I’m Pretty Sure Jesus Wouldn’t Stand For A National Anthem, Either

I’m Pretty Sure Jesus Wouldn’t Stand For A National Anthem, Either August 31, 2016

Conservatives are up in arms over San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem before a game against Green Bay a few days ago.  Kaepernick explained himself in a statement post-game:  “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Much has been said in the past several days about the racist origin of the national anthem, as well as similar statements and positions by other athletes such as Jackie Robinson (see last link) and Muhammad Ali.  The common criticism by some non-conservatives (my own mother, for example) that Kaepernick is “just a football player” holds no sway for me; people in a position to have their voices heard have a responsibility to speak out against injustice.

So I don’t want to pile on about how the people upset at Kaepernick are hypocrites.  Instead I want to talk about this meme that I’ve seen shared by some uber-conservative “Christians” I have the misfortune to be connected to on social media:

Tebow Kaepernick Meme

We all remember Tim Tebow, right?  I do, and like I said, I don’t care one bit about football.  In case you were living under a rock in 2011, Tebow was a quarterback for the Broncos and made regular news for dropping down to his knees and praying during games.  Tebow is very outspoken about his evangelical Christian faith and has made statements such as “[We need to get back to] ‘One nation under God.'”

It’s not just anecdotal memes shared on Facebook that are making this comparison; Right Wing News reported on the meme, and Curt Schilling is even getting in on the action, inexplicably.

I love that they want to make this comparison, because it actually gives me an excuse to do what I do best and make this all about Jesus.  So let’s do that, shall we?

Let’s start by asking the age old question “What would Jesus do?”  Tim Tebow and his conservative fans seem to think Jesus would intercede on behalf of the Denver Broncos (or the Jets, or whatever baseball team Tebow thinks he’s gonna play for).

That’s right:  these people actually believe that their omnipotent, all-seeing deity, the being which created the entire universe, takes the time out of His busy day to change the nature of reality to allow a professional sports team to score a touchdown because Tim Tebow is “brave” enough to pray publicly…in a nation of 80% Christians.

I don’t care what Tebow prayed for specifically.  Prayer, in the context of a football game, means either that you’re asking God to help you win, or thanking God for helping you win.  There is no third option.  Whatever it may be, you are implying that God cares about football.

These same conservatives are upset at Kaepernick because he is “disrespecting” the flag, the anthem, the military, the country, whatever.  But let’s ask again:  what would Jesus do?

It might come as a surprise to some conservative readers, but Jesus actually wasn’t American.  I know!  Believe it or not, when he was alive, America actually didn’t exist.

Okay, but maybe in the 1700 years between when he was crucified and when the USA was founded, Jesus, while waiting in heaven, might’ve kept up with human poli-sci developments and decided that a constitutional democratic republic is the best form of government, and also that America is just special.

Oh, wait, no, we actually know exactly the type of society Jesus favored, and it looked nothing like America.  It was called the Kingdom of God.  That’s right.  Kingdom.

I’ve already written about how standing up for racial justice is an integral part of actually living the Kingdom.  No need to rehash that.  The point is that publicly refusing to stand for the anthem in order to make a point about injustice is a form of social-civil disobedience, which was an enormous part of Jesus’s program.

Jesus (and many other Jews, especially in Galilee) were upset that the Temple authorities paid taxes to Caesar and accepted Roman rule.  So what does Jesus do?  He heals and cleanses people, something only the Temple priests were supposed to be able to do.  Then he actually went to the Temple and staged what could rightly be called an “Occupy Jerusalem” demonstration, for which he was killed.

Concepts such as nationalism and even patriotism are anti-Christian because they detract from commitment to the Kingdom of God.  I guess it’s conceivable that I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that if Jesus came back to earth and attended a football game for whatever reason (I like to think of Jesus as more of a baseball guy), you wouldn’t find him on the sidelines bent in prayer with Tim Tebow, or carrying the flag while somebody drones “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Generally, if you want to find Jesus, you look to those fighting for justice.  So if you wanted to find Jesus at that football game, I’d wager he’d be sitting beside Colin Kaepernick in defiance of America’s system of institutionalized oppression.

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  • Brandon Roberts

    to be fair i think people are overreacting. but it also seems like kaepernick is just going with what he heard online now while yes there are cases where black people are mistreated or killed simply for being black and get away with it it’s probaly not as common as people have been led to believe in fact in most police shooting cases the cops are in the right if he is being genuine this is a nice gesture for black people who actually are victims of real racism and veterans who get neglected after the war but he made 19 million dollars he could easily donate 1 or 2 million to a charity for this kind of thing

    • derek sibert

      Yeah…Cool story. Brush it under the rug because you’re all knowing of what’s really happening and his motives. If throwing money at problems worked, all kinds of issues would have been resolved by now.

      • Brandon Roberts

        “brush it under the rug cause you’re all knowing of his motives and what’s happening” never meant to imply i was just meant to say it seems like he could be just going along with what’s popular at the moment but i don’t know whether he’s genuine or not and i could be wrong. “if throwing money at problems worked these issues would’ve been resolved by now” well at least some of the problems in the black comunity could be fixed by proper funding (bad schools’ poverty’ criminal behavior) could imo (but again could be wrong) (and yes i’m aware these problems are everywhere not just affecting black people)

  • Iain Lovejoy

    It’s not my anthem, but it seems to me that “hireling and slave” is supposed to refer to us British in our entirety and “slave” to therefore be more likely to refer to us being still ground under the tyranny of our despotic monarch than a reference specifically to freed slaves fighting in British ranks, but who knows?
    I think you might be being rather hard on Tim Tebow who, according to his coach was praying for “strength, personal character and for no one to get injured — not a victory.” (although he might ant to bear in mind what Jesus said about praying on street corners for every one to see, though) http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/01/tim_tebows_public_expressions.html
    I agree that Kaepernick seems to hsve found a good way of highlighting the issue of police shootings in his protest, but I wouldn’t agree with the notion that Christians shouldn’t honour the customs of the country they live in generally (half of Paul is about doing this) or that it is inappropriate to pray for support and strength to excel at whatever work (or for that matter sport) you are engaged in, and would say that the pursuit of excellence in any field (unless the activity itself is wrong) is for the glory of God and pleasing to him.

  • scott stone

    I’m not a football guy either and I really don’t care what Kaepernick does or doesn’t do. It does seem a bit odd though. It will be interesting to see how the league and team deals with this. To put it in perspective, the team can tell these players what they can and can’t eat, when they have to be in bed (they do have curfews), along with a host of other things.
    The one thing I will say though is that I’m not a fan of the “I’m pretty sure Jesus…” I don’t think we have much of an idea, except around a handful of issues, what a man from an agrarian culture in 1st century Palestine, under occupation, would do in any circumstance in our world today. Our cultural context and His aren’t even relatable.

    • Christian Chiakulas

      But Jesus did say “don’t pray in public like the hypocrites do” (paraphrasing). So I’m comfortable saying what his stance on Tebow would be.

      • scott stone

        I think you are missing the context of the verse though and you’d also have to know what Tebow’s intent was. Is he doing it “to be honored by others.” Matthew 6:2. Like I said, I’m not offended by his actions, but he certainly isn’t the new heroic social justice warrior. With all of his millions I’d like to see where he puts his treasure.

    • derek sibert

      So I suppose that negates everything he said then.

      • scott stone

        I didn’t say anything of the sort. I said Kaepernick can do as he pleases, it doesn’t offend me and at the same time I don’t think he is some sort of heroic social justice warrior. I actually think the whole thing is a bit ridiculous.
        My main argument goes to the notion that we know what Jesus would do. Conservatives and liberals alike think they’ve got a monopoly on how a man from 1st century Palestine would respond regarding an American football game. It’s preposterous. The line that really got me though was the last one. “So if you wanted to find Jesus at that football game, I’d wager he’d be sitting beside Colin Kaepernick in defiance of America’s system of institutionalized oppression.” So would Jesus also be wearing socks with images of pigs with police caps on them?

  • Jacob Galasso

    I would just like to say that you are throwing out claims about the Christian faith and Christian beliefs that are so off. You think that conservative christians (as myself) are naive enough to think Jesus was an American? And that Jesus favors American football and all things American? Jesus was middle eastern, plain and simple, and I’m pretty sure no other Christian I have ever met thinks Jesus was American, thats ridiculous. Also, when praying for a football game, it ISN’T going to sound something like this, ” God, Please just help me and my team win this game”, with hopes that God is going to favor the team who gives a public display of pray to him. No. It goes a little something like, “please provide safety for me and my teammates, as well as the players on the other team during the game. Give us the strength to give our best effort during the game and not boast in our own accomplishments, but rather give glory to you. Thank you giving me the opportunity to play this game. Amen.” Please don’t make so many ignorant claims about Christians.

    • Christian Chiakulas

      God, upon hearing the prayer you just described: “Well, hmmm…I mean, there’s genocide going on in Africa…brutal military occupation in Palestine…famine all across the world…millions living in poverty…but Tim Tebow is praying about football! Better listen to that prayer first!”

      • Jacob Galasso

        God is not selective with his prayers. That is why he is an omnipotent God, he can hear all our prayers.

      • James Foxvog

        Do you really believe God has such narrow bandwidth?!

    • derek sibert

      A Pharisee says what?

  • Nimblewill

    Jesus probably wouldn’t have written a blog either. What he would have done was loved Kaepernick and Tebow and would have been saddened that we weren’t in unity under his banner. He may have been sitting beside Kaepernick but he would have been kneeling beside Tebow as well.

    • Christian Chiakulas

      Actually, no, Jesus explicitly said not to pray in public. He would’ve called Tebow a hypocrite.

      • Nimblewill

        “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

        So you are now able to judge Tebow’s motives? Wow! Did Jesus ever pray in public? “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” comes to mind. I’m sure there are other times as well.

  • Nimblewill

    “The love for equals is a human thing–of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing–the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing–to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy–love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.”

  • Nimblewill

    Now he’s wearing a Castro t-shirt, which again is his right as an American. But what about all the black and Hispanic Cubans that were murdered, tortured, and displaced by his regime?

    • derek sibert

      and there’s blood on American’s hands for our terrible foreign policy the last 50+ years. We’ve murdered and tortured quite few people under our flag.

      • Nimblewill

        As a Christian I understand that all world systems are corrupt, even demonic. I was pointing out his hypocrisy, nothing more. I personally struggle with the Pledge more than I do the National Anthem.
        Check this series out.
        http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2016/08/idolatry-oppression-and-development-of.html

        • derek sibert

          But is it your job to point out what YOU perceive as hypocrisy? What if all of your actions and conversations were spotlighted and put under a microscope?

          I’m positive we’re all walking contradictions.

          • Nimblewill

            I stand corrected and yes I have known for years that I am a walking contradiction. I am both the prodigal and the older brother, a pharisee who depends deeply on the grace of God, a beggar who is telling other beggars where to get bread.

  • JD

    Oh look, another article with another progressive saying what Jesus would be doing (what an absurd position to take). As always, what Jesus would be doing is being a liberal of course! He would be laughing at Christians while defending Islam, while still claiming to be feminist somehow.

    He would be for all things contrarian, because as we all know, the more you oppose the group sentiment (no matter what that is) the more unique, progressive, and forward thinking you are! He would also be classifying everyone who uttered a word of disagreement as bigots, oppressors and privileged! He would be wearing thick framed glasses and loudly talk about how we need to do more about exploitative labor, and then post the video of himself doing so via his macbook.

    Glad we got that settled!

    • derek sibert

      There’s some smug bloviating, which was obviously conceived in love. I’m glad to see Pharisees still exist.

    • Doubt if he’d use the term “bigots”; “hypocrites” sure.

  • I do disagree with you regarding Tim Tebow having no third option than praying for a football win…he could conceivably be praying for the welfare of the players, that no one gets injured. But that too makes one wonder why would a Christian be playing such a violent sport as to produce concussions? Why would Jesus ever go to a football game, except of course to protest it? Love your article. Carry on.

  • kaikkonen

    Another “third” option is being thankful for the many blessings that our Lord God and Saviour Jesus the Christ has (and continues to) bestow upon us in North America. After all, aren’t we supposed to “pray without ceasing [and] rejoice evermore!” Having said that, Jesus continually said that He was the Light, the only Way, the Truth, and the Life, and by extension, we too (as believers in Jesus) are to shine as a city on a hill also. I am not a football fan but I do know this. If we criticize those who willingly show their faith wherever they are and in whatever they are doing, we become like the scribes and Pharisees who only wanted their own agenda to shine in the hearts of men. Indeed, society is already witnessing the fruits of that spirit 🙁 Otherwise, interesting perspective and lots to contemplate. Thanks for sharing …