Colin Kaepernick has recently created a national media firestorm. If you have not heard, he has recently decided to no longer stand during the pre-game National Anthems. His reason for doing so is that he feels blacks in America are being systematically oppressed, and therefore, it goes against his conscience to show respect for the nation’s flag that is doing that, or at least turning a blind eye to that.
Mark Dever posted a very helpful blog titled 12 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Posting Something Online. I have learned many of these rules the hard way.
This article helped me frame how I wanted to go about responding to this issue of standing for the flag. It is so prevalent I think it needs to be responded to from Christians (#11).
However, if I simply vomit my emotions and opinions on the page then I run the dangerous risk of not discerning numbers 2, 4, 5, 7, and 10.
So, consider this a call to consistency. I will attempt to not express my personal feelings, nor attempt to convince my readers of a particular response to Colin’s decision and others like him. As Dr. Joel McDurmon wrote in his blog on this issue,
“[S]ince Scripture does not command that people view national flags in any certain way (whether as a symbol of unity or as a symbol interpreted to represent any particular idea), then Christians sin the moment they demand others fall into any certain disposition to the flag—especially where there is an implied or expressed ‘or else.’ Where Scripture is silent, we ought to be, too, and it is especially forbidden to impose extra-scriptural demands on someone else’s conscience. It really is that simple.”
However, what I would like to do is make sure Christians run down all of the potential consequences of their decisions and stances on this issue, so that we will honor God with our behavior and consistency.
Remember, consistency is the mark of truth.
What Ought We See in a Flag?
This question is crucial. This is the question we are answering in this debate. Your answer to this is everything.
So the question at hand is what is the American Flag symbolic of? Why does the flag deserve respect and attention during the nation’s anthem?
The purpose of this blog is not to tell you how to answer that question, rather it is to ask you to not only be consistent with that approach from flag to flag, but to also understand the position of other’s better who may disagree with you.
As I see it, there are really two approaches to a national flag. You can see principles or you can see practices. Another way of saying it is that you can see what a nation is supposed to be, or, you can see what that nation actually is.
Obviously the flag represents America, but the question being asked above is what is America? Is America her laws and policies? Is America her Constitution? Is America her military? What is America? What is the flag?
The Flag Represents Principles
Right now Christian bakers are being sued for not celebrating gay weddings. Right now Christian bed and breakfast owners are losing business for not renting rooms to same-sex couples. Although I am not a prophet, I can see which way the wind is blowing, and there doesn’t seem to be any alleviation ahead.
What is likely coming are Churches losing 501c3 statuses unless they publicly endorse homosexuality. Churches will be sued for not providing trans-gendered bathrooms. Christian colleges will lose funding for not offering same-sex celebration, dorms, and transgender bathrooms.
Christian pastors and street preachers will be arrested for “hate speech” if any negative language toward the LGBTQ community is spoken.
Some prominent voices in the culture like Lawrence Krauss and Bill Nye suggest that teaching creationism is child abuse, so perhaps homeschooling will be made illegal. Perhaps teaching our children that evolution is not true will bring Social Services to our doors taking them away.
All of these things are at least possible. Some argue they are likely, others even suggest they are inevitable.
If pastors are being thrown in jail, Christian churches and schools are being sued and driven out of sight, and parents are losing their children for teaching Genesis 1, would you still stand for the flag?
If your answer to that is “Yes” then you are someone who sees principles rather than practices. To you, a flag is not defined by what a country is doing, but rather by what a country ought to do, or, was originally founded in order to be.
For those of you who see Principles, that is logical, consistent, and honorable. However, make sure you are consistent in application. If there is anything at all that would make you not honor the flag, then you are not permitted to be angry with Colin Kaepernick for sitting. You can disagree with his reasons for sitting, but not with the sitting itself.
If America drops a bomb on the middle east in its fight against ISIS, killing thousands of innocent people, stand for anthem; put your hand over your heart and say the pledge.
If America decides Christian principles are “hate speech” and “child abuse” and bans the Bible from the nation, stand for the flag’s presentation.
If it becomes a law that you must stand for the anthem, stand for the anthem.
If you see principles, then see principles always, and see principles in every flag and symbol.
Douglas Wilson did a good job at pointing this out when writing about the removal of the Confederate flag in South Carolina. He asked a pivotal fundamental question: Why does the Confederate flag stand for racism, but the American flag doesn’t stand for any of its abominations?
During the war between the States, the South was certainly the champion of slavery. They certainly wanted it more than the North, and the confederate flag was their symbol. However, that symbol was supposed to represent their autonomy, or, their freedom from the union. Yet, when many people look at that flag today they see slavery. They see the atrocities condoned under the flag, rather than the principles behind the flag. Yet, they turn around, and refuse to allow America’s atrocities to tarnish their view of the stars and stripes. That’s inconsistent.
If you see principles in flags, good, but see them always. If you see practices in flags, good, but see them always. It is inconsistent to see the principles in one flag, but arbitrarily see the practices of another. I would call all Christians reading this to pick one.
If, when you look at the flag, you see the troops who died in the past, then see them always. That means there will never be an instance when you are permitted to sit. America cannot ruin the flag for you.
However, there are some (Christian and non-Christian alike) who fall into Colin Kaepernick’s category. These people don’t see principles, they see practices. If you disagree, that is completely consistent and acceptable. But perhaps more sympathy can be extended if you hear them out.
The Flag Represents Practices
Probably the strongest example to justify seeing practices in symbols for those who fall into this camp would be the Swastika. The swastika is a symbol of unity which predates Hitler. Yet, anyone who adorns that symbol is automatically anti-semitic. The symbol, according to its origen, has nothing to do with Jews or genocide, but that is what people see.
The argument is that the practices of that nation destroyed the principles of that symbol. Thus, Christians feel it is possible that the practices of our nation can ruin our symbols too.
Let me suggest a similar but different scenario to see if my readers understand why some might not see principles in the flag, but rather practices:
An important question to consider that those who fall into this camp ask is this:
Is there anything at all the American government or people could do that would make you sit during the National Anthem?
Suppose Colin was a devout, Biblical Christian, rather than a Social Justice Warrior. Now imagine he sat, not because of racial oppression, but because of abortion.
Imagine he was sitting because he realized he is currently living in a country where 50 million defenseless, American citizens were murdered every year, and the Government not only legalizes these atrocities, but funds them partially too.
Suppose he decided that liberty and justice were not being provided to all, but that millions of citizens every year are being stripped of their most basic rights. Perhaps he sees dead, piled up baby bodies stuffed into dumpsters when he looks at the flag. Perhaps he sees the American flag waving at the Supreme Courthouse where murdering babies was sanctioned by this nation. Now is his protest justified?
Christians are free always to criticize the reasons for protesting the anthem, but many in the media are criticizing the protest itself. And, if you’re a Christian who can fathom protesting for any reason at all, then you cannot criticize the protest, but only the reasons given for protest.
While many of you are deciding what needs to give, does the abortion analogy not aid in understanding the other side? Is it not at least understandable that a Christian might not want to salute the flag, or stand for the anthem, when they know they are living in a nation that is murdering her children? Is it not understandable that some well-meaning Christians cannot separate a nation’s practices from her symbols?
Those who don’t stand for the flag are accused of disrespecting the troops who have died and who currently risk their lives. And that may be true. But that goes back to the first question. That depends on what we see in the flag.
Not everyone who looks at a flag can see the blood of the troops without also seeing the blood of the babies. Who is more disrespected in a protest, the troops who died for America or the babies murdered by America?
Perhaps an argument can be made that to stand for the flag is actually the disrespecting gesture toward the troops. Those who died and shed their blood for our freedoms did not do this in order we might use those freedoms to strip away the same said freedoms from our children, legally.
I have quoted this Douglas Wilson portion before, but it is too relevant to not quote again:
“Abortion has been a settled constitutional right for 42 years now. In another 30 years we will have been chopping babies up in the name of the Constitution for as long as blacks were bought and sold under the aegis of the Constitution. And screw this into your minds — our treatment of the unborn is far, far worse than slavery was and involves many more millions of people… [L]ast week, approximately 15,000 children have lost their lives in this country; legally… The 15,000, white and black, who have lost their lives since last week do not have any makeshift memorials springing up anywhere. No flowers propped against fences and no teddy bears left for the nameless. Nobody in any position of significant influence speaks for them with any kind of moral authority. But since we are talking about racial justice here, let us just address that aspect of our national tragedy. Since Roe, about 13 million black children have been executed. 13 million. That is roughly the total population of Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Nebraska. So black lives matter, do they? And coming back to the point, what flag flew over the courthouses that continue to authorize this crimson carnage? What flag was still flying there just this morning? How many more decades before the great principle of flag indignation kicks in? Would the populations of ten more Midwestern states do it? It only took Hitler twelve years to ruin the swastika forever. How many years do we get?”
If you are a “principle person”, then you will still disagree with sitting down for the anthem or the pledge, but is it not at least respectable, given the above quote, that a person could not join you in your salute, yet, still not be a person who hates the troops and disregards modern privileges?
Some think the troops didn’t die so that Christians could neglect to give them their respect and due honor. Some think the troops didn’t die so that babies could be aborted.
Either way, there needs to be room for healthy conversation, but also healthy understanding. In conclusion, allow me to make a plea from and to both sides of this issue:
To the “principle people”:
Thank you for your pride, and your willingness to see the things that made/make America great. Thank you for recognizing what she has done for the world, and for remembering all of her many freedoms that have allowed the flourishing of not only people, but especially, the Christian faith.
But perhaps there can be understanding that some citizens cannot separate America’s current flaws and abominations from the flag, and perhaps, they cannot in good conscience respect the flag without having to also condone the nation’s behaviors. This does not mean you have to accept the said abominations as being those (systematic racism, oppression, etc.) But perhaps someone can be mistaken on the the alleged sins of America, without being unpatriotic in their protest.
To the “practices people”:
I share in your discouragements with where this country is. We are involved in great atrocities that God hates. We are being judged and will continue to be judged for our abominations and rejections of God’s Law.
However, understand that some people see in the flag the Constitution, not the government’s disregarding of it. Some people do not think it is fair to allow the current abuses of the nation to dim the light of what the nation was established on and for. Some still see life, liberty, and justice for all in that flag. Some still see brave men storming the beaches of Normandy. Some still see the Fathers’ breaking free from tyranny to establish a nation wholly unlike the rest of the world, a great nation of great freedoms. And those people want to pay tribute to those principles, even if they are being abused.