This is something (revised) I posted some time ago. However, given recent events, I thought it was pertinent once again. Unfortunately, the attitude expressed here by Dr. Iorg is too prevalent among evangelicals and other Christians when it comes to race and protest in this country. America’s two national blood stains, that like Abel’s blood still cry out to God, are the genocide of the native inhabitants of this land and the slavery of those brought from Africa. For too long we’ve tried to just place a rug over those blood stains and act as if they’re gone. We carry on our cocktail parties and wine tastings as if everything is okay. We walk right over that rug as we offer our guests another drink. But the people on the outside of the party, those related in some way to the blood concealed beneath that rug, they gaze upon our party from the broken places in the alleys and byways outside. They see the feast, the drink, the laughter, the wealth, as the people inside walk around, and over, the rug hiding the blood of the years. And they wonder, how long O’Lord, how long?
“They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” -Jeremiah 6:14
“The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth” – African proverb
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, they are aware of the NFL controversy surrounding 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 [and recent events], which features Kaepernick and has brought the controversy back to the forefront and caused 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. Got it.
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…”
Really? 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?
Most reasonable people know that Mr. Kaepernick, or Nike, did not mean he had done something as sacrificial as dying for someone else. To compare the two or conflate them in the way Dr. Iorg does, for purposes of downplaying or making light of Mr. Kaepernick’s protests, is an adventure in missing the point. Any serious protest, where significant and weighty matters are involved, does not need the protestor to lose his life for that protest to matter and be taken seriously.
Further, I’m sure Mr. Kaepernick is aware of the sacrifices, either made, or those that will be made, by soldiers 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. 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 though 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.
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 too 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.
That 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, 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.
And I would add here at the end that what we see happening right now across America because of the killing of George Floyd is partly because we (the church) are still not doing our job. This is far greater than Dr. Iorg or those with the same views.
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