged American cultural religion, from Mark Twain ('War Prayer') to Langston Hughes. It's a tradition not to be taken--or dismissed--lightly. Not sure Kaepernick is in this league, but it IS a time-honored league.
  • Instead of blindly condemning or defending Kaepernick's choice, explore anew your own desire for a better America--and how you express it. Hopefully there is something about America you find worth protesting to correct or make better. Against the tide of apathy or ignorance, if you were called upon to take a stand (or a sit), what would you do?
  • For me, standing for the National Anthem is how we signal--regardless of deep injustices and with a long way to go--we are one, indivisible. It's about all of us in spite of some of us. It's our moment--perhaps the only moment--we have together as a ragtag melting pot trying express life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  • I may hesitate when I stand for the National Anthem, but I DO stand. My stand may not mean what it means to others. To me, it expresses my hope. For me, my hesitation is that since I learned as a child to stand for the National Anthem and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, I became a person of deep faith--a radical, if you please. My sense of faithfulness to what I now understand of authentic Christian faith eclipses and often runs counter to American doctrine and cultural religion. To be authentically Christian makes it difficult to be blindly American. Still, I stand for the National Anthem. As I stand, I pray in hope that "the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ."
So, Colin, sit, or kneel. You're in good company. I'm with you in your protest of undue law enforcement violence against black citizens. I'll stand with you in making changes. My Christian faith and the justice for the oppressed it stands for compels me to work for change. But please consider another kind of protest. This uniquely American moment, once it is diminished by one protest and cause after another, may lose its signal of hope to draw us together for higher purposes.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

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