Dear Christian: Stand for the Flag, But Please Don’t Worship It

Yesterday saw another round of National Anthem and flag protests at football games.  Vice President Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game after several visiting San Francisco 49er players took a knee before the game.

NFL teams are finding ways to put together a cohesive message, a workaround to this PR mess. Some teams are staying in the locker room. Some are kneeling at first, and then standing as if they are at Catholic mass.

Some performers are even taking knees while performing the anthem.

Dallas Cowboy Owner Jerry Jones has simply told his players they must stand, or be benched. 

Predictably, viewership and attendance are taking a beating. I think people watch football to escape politics. It’s supposed to be entertainment.

A right to protest

The original knee taken by Colin Kapernick  was to protest police confrontations with African Americans. This latest round seems more pointed to the President, who unwisely took on the NFL and suggested owners fire players who don’t choose to stand for the flag.

As a PR professional, I would recommend to NFL players that they find another way to protest, to lift their voices. Not standing for America’s National anthem sends an unfortunate message that is being interpreted as disrespect for those who fought for it.  These current protests “muddy the message.”

The President by calling out the NFL has only impassioned those who already opposed him. There are great numbers of players who are not necessarily protesting social issues, rather they are angry that their freedom to speak out was challenged. My advice to Pres. Trump is, “Don’t openly challenge 300 pound men who make their living playing a violent game.”

Denver Bronco Derek Wolfe stood for the anthem, and he defended himself by saying, “I respect the men who died in real battles so I have the freedom to battle on the field.”

The players have a right to kneel. The President has a right to speak. And fans have a right to not watch anymore.
Embed from Getty Images

What side should Christians stand on?

As far as taking sides,  it’s a fool’s game for people of faith should get involved in this. This is one of those incidents where we need to do a heart check of our faith and how it co-mingles with our patriotism. Is there a divide, a solid line between the two?

While I love America’s freedoms, its beacon of hope to an oppressed world, and its sea of opportunity, I cannot align it with my faith. If, and when, push comes to shove, I’ll choose my faith over my country.

It is unhealthy and unwise to have your faith woven into your flag.  Standing for my country’s flag is a separate issue than standing for my faith.

We are aliens

Remember the Bible calls us “exiles, sojourners, and pilgrims.” Philippians 3.20 reminds us that “Our citizenship is in heaven.”

We all have culture and geographical affinities. We live neighborhoods, states, and nations. Usually, we want to be proud of that identity.

The same applies to churches, workplaces and social affiliations That’s tribal patriotism. There’s nothing wrong with that for us as long as it’s balanced with healthy biblical living.

But it gets a little worrisome when we make our faith a central tenant of our patriotism.

In this country, it takes a little nuancing because so many of our founder’s indeed saw the destiny of America as being God-ordained. But they were men just like we are…and they twisted Scripture just like we can.

So Christian, here’s my plea. It’s okay to stand for the flag, but your first priority is to kneel to the King.

 

ben-white-165564

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