At the beginning of last football season, Colin Kaepernick staged a “silent protest” against the perceived evils of America by not standing for our National Anthem. After a few weeks, the media furor both pro and con, settled down. Since then, he has lost his starting position and has been released from his team. No other NFL team has contracted him for the upcoming season. There have been strong reactions and much debate on all sides of the issue.
Now that preseason professional football season is upon us, a few other well-known athletes have followed his example. One, claims to be very patriotic and “as American as anybody” but is seeking a platform to highlight injustices and inequalities in America. Another player predictably refused to explain his actions, but quipped, “I don’t talk to the media.” He also asserted that he has “been doing this for the last 11 years.”
As I said, there have been strong reactions, both pro, and con. It is interesting to note that if a player has for the last 11 years been taking a knee or a seat during the National Anthem why no one noticed it. Or if they did, why did it go un-sensationalized? One wonders if the pressure to make news (real or fake), during a lull in the midst of media hype, has anything to do with it. Probably not… Just wondering…
Many have taken the road of tolerance, suggesting that they do not agree with the gestures, although they may appreciate the intentions. This is the position of many coaches who are attempting to be politically correct and promote good relationships among diverse teammates. What matters most is that the team is kept together, runs smoothly and wins. Yes, above all else, wins.
Others, especially veteran players (veterans of the NFL) have taken a more “old school” approach. For instance, the Sports Illustrated website has a quote from a well-known defensive player: “anyone on my team sits for the anthem better be in a wheelchair.” This is followed by reader comments, which berate him as a wife-beating thug.
So, how should I think about standing or not standing while it is being played or sung?
In the first place, the Bible does not speak directly to the issue. That is, it neither commands nor prohibits standing for the National Anthem, although it does mandate showing respect and deference to our governing authorities, so long as their requirements are not anti-God or against his Word.
This is a very significant factor for Christians. God has given us the Bible to be our rule of faith and practice. This means that we must first look to the Scriptures to determine what God has declared concerning what we are to believe and how we are to act. God’s Word is without error and completely reliable. His will never changes; it always remains the same.
Therefore, I must always look to Scripture for direction. When I do, I find no support for insisting that someone must stand for a National Anthem. Although I am mandated to honor and respect the authorities God has placed over me, there is no command to venerate national symbols. I might not like this. I may wish it were different. But there it is.
Next, I recognize that I have been blessed to live in a country in which I have enjoyed great liberty and freedom. These privileges have come at great cost to many individuals and families. Soldiers, Sailors, Airman and Marines have “paid the ultimate price” by giving their lives for the liberty of others. Families, friends and communities have been deeply impacted by these losses. .
Personally, I have been taught to respect and honor our country and the flag representing it. I learned to stand at attention with my hand over my heart when I heard our national anthem. I have played it on the trumpet, as a soloist and with bands, with a sense of great national pride. A sense of patriotism, appreciation and duty motivated me to serve in the Armed Forces during the unpopular Vietnam conflict. In the past our culture valued honor and respect; these values have been lost.
I could go on but you get the point. I really dislike disrespect, in any form, but especially towards our country and its emblems. Disregard for authority, degrading of moral values, disrespect for national traditions and defying God are not only huge individual issues but are also symptoms of great decay and decline. The proliferation of “selfies” is symptomatic of the sickness and depravity of our society.
These factors remind me of the words of 2 Timothy 3.1 – 5: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power…”
So, what does this have to do with showing respect to our National Anthem?
- It is not a sin to not stand during the National Anthem.
- Individuals have the personal liberty to act however they choose. Even when I strongly disagree and am repulsed by such behavior, they still have the right to express themselves.
- Systemic rebellion within our society should not surprise me. God has warned us about it. He’s not wringing his hands and I shouldn’t either!
- I am free to express my honor, appreciation and admiration for our country; indeed, I have the duty to do so. Even though I, myself am not able to physically, stand, the tear in my eye signals my esteem. I would stand if I could.
- I should pray for and seek to reform our culture by demonstrating respect (even to those with whom I disagree) and pointing to the only One who can change hearts. There are greater issues than posture to be faced, even though I am personally annoyed by it. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can effect the changes that we need.