Behold how much of the world has now turned upon one man’s knee. What began as a silent protest, originally off camera, grew to move the most powerful leader on the planet, the President of the United States. This is turn rattled the whole world, shook the League, dominated the news cycle for over two weeks now (and still has a section on Drudge), and dominated social media feeds as well.
There can be no doubt that Colin Kaepernick’s original protest generated a revolution in the news cycle, but whether it leads to something beyond the typical left-right polarization to some actual good change remains to be seen. The media firestorm that has followed was predictable, as were most of the arguments formulated both for and against the kneel Kaepernick took. The question for Christians is, will we be carried along by the winds of politics, or will we look at this from the standard of God’s laws?
Some say the polarization in the media is all the media really wants. Drama and controversy fuel readership, and this means increased ad revenue. They thrive on it, so they fan the flames. This being the case, a Donald Trump as President is pure gold for the media.
Division based nationalistic emotions and fears have also always been big sources of power for statists and tyrants. Ditto on Trump as a fit for this as well.
To make matters worse, we don’t seem to have the ability to think historically, constitutionally, biblicly, or compassionately on subjects that involve statism, its symbols, or its agents.
A million arguments have flown back and forth, and the main reason it started seems to have been lost in the drama. This started as a conscientious attempt to bring awareness to perceived police injustices against blacks and the lack of accountability for police brutality. It has grown into a thematic shout-down over nationalistic patriotism and left-versus-right demagoguery.
While we obviously need good systems of law and order, that there is some truth to the disproportionate percentage of blacks killed by police, and that offending police officers are given tremendous slack and rarely held accountable, should be considered indisputable by any objective observer. One need not give up “law and order” in order to point these things out; on the contrary, we rather establish and uphold law and order by doing so.
Too many Christians err in these discussions by defaulting to secular conservativism, which is sometimes helpful to our cause, but sometimes also very damaging. I have discussed elsewhere the fallacies of both conservatism and progressivism. This debate devolved into little more than a conflict of the one fallacy versus the other. But lost in it was the critical core of truth that there is indeed some problem.
Overlooking such key issues has always been the failure of conservative Christians who rely more on their conservatism rather than their Christianity.
In the original Copernican Revolution, the whole Christian world was so confident that Aristotle’s geocentric view of the universe was correct that any mention that it was wrong was rejected outright due to little more than the audacity and novelty of the suggestion.
Luther rejected Copernicus’s heliocentric theory at the time out of classic “conservative” reactionism. Copernicus was “new” and trying to be “clever” by overturning established knowledge that everyone else accepted. He was an attention-seeking rogue trying to overturn the established order.
John Calvin more strongly rejected Copernicus’s model, and roundly condemned those who supported it as possessed by the devil.
A generation later, Galileo proved the theory right, but famously reported that some of the Aristotelean professors at the Academy (backing the Inquisition) literally refused even to look through the telescope. They didn’t want to see evidence that would overturn the established narratives.
That is the fallacy of secular conservatism. It is what happens when we mistake that which is established for that which is by default true. It creates in us a fear of change and this in turn creates a strident, emotional opposition to change—even if a needed change is biblical and godly.
Rest assured this same overweening defense of that which is established has a long train of abuses behind it, as well as a trail of bodies. Most of the “moderate” conservative Christians throughout the American slavery era knew it was wrong and said so, but did not want to end it soon because they feared overturning the established order would lead to greater problems than leaving slavery in place for however long it took.
However long that would be was never specified, and it never seemed to be a priority to get it specified.
Nothing had changed in 1963 when MLK, Jr. wrote his famous letter from the Birmingham jail. Among the gems in that pregnant masterpiece, he wrote the following:
Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.
Imagine, if you will, what kind of mindset a conservative Christian must have had at the time to demand the blacks wait even longer on that issue and in that environment. It is unconscionable. Today, we would likely excommunicate anyone who openly and doggedly maintained such bigoted views in the name of Christ. But not only was it tolerated then, it was by far the mainstream view—almost universal among conservatives in many parts of the country. Virtually anyone who stood up and said otherwise was called a Marxist, anti-Christ, or “nigger-lover.”
Those who defended the system at that time truly believed they were defending law and order, and that to cave on the issue would be anti-police and anti-American. They were not only wrong, they were so wrong we have a hard time imagining today how anyone in conscience could have held such an opinion, let alone beat and killed people over it.
Are we still so callous, stubborn, and fearful today that we cannot even entertain the questions black people raise about violence and possible police injustice? Are we truly comfortable cherry-picking a lone study or news report which confirms our initial bias as opposed to a score that contradict it? Are we still deaf to what our black brothers and sisters are saying? Do we still think to show compassion to minorities is automatically to compromise law and order? Do we still think such things must still “wait”?
I would challenge every one of my readers to sit down for a half hour or so and read through MLK, jr’s Letter. While there are few minor historical and theological things I would differ on, it is by overwhelmingly a tremendous work that is in harmony with Theonomy, Christian Reconstruction, Interposition and Nullification, Civil Disobedience, Presuppositionalism, and Postmillennialism. Yes, you read that right. Moreover, this man did and said these things when it was toughest—when it cost him everything.
The challenge is to read that letter, and then ask yourself why the majority of conservatives and conservative Christians at the time opposed it vehemently.
Then ask yourself why today, though the issue may have shifted somewhat, many conservatives and conservative Christians still make the same arguments the old ones did.
The answer to that may have something to do with the winds of politics versus the Word of God. It is a sad fact that too often in our history, those we accuse of being political are actually borne by the Spirit and representing God’s law, and those we think of as godly are carried by the political winds.
Oftentimes we need to progress. When we’re too comfortable or detached to see it, we need someone not quite like us to tell us. For this reason, I support the kneel. I hope it leads to biblical progress. And when it does, I hope the kid who had the courage to sacrifice a million-dollar career for it will get the credit he deserves. Maybe they’ll call it the Kaepernickan Revolution. You won’t need to agree with him in everything, just the one major right thing. For now, it would help just to look through the telescope and entertain a real discussion.