As usual, I'm a little behind on throwing my two cents in to the big conversation of the week. Sunday Night football brought much more than tackles and touchdowns... it ignited a furry of angry and a cyclone of support all at the same time.
I wasn't quite sure how to share my voice because I wanted to make sure that my message was clear and concise and compassionate. My whole life kneeling meant reverence. We kneel before God when we enter a pew, we kneel to pray, some even kneel to take communion. On the sports field we kneel when a player is injured. As a sign of respect. We kneel.
For me, players kneeling in silence is one of the most respectful peaceful protests I have seen. The image that it creates for me is one of hope. Men kneeling during the anthem in the hopes that one day the community to which they belong are seen, heard, valued and loved as much as members of different communities. I don't see disrespect - I see hope.
Many, many, MANY people feel very differently about this. And while I have 1000s of thoughts that I could say a million different ways, I want to share the thoughts of someone else. Chris Field is the founder of Mercy Project and his words are simple and true.
"A few thoughts on the NFL, the national anthem, protests, and Jesus:
Let's start by getting the low hanging fruit out of the way: 1) first amendment obviously applies here, 2) it is different because these guys are on the clock at work (p.s. but so am I right now and so are you), 3) it does seem their bosses have given them permission (either explicit or implied) to do this which makes number 2 a moot point, and 4) we certainly have the right not to support or participate in activities or protests we don't agree with. So that's the obvious/easy stuff. Let's move into the messy part, shall we?
I don't know what it feels like to be a black person in America. I don't know what it feels like to be a minority. I don't know what it feels like to feel unheard and unseen for generations. And neither do most of the people I see talking about this issue. I have consistently asked, and will continue to ask, my white friends to listen more than we speak when it comes to these conversations. To be led rather than trying to lead.
We seem to have forgotten that it is possible to grow up in the same country but with totally different experiences and understandings about fairness and justice. This is where our friends of color are struggling. Same country, same flag, same anthem, totally different life experiences. But we still don't seem to get this. We literally want to tell them that how they feel is invalid or wrong. Have you ever tried that in a marriage or friendship? Doesn't end well! Empathy and compassion are the cornerstones of healthy relationships. We say we want the healthy relationship, but we only want it on our terms. That's not the way this works.
"Hey, why don't you just have peaceful protests instead of rioting and breaking things?"
"No, not like that," we say, "go peacefully protest where we don't have to see it."
Wait, what? We're fine with you peacefully protesting, but go do it where no one can see you? Come on. We all use our biggest stage for the things that matter most to us. Including our President and his Twitter page. Including you and me right here on Facebook.
And a last note for all my friends who believe in Jesus: I have watched in horror over the last week as these protestors have been called idiots, pieces of trash, and pieces of crap by people I know for a fact are esteemed leaders in our community and in our local churches. And I am here to say as clearly as I can: stop that nonsense. We have failed when we find it easier to become enraged over a national anthem than the kingdom anthem. Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus encourage us to lose our collective minds and tongues, "for the sake of our country." That is absolutely not okay. And I'm sorry if this offends you. But I sincerely hope you will call me out if I ever lose my line so much that love of an ideal has overtaken everything I've ever read and known to be true about the one I call Lord. In the arc of power and justice, Jesus sat at the table with the minority. Constantly. That's not my opinion. That's the Bible.
Be passionate. Hold your ideals. Don't be jerks. It's really as simple as that.
Oh, and it's okay for us to listen more too. Really. So let's turn off our TV's if we must (I haven't watched an NFL game in years). But then let's use that extra time and money we've saved to go out and love and listen to our neighbors whose life experiences are different than our own. Then we can lock arms together and start working towards a life where we all feel equally proud and committed to being on the same team."
And if that doesn't make you pause to think (and that's all I'm really asking anyone to do.... pause....think...seek to UNDERSTAND) then take three minutes and watch this...