by Rev. Dale Azevedo, Sr. Minister          –          Sept. 29, 2017

Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat…I don’t want to write this blog post. I have fought writing this blog all week and tried to write on three other topics, but none of them felt right. I would much rather be writing on personal spiritual growth or loving our neighbor than this issue, but I cannot. Apparently, God will not let me. Since the President continues to force black athlete’s protests to the forefront of public discourse, misrepresenting the issues while doing so, I am compelled by the Holy Spirit to respond. I can do no other. I pray that these words are read with the same love of neighbor and Christ in which they are written.

The protests moving through the NFL and other sports venues have always been about race and racial justice. It has never been about patriotism, the flag, or the national anthem. When Colin Kaepernick first chose not to stand during the national anthem at a San Francisco 49ers game last year, he did so with the clear purpose of drawing attention to police brutality and the rash of publicized killings of unarmed black men by police. When confronted with his actions he was very clear on this point. When veterans expressed displeasure with his protest, the two sides met and discussed the issues rationally resulting in a change in Kaepernick’s protest. He would no longer sit during the anthem, but kneel in reverence and respect for the sacrifices of our military veterans.

Two things are worth noting in this history. First, when tension initially arose, Kaepernick and a local veterans group met face to face and talked through their differences. For those who are unaware, this is a Biblical mandate (Matt 18:15) and it is an example to all those who are choosing to rant on Twitter, rather than talk rationally to those with whom they disagree. Second, kneeling is, and always has been, a sign of respect; throughout time, across cultures, and in the Bible. Therefore, knights knelt before their kings and queens, youth of differing cultures bow before their elders, and the Bible calls us to kneel before God (Ps 95:6, Rom 14:11, etc.). Kneeling is a sign of profound respect. I encourage all those railing about player’s “disrespect” to find a moment, kneel down before someone else, and ask themselves, “Does this feel like I am disrespecting the other?” We all could use a little more kneeling (and humility) in our lives.

The fact that our President has chosen to disregard the intentions and clear purpose of these protests and instead recast them as a sign of disrespect to our nation, our veterans, and our flag, is a gross violation of his power and sign that he truly does not understand the racial inequality present in our culture. His tweets are a part of the historic efforts in this country to silence black men and prevent them from disrupting the false narrative of racial equality in which I was raised. His use of influence and power in this way is a clear example of the white supremacy that remains in the shadow parts of present day American culture. The fact that white men can march down our streets carrying torches and chanting anti-Semitic slogans can be defended as having “very fine people” among them and black men kneeling before our flag in silence can be called “sons of bitches” should be all the evidence we need that more Americans need to kneel in reverence to our country, to our flag, and to God.

Paul writes, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) This is the Biblical ideal that we all strive toward and in which the church seeks to live. However, we know that we have not achieved this dream in the reality of our world or our country. God calls to continue to work toward this goal, to strive for the day when we are all equals, and for a time that when we disagree with one another, we reach out to each other in respect, without name-calling, seeking a solution in which all of God’s offspring, “heirs according to his promise, (Gal 3:29)” come out ahead. May God bless America (and all nations) and continue to challenge us through the voices and actions of the oppressed.