American Idol

Can I be Simon Cowell for a few moments?

I came across an article recently where a pastor in Alabama used a portion of his sermon time to address the controversy surrounding Nike’s endorsement of Colin Kaepernick.

I was hoping he would take a balanced, nuanced approach to the situation. I was hoping he would acknowledge and respect the differing viewpoints on the issue. I was hoping that he would somehow lead the congregation to take thoughtful consideration of the social issues that are at the root of the protest itself.

I guess I was hoping for too much…he went 0-3.

What he chose to do instead was announce his own official protest of Nike. He proudly stated that he had “bought his last pair of Nike shoes”, took a pair of scissors, went to town on some Nike head and wristbands, and then flung the severed bands from the pulpit.

His explanation?

“America may not be the best country in the world and we’ve got a lot of faults, but I’m telling you what, a lot of folks died for the sake of what that flag represents.”

I’m not going to waste words or time downing this pastor. I respect him as a brother in Christ, and I respect his freedom of speech…which is ironically something that the flag represents.

But, I digress.

I’m very concerned, however, that this dogged “defense” of the American flag is trending dangerously close to idolatry.

Let me be clear here. I have no issue with having a sense of pride and respect for one’s country. I have nothing against anyone who simply disagrees with the idea of kneeling during the national anthem. I’m not even all that upset with anyone who wishes to protest Nike.

My Simon Cowell-esque criticism is aimed at the exaggerated exaltation of the star-spangled banner.

It troubles me that there are some people in America who are so obsessed with the appearance of respectability that they are unwilling to even consider that there are things happening to their neighbors that are far from respectable. It is particularly disturbing to me that this group includes some of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Which brings me back to why I am so bothered by how this Alabama pastor…my brother…went about this the way he did.

I’m all for addressing political issues from the pulpit. But shouldn’t we address those issues in a way that somehow points back to Jesus…or at the very least, to biblical principles?

My brother instead hung his hat on honoring the image of a flag.

And yet, there are fellow image-bearers of God being treated unjustly in the very nation that this flag represents.

Question…which image do you think Jesus is more interested in?

5 comments

  1. Great post! I don’t know why we cannot step out of our zones to consider the other side. I try to look at both sides. It is especially sad when our sisters and brothers in Christ do not, particularly, when our congregation is diverse. At least, discuss and learn other perspectives.

  2. Hi Wayne! I hope you will take the following in a spirit of good discussion. I like hearing different perspectives and I definitely appreciate yours! You’ve given me much to think about 🙂 I don’t think the pulpit is the place for politics, and frankly, people can choose to buy from whatever companies they want. Each should respect their own conscience. Here are some of my thoughts on the Nike/Kaepernick brouhaha.

    The other day, as I watched my young son play in the dirt next to his father’s work bench, I remembered the moment when his father put him in my arms as a newborn. I suddenly imagined him in a marine uniform, trying to dig a friend out of the dirt. I imagined what I would feel like if suddenly I lost him in war. I had a split-second vision of a soldier placing in my arms, not my son, but an American flag—that flag being a constant reminder of his sacrifice and our separation.

    I come from a family of veterans. Both my grandfathers fought in WWII. One of them also served in Korea. My father fought in Vietnam. My spouse has served both in the military and in law enforcement. A lot of good men and women have died under that flag. Many more still deal with PTSD. I agree with you—the flag does NOT deserve to be worshipped; worship is reserved for God alone! The flag is just a symbol. However, to have someone disrespecting the flag and what it should represent is insulting. Just imagine a woman being handed a flag as she weeps near the coffin of a dead son and imagine how she feels as she watches some multi-millionaire disgrace that sacrifice for his own selfish gain.

    Kaepernick wants to protest law enforcement. Fine. Do it a different way. There’s no need to tread on the graves of dead soldiers to save a dying career. Nike doesn’t need saving, but I don’t think they are making some grand gesture—it’s all a publicity stunt. Neither Nike nor Kaepernick knows or understands the cost of putting their actually lives on the line for total strangers. The true cost is staggering… and those affected by it never forget it.

    1. Hey Elihu! Yes brother…I’m all for good discussion, and I really appreciate your perspective. I agree with the vast majority of what you have pointed out.

      I sincerely commend the military and law enforcement service of your family members…actually, we’re very similar in that regard. Both my mother and father served in the Army, my wife is currently active in the Army National Guard, and I have a host of uncles, aunts, and cousins who have served in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. I understand the importance of honoring the men and women who have risked and continue to risk their lives for our country’s sake.

      And I wholeheartedly agree that Nike is FAR from virtuous in this situation. They made a shrewd business decision…plain and simple.

      I would like to offer a little pushback on the idea that kneeling during the national anthem is objectively a sign of disrespect towards the flag. Kaepernick actually got the idea to kneel from former Green Beret Nate Boyer. Boyer suggested to Kaepernick that kneeling as opposed to sitting would be more respectful towards veterans (https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/veteran-kaepernick-take-a-knee-anthem/).

      But it’s obvious that we agree on much more than we disagree on. Good stuff, man!

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