As I’ve written before, I like and respect the President of Gateway Seminary, Dr. Jeff Iorg. However, I was struck again by something he wrote recently and felt it needed to be addressed. Unless one has been living under a rock, she is aware of the controversy surrounding NFL players kneeling while the national anthem is being played. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the player who started it off as a way to protest, not the national anthem, or America, or the flag, but, rather, violence against people of color by those in authority.
Fast forward to the recent Nike advertisement, which features Kaepernick and has brought the controversy back to the forefront while causing its own in the making. Clearly what bothers Dr. Iorg in the advertisement is the idea Mr. Kaepernick sacrificed, “everything.” Dr. Iorg’s point seems to be, “everything” would be one’s life. Point taken. Noted.
Here though, are the areas where I think Dr. Iorg fell far short in his criticism:
First, he writes:
“When Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem, and persuaded other athletes to follow his lead, it really didn’t offend or inspire me. It was just another protest…”
Just, “another” protest. Folks, this is exactly what white privilege sounds like. Perhaps it didn’t offend or inspire Dr. Iorg because he doesn’t have to worry about being pulled over for a traffic violation, or being miss-identified, and end up beaten or killed in the process. Perhaps he doesn’t have to worry about that happening to his children, grand-children, or friends. Guess what? Others do worry about such things and we need to hear them.
And it does not matter whether we feel their claims are valid or not. When a community, which has experienced as a matter of historical fact, racism and poor treatment by those in authority, comes to us with their claims, we need to listen and see how we can help. How in the world is this not clear, especially, to someone within the Southern Baptist tradition?
Second, Dr. Iorg brings up people who have died in military service to this country. These are the people who have sacrificed, “everything.” Putting aside the fact that some of Mr. Kaepernick’s most vocal defenders have been military veterans, yes, he is right, Mr. Kaepernick didn’t sacrifice his life. Given his role as a private citizen, and the fact he is not in the military, I’m not sure exactly what it is Dr. Iorg thinks he should do to make his sacrifice more meaningful or important. Should he throw himself off a bridge? I imagine he’s received death threats. Should he make himself available to those making the threats? What?
Further, I’m sure Mr. Kaepernick is aware of the sacrifices, soldiers and others have made on his and the country’s behalf. I’m sure he is appreciative and would never compare the losses from protesting, with the sacrifice one might be called to make as a soldier. He’s never made such a comparison. I’m also sure he understands and appreciates the sacrifices made for his freedom to protest. For context however, we should not forget those who also lost their lives as a result of their protests during the Civil Rights Era. I think Mr. Kaepernick is aware of the difference between losing one’s life as a soldier and the type of losses he’s experienced as a private citizen due to protest. That difference however, should take nothing away from the weight of his protests—or anyone’s for that matter.
Finally, Dr. Iorg is correct: Mr. Kaepernick didn’t sacrifice, “everything.” He only sacrificed his career, millions of dollars, his safety, and his dreams of playing professional football. I’m sure he’s lost friends and maybe even family over this too. He has made many enemies. Those losses were hardly, “shallow,” or, “pampered.” Only Mr. Kaepernick really knows what he has lost and sacrificed by taking the stand he did for others. But, yes Dr. Iorg, you are right, he did not give his life.
Here is what he did give however: He sacrificed what he had, to be a voice for those who felt they had none. He sacrificed what he had, so that a powerful focus could be brought to bear on a problem which has caused many to live in fear for themselves, their children, and their communities. As a private citizen, he has done what, at the very least, was in his power to do.
The last time I checked, I thought doing that sort of thing was what Christians were supposed to do. Dr. Iorg, as a Christian leader, have you sacrificed a career, significant money, friends, family, your safety, or your dreams—to be a voice for those who felt they had none? I’m not asking if you have ever protested—you note that you have. I’m asking if you have made the same sacrifices Mr. Kaepernick has, because of those protests.
If you haven’t, then maybe you should think twice about throwing shade his way. Because guess what man: He’s doing your job.
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