As NFL fans celebrate a new season of football, I need to go on record stating that this is the year the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will win the Super Bowl as cap to their perfect season. If you disagree, that’s ok. I have my beliefs, and you have yours. We can take it to the field. And battle it out on the line of scrimmage.
That’s not the only thing happening in the NFL. You might have heard Nike has rekindled some ire in people, causing many to draw lines in the sand that should have been erased a long time ago. Long before Colin Kaepernick knelt in protest over the historical injustice towards people of color.
In the midst of this controversy, Rev. John Pavlovitz delivered a powerful essay entitled: “Colin Kaepernick Was Right About Us.”
And after reading his blog post in light of the scriptures from today’s lectionary, I’m compelled to share some excerpts from it.
Colin Kaepernick was right about us, white America.
He was right to kneel because when he did, he fully exposed us.
He exposed us as we became viscerally disgusted, not by the reckless disregard of black lives, but by the earnest and open declaration of black grief at their premature passing.
He exposed us when we felt it was our right to tell another human being how to express their personal freedoms, during an anthem supposedly devoted to celebrating those personal freedoms.
He exposed us when we treasured flags and songs over flesh and blood; when we repeatedly ignored dissenting facts in order to hold on to our easy and lazy outrage.
He exposed us when we chastised him for the manner in which he expressed his freedom, because it was a little too “free” for us.
He exposed us as we saw all of these things, and still remained silent.
And he’s exposing us now, those of us who are burning shoes and cutting up socks and boycotting Nike—because a strong man of color who will not be shamed into silence or allow us to make the rules, still makes our blood boil—which is the most telling and tragic truth of all.
It isn’t surprising that the folks so violently shaken by Colin Kaepernick, profess to defend a freedom they don’t like him exercising. They’re the same people who say they want to rewind and reclaim America’s “greatness”, while ignoring how much suffering and injustice that supposed greatness created for so many.
Cognitive dissonance doesn’t register when you’re white and terrified of losing your dominance.
By kneeling, Colin Kaepernick let us do the work for him.
He didn’t need to belabor the point, he just let us show ourselves. He allowed white America’s responses to reveal who we are.
He saw something ugly in us that we didn’t and still don’t want to see.
And he was right.
| || |
Sit on that for a moment while I read from the Gospel of Mark, where a woman crosses old lines, exposing a side of Jesus we don’t like to see. In doing so she defines true faith.
[Read Mark 7:24-30 here]
Isn’t it hard to hear Jesus speak like that towards another human being? How did it make you feel to see Jesus act so human after hearing that essay? Uncomfortable? Unaffected? Confused?
Despite the social norms and customs, this gutsy woman disregarded protocol and proper behavior, not to draw attention to herself, but because something greater was at stake. The life of an innocent child. And so she took a knee.
She knelt and begged Jesus to cast out the demon that kept her daughter from enjoying a normal life. But Jesus doesn’t “do Jesus” like we expect. Instead we get this ugly, human side that insults the woman – calling her a dog! And by that I don’t think he is referring to her as some cute little pet!
How would you react if a person of power belittled or publicly shamed you like this? Would you slink away insecure, embarrassed or pissed off? Or would you be more like this woman – embolden by Jesus’ very own words. She knew what was right, even if she didn’t have any rights to say so.
It took great faith to stand up to Jesus and remind him that social conventions should never stand in the way of doing the right thing. When she does, the Jesus we know and love appears. He sees her heart and feels her pain. And rather than kicking her to the curb, he rewarded her faith – offering her not just the crumbs from under the table, but the nourishing bread of life for her daughter.
The lesson I see here is IF Jesus was not “disgusted by this woman’s reckless disregard” of some time-honored tradition, THEN neither should we when it comes to someone who exercises his or her faith.
Jesus showed sympathy and did everything in his power to right a wrong in this woman’s life. And as followers of Jesus Christ, we ought to do the same. We must stand, or kneel, for what is right in God’s eyes, even if means sacrificing everything.
Jesus didn’t draw a line in the sand, or take up a fight on Facebook or Twitter. He didn’t try to change the narrative, or make it all about himself. Instead Jesus did what we would hope Jesus would do for us. He does that Jesus thing. And loves us where we are. He breaks through our sacred barriers that separate the haves from the have not’s, and draws us into a community that is filled with enough compassion and sufficiency for the oppressed as well as for the privileged.
If you want to burn your Nike’s or continue to despise a person who stands up to the injustices that plague our country, you are free to do that. But I would like you to hear a warning written from Barbara Brown Taylor who reminds us that:
“Jesus wasn’t killed by atheism or anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion – which is always a deadly mix. Beware of those who claim to know God and are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware of those who cannot tell God’s will from their own.”
Jesus built a community constructed with agape – the divine love of an Almighty God, who has called each and every single one of us to abide in him. You do this by upholding one simple rule: To love your neighbor as yourself.
This is not a right. It’s not a privilege. Or a freedom. This is a command from the top, down.
Jesus Christ is the proof of God’s love and our self worth in it. Because of his sacrifice, he broke the barriers between God and us, making us all God’s children. Because of Jesus each one of us has value; not based on our gender, race, or wealth…but on agape.
Rich and poor; democrat and republican, a wannabe 49ers fan or hopefilled Bucs fan, we are all God’s children…called to dwell in one almighty love whether we are sitting, standing or taking a knee.
So this week I am challenging you to stand not just on the right side of history but to stand on the right side of eternity. I challenge you to take God’s righteousness public, and to make sure others can see God in a positive light.
I challenge you to bring peace and unity where there is anger and division: on social media, or in your school, home, job, or in your own heart. Put your faith in Jesus Christ, and just do what he did. Let your faith stand for something, even if it means you have to sacrifice everything you’ve worked a lifetime to achieve.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Vol. 4. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2009.
Pavlovitz, John. Stuff that needs to be said. Sept 4, 2018. https://johnpavlovitz.com/2018/09/04/colin-kaepernick-was-right-about-us/ (accessed Sept 7, 2018).
Taylor, Barbara Brown. The Perfect Mirror; Truth to Tell. Christian Century Foundation, 1998.