Colin Kaepernick made a bold stand by not standing during the national anthem several weeks ago. Since then many have followed suit. His protest has been copied, exaggerated, castigated, and even protested against.
Some ask why Colin would do something like this. Others ask why we should honor the National Anthem at all. But there is something underneath these things that should be considered, otherwise, smaller questions about songs and flags would not create so much national angst.
Of course, smaller questions about songs and flags are not small questions. They are only small in comparison. When we embrace and affirm their magnitude, we understand the overwhelming nature of the question whose enormity encompasses them.
The question underneath them is so big that it is mostly taken for granted. It is even hard to ask it clearly without stepping back, and it is hard to step back because the question challenges a platform we have stood on for a long time, and we are afraid. We are afraid that stepping back might mean stepping off our familiar support.
The question is: what makes Colin’s action significant? For some the action offends, for others it inspires, but for everyone it does something. Some may think it is significant because the National Anthem is significant. But if a song is significant, it is only because it is about something significant, and the same thing is true for the flag, the liberty bell, and every other national symbol. The thing that all of these symbols point to is the thing that makes the action significant, and we are back to our question: what makes Colin’s action significant?
This deeper question is a threatening question, because it asks why the meaning behind all of those symbols is so important. The question cannot take for granted things that millions of others take for granted as they respond to Colin’s action. It cannot take for granted the things Colin took for granted as he calculated the setting for his significant statement.
The question knows nothing about traditions, beliefs, or national pride. It knows nothing about uprisings, oppressions, or social justice. The question only knows that a simple action became important, and it forces us to consider why. It forces us to evaluate the beliefs we use to assign value to the world.
As large as the question is, the answer is simple. The action is significant because we all value the nation. Colin values his nation enough to protest its practices. He knows we value our nation so much that his action will start a conversation. The nation is important, it is what we value. As a result, the song, the flag, and our responses to those symbols become important.
As Christians, this concept has unique ramifications for us. What do we value most? We are ultimately citizens of a country much bigger, more ethnically diverse, that is filled with love, forgiveness, and justice. Do we emotionally connect to that country and our Creator with the same intensity we have for the nation we live in?
It is certainly good to feel something, good or bad, as a result of Colin Kaepernick’s action. It means we are citizens who care about our nation. But do we also feel at least as much about the city our God has prepared for us? Do we cringe equally when the values of our true country are disturbed?
Are we ashamed when someone is put down because of their race instead of accepted as a human being? Are we hurt when someone refuses to extend forgiveness to an enemy? Are we driven to share what we have with those around us who have even less? Do we live out the gospel we claim to believe with every small action we do? Do we realize that every action we take from our waking up to our laying down matters?
Jesus wants us to be that connected, and He knows that small actions are significant. Why? Because, He tells us, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” Personally, I know I need to care more. So I continue my daily journey of getting to know Jesus just a little bit better so I can value what He does and share His emotions for the world around me. How about you? What is important to you?