When Conservative Christians’ Patriotism Overwhelms Their Heart for the Hurting

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The recent brouhaha over the NFL players who’ve participated in the Take a Knee protests has dominated social media all week. This has revealed much about where we place our priorities as a nation, as Christians or non Christians, and as just plain people. The Take a Knee protests are just the latest in a series of events that have shown a harsh spotlight on something that concerns me deeply. I am afraid that too many conservative Christians have allowed politics, nationalism, and patriotism to completely enshroud their hearts for hurting people. That is particularly troubling in light of the fact that, as Christians, having a heart for hurting people is basically job one.

This week, much of what I have seen posted from my most conservative Christian friends–good people that I’ve known to have soft hearts and to love others–is the message that they proudly “stand for the flag and kneel for the cross.” That’s a catchy little slogan and, normally, that’s not such a bad thing to proclaim. The part that troubles me, conservative Christian friend, is that I fear you are using that slogan to get in a dig at people who are hurting. It is obvious that you are taking your stand not just to support your country–its flag–its anthem–and its veterans–you are also taking a stand against a group of people who are terrified that their country doesn’t value them as it should. These people are hurting so much that they are willing to risk their very livelihoods to call attention to what they feel is a tremendous injustice in our nation. Too many of you, conservative Christians, seem to be piling onto their despair–you are vilifying them. Is that what you are called to do?

I don’t know where to stand in regard to the cause of the Take a Knee protest. I see that millions of people are deeply troubled and are crying out to be heard. I can’t relate to their problem on a personal level–as a middle class white man, I live a privileged existence to the extent that I have never had to deal with problems because of the color of my skin. I see some of these controversial cases involving police brutality or racial injustice and I can’t come to any certain conclusion–I often see fault on both sides. But what I also see on both sides is fear, mistrust, and lack of understanding. This has led to millions of people of color who have grave fears of being stopped by the police. They are essentially the victims of trauma. That can cause people to go immediately into a fight or flight response as an automatic physical reaction when they are confronted by their biggest fear–the police. By the same token, many police officers who work in minority neighborhoods are also afraid. When they stop a black man, they have their defenses up–they know the history–they understand that they are under a microscope. They, too, are traumatized and can be switched into automatic self-defense mode instantly. Before they know what has happened, they are reacting out of a survival instinct and things can get ugly quickly.

I don’t know where the blame lies in some of these situations. I only know that it has created a very volatile atmosphere around the nation. Fear–apprehension–mistrust–lack of empathy–they are running rampant in our inner city streets.

So, in the end–as far as I’m concerned–it makes little difference whether the Take a Knee protesters’ cause is 100% valid because their fears are 100% real.

That should break the hearts of all Christians–just as it would break the heart of Christ were he walking among us.

But patriotism has shrouded the hearts of too many Christians. Too many have sold their soul to a political ideology.

In the process, they have lost sight of their calling.

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