I keep circling back around on this issue. So many people are so angry and it is making my social media feel like a morass of hatred.
It is funny, because as I’ve grown I’ve found myself further and further away from the hard right on so many issues. I don’t know if this is because I’ve changed that much, or if the “right” has changed that much.
Once upon the time the Republican party was a minority party. That is, they fought for minority rights and also had a minority in the political arena. It is well known that the first Republican president was Abraham Lincoln. He fought a war to free slaves. Of course some people will argue the war was fought for various other reasons but there can be no doubt that abolition was a big part of his platform. This is why the South broke away.
Over the years the Republican party stood for important ideals but it seems in recent times, there has been a big shift away from those ideals.
But wait! The Republican party is in support of…
I’m sure people are quick to point out all the good things the party supports. They want to keep religious freedoms, protect innocent babies, and cut taxes among other great things.
At least that is what they say they want to do. I find it very interesting that the Republicans have a majority in both houses plus the White House, and yet they struggle to get anything accomplished. To hide from this lack of progress the President is creating a three ring circus.
This whole thing pains me because I believe many of the things the Republican party claims to stand for is important.
However, I am completely missing how making a huge deal about how some people choose to protest things we should all support helps us to reach the goals the party claims to cherish.
Instead, it shows the true nature of the party.
Nationalism is different than patriotism. Patriotism says, “we have an amazing country and there are amazing people. Now let’s work together to maintain what is great, improve what can be improved, and cut away what should be cut away.” Nationalism takes the approach that the country is amazing and any one questioning that is a traitor.
Let’s consider an example from literature that I think really captures what is happening and makes it clear why it is evil.
The most universally hated person in the world of Harry Potter is Delores Umbridge. I hate to even use her given name. She is so vile that I typically call her “Foolores Dumbridge” or “we hates her.”
This woman is EVIL. Like, given the choice between Voldemort and Dumbridge, I’ll take the noseless one every day.
Dumbridge believes that the Ministry of Magic is above question. When the Minister of Magic says that Harry Potter is lying about the return of Voldemort, then she believes it is her responsibility to punish Harry and force the truth out of him. She tortures him for a year before being attacked by centaurs in the Forbidden Forest. Sadly, she returns 2 books later as the grand inquisitor. Once again the Ministry has decided that any witch or wizard born from non-magical parents must have stolen their wand and with it the powers they possess.
This flies in the face of everything that is known to be true in that world. If a muggle picks up a wand, it will not give them power. The wand channels the power.
However, Foolores goes all in on this. She doesn’t just use this lie to gain power, she simply cannot accept the possibility that the Ministry could be wrong, even if it is being run by the evil wizard that she legitimately believed had not returned to power just 2 years previously.
This is what nationalism does. It blinds to the possibility that the government and representatives of the government could possibly be wrong.
Nationalism is a big part of what gave rise to the Nazi party. It’s also what buttresses many other evil empires. I won’t go into the history of them all, but I will consider one interesting story from the Bible.
To kneel or stand
Right now there are some football players who feel they cannot stand during the anthem. It is their belief that the position they hold can help bring attention to important issues and so they choose to kneel. They risk their careers, fan base, and even lives considering what some people have said about them.
In the book of Daniel, 3 young men had to take the opposite stand (see what I did there). Their conscience guided them to stand, when everyone was commanded to bow. I’m sure that some readers will be quick to shoot down the comparison. The young men were following the Bible and thus following God. They were doing the right thing.
I agree, the comparison is not 1:1, but consider the context. There was a nationalistic fervor to worship the emperor. Everyone was commanded to bow to the statue with the music. Everyone else did exactly that. I am certain there were other Jews who chose to bow. I am certain there were representatives from other cultures who worshiped other gods who chose to bow. They rationalized the choice and considered it an empty gesture to appease the culture they were in.
These 3 young men did not bow. They stood and they stood out. It was clear who they were and what the cost would be.
In the end it worked out. The young men are spared because of the power of God and so we lift them up as heroes of faith.
Yet we vilify others who are following their conscience.
Why is it wrong?
Patriotism is powerful. In the middle of all of this there is a story about a player who chose to stand when his entire team did not. See, we are quick to celebrate this man because he did what was right. At least in our mind he did what was right.
It seems Villanueva was motivated by patriotism. He served and understood what his privilege cost so believes the most respectful thing he can do is to stand.
The difference between this and the people who chose to take a knee is surprisingly slight. They also believe they are doing the right thing by the country.
Remember, patriotism doesn’t mean we believe the country is perfect. When Lincoln took office, there were great aspects of the nation but there were also aspects that we’d rather pretend didn’t exist. They are uncomfortable to think about. Men and women died to change those things, not because the country was perfect, but because it was worth making better.
When a player choses to kneel he is taking the position that this county can be made better.
To say, “if you hate this country that has done so much for you then you should leave,” because someone believes the country can be made better, then you are spitting in the face of law enforcement, soldiers, and everyone else who has believed this country can be better.
Let’s be perfectly clear here, the men who have been paid millions to play a sport have been incredibly fortunate. They could literally take that money and go to a small, third world country and live like kings. The easy thing to do is just pretend everything is fine, cash out, and enjoy the party.
The hard thing to do is to stand out. To say, “there are things that can be improved,” and to find a way to bring that to the national eye.
Several years back another player was called a hero because he took a knee. Tim Tebow would take a knee as part of his victory celebration to honor God above himself. Many were offended at this, but he did it anyway. He took advantage of his position to bring his beliefs to the national eye and many of the people who celebrated him are full of hate for those who would do the same in a different context.
The reason we view one as good and the other as wrong is because one lines up with what makes us feel good and the other with what makes us feel shame.
I believe that most of the people who are so full of hatred about this issue are not angry because they believe black people are inferior and should be abused and killed. I believe, given the chance, they would rather see all men and women treated well regardless of color.
The problem is, the issue is shameful. It is shameful like slavery and many other dark marks in our history.
There is an interesting story in the book of Genesis. After the flood receded, Noah planted a vineyard. Then he made wine and had himself a party. I can imagine that after all of the events, some serious drinking would be in order. Noah became drunk and did some serious frat boy level crazy stuff that resulted in his son seeing his nakedness.
In shame, Noah becomes angry. He curses his son and sends him away.
Shame causes us to hide and when those shameful things are brought to light, it makes us angry.
This issue brings shameful things into the light and ultimately it means we have two choices. We can become angry or we can work to fix it.
There is a classic allegory of the Christian life called Pilgrim’s Progress. During the course of the journey the protagonist sees a man attempt to clean a dusty room. The dry dust flies about and makes things worse. Then a Damsel bring water to sprinkle on the dust and the room is easily cleaned.
This is an illustration of the act of cleaning the spiritual heart. We can work to clean it up but only make things worse. In a sense, that is what this situation has done. Everything is stirred up and people are choking on the shame and becoming angry. We see the person who stirred up the dust as the problem, but they did not create the dust or the shame of it. They have just tried to clean it however they could. It is a big mess now.
In the allegory, Damsel spreads water to make the clean up easier.
This is the Holy Spirit bringing the Gospel into our lives so that we can be set free from the sin. Much like this, our nation needs the Holy Spirit to bring us the gift of Love. By this we can work to resolve the things that bring shame and restore the rightness, and even righteousness, of our nation.
Instead of nationalistic pride, we must have patriotic love for our fellow man and country.
There is great pain, shame, and even anger; however, we can become great again. Not through hate but love.
Let’s stop vilifying those who are showing us our shame, and instead seek the Spirit and power of God to correct those shameful thing for the good of all.
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1 John 4:20 ESV