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Conservatives, Just Substitute Corporal Punishment for Protesting the Anthem And You’ll Get Colin Kaepernick

You probably already know this, but just in case you haven’t been paying attention, here is a breakdown of the main facts surrounding Colin Kaepernick:


  • Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines last summer and fall when he chose not to stand during the national anthem that precedes every NFL game.

  • His quiet act of protest (which he had done without incident several times before reporters asked him about it) sparked a firestorm of controversy and a series of similar protests from several other NFL players, continuing the ongoing national conversation about incidents of police brutality that sparked the #BlackLivesMatter movement

  • Kaepernick went on to have a fairly uneventful year on the field. His team went 1-10, but his individual performance was decent; he threw for 16 touchdowns against 4 interceptions, earning a total QB rating in the bottom third of starting NFL quarterbacks (pay attention to that word: starting quarterbacks).

  •  Now, on the eve of another NFL season, Kaepernick has yet to be signed by any NFL team, despite not only being better than most (if not all) of the QBs signed ahead of him as backups, but according to star cornerback Richard Sherman, better than several current starting QBs as well.

  • This collective unwillingness to sign Kaepernick (some call it blackballing, but whether it’s a coordinated effort or a series of risk-averse GMs choosing not to court controversy, the net effect is still the same) has sparked unrest among African-Americans, and several have called for an NFL boycott, including evangelical pastor Leroy Barber, a longtime Dallas Cowboys fan.


Now… whether Colin Kaepernick is truly elite, whether he’s washed up, whether it’s a good business decision to sign him for NFL franchises or not… none of those are the main concern of this post.

No, my main concern is to address the main criticism I see lobbed at Colin Kaepernick from conservatives who feel that his protests were disrespectful. One Facebook acquaintance said that many veterans feel like it’s “a slap in the face” to disrespect the flag or the anthem.

The inference here is simple: Colin Kaepernick must not love America, because if he did, he wouldn’t be protesting.

Allow me a brief thought experiment while I demonstrate my moderate habit of switching ideological teams…

“Spare the rod, spoil the child” — Proverbs 13:24 (sorta)

 

Corporal punishment is not only a hotbutton issue and another flashpoint in the culture war, but a delightful euphemism for what most black folks know to be “gettin’ a whoopin.'” All manner of stand-up comedy routines are premised on the cultural observation that many liberal White parents are opposed to the idea of spanking their kids (these two R-rated bits from Russell Peters and Aries Spears and come to mind).

I’m not a parent, but I know many parents and I’ve had a pretty active role in helping to raise two of my nephews. And I believe that using physical punishment can — operative word here is can — be an appropriate way to discipline children. I know there are many conservative parents who grew in Christian households who understand this concept, because I met a lot of them during my growing up years. (That neither Aries Spears nor Russell Peters apparently grew up with any of these families is probably a result of the lack of ethnic diversity in suburban and rural enclaves where spanking your kids is more socially acceptable, but that’s neither here nor there.)

If you believe in spanking your kids, then it’s easy to answer the hypothetical objection:

How can you spank your kids if you truly love them?  

The answer is usually something to the effect of:

I love my kids too much NOT to spank them.

The idea is that when a child is young enough not to know to, for example, run out into the street without looking, you need them to associate that behavior with a measure of physical pain, because they can’t truly understand how painful and life-threatening it would be to actually get hit by a moving automobile. Since you don’t want them to have to learn that way, you give them a smaller dose of pain so that they can learn not to do it, and you trust that eventually they’ll learn in time why that behavior is so problematic.

Most parents that I know who have practiced this form of discipline (including my own!) understand that there are risks involved, and do their best not to cross the line over into child abuse. They may do it only up to a certain age and then change their tactic to taking away privileges. Or maybe they’ll only do it with a certain belt, ruler or spatula that might sting a little but will ultimately do no lasting damage to their bodies. Many make sure that it is a last resort.

My dad used to say this expression to me before he gave me a whoopin’:

This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.

Now, as an adult, I know what he meant. He loved me so much that he didn’t want me to experience pain, but at the same time, he saw enough potential in me that he didn’t want to ruin me by allowing me to reject his discipline and just do whatever I felt like. He loved me enough to look past the short-term feelings of pain I would experience and foresee a future of me being mature enough to make wise decisions on my own, and in a desire to point me in that direction, swallowed his own existential discomfort and whooped my ass.

So the idea that parents who spank their kids do not love their kids… well, to most conservatives, immigrants and people of color, that idea is both laughable and dangerous. Those concerned about anti-Christian sentiment often point to this trend, where parents who use physical discipline are painted as religious whackjobs taking their fervor too far. That there are religious people who do, in fact, abuse their children shouldn’t be held as proof that all physical discipline is child abuse. That’s a classic rhetorical fallacy, akin to — pardon the expression — throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

 

In his legendary “I Have A Dream” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used a metaphor of America as a promissory note, claiming that the promise of equality and prosperity that America appears to offer has been showed to be repeatedly unavailable to black Americans.

In the decades since his assassination, many of Dr. King’s words have been distorted by conservatives with only a cursory understanding of Dr. King’s message, but even those conservatives who cheaply appropriate his legacy, none of them have, as far as I know, ever claimed that Martin Luther King Jr. hated America. (As of this writing, Steve Bannon is still in the White House, so I guess anything’s possible.)

But even that would be a bridge too far, wouldn’t it?

Nobody can credibly say that a man whose signature piece of oratory centered around a dream of peace and equality in America can plausibly claim that such a man does not love America. On the contrary, it is more accurate to say that Dr. King loved our nation enough to hold itself accountable to its ideals.

So it can be said of Colin Kaepernick.

Colin Kaepernick has explained, repeatedly, the motivation for his protest. Here’s a quote from late August of last year, during an extensive press conference he held on the subject:

Ultimately it’s to bring awareness and make people realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot of things going on that are unjust [that] people aren’t being held accountable for, and that’s something that needs to change. This country stands for freedom, liberty, justice for all… and it’s not happening for all right now.

Does this sound like a man who hates America? Not to me. I hear a man who loves America enough, who sees the inherent promise of the American dream, and doesn’t want that dream to be continually delayed, corrupted, and shunted into bankruptcy because of racism, authoritarianism and hypocrisy.

And those who complain about that protest because they say it’s disrespectful to veterans… they’re completely missing the point, because:

A) many veterans supported the stand that Kaepernick took because they shared his concerns…  but also

B) a “slap in the face” is still better than a 9mm slug to the back.

Those who complain about Kaepernick on behalf of veterans are prioritizing hurt feelings over the actual unjust killings of black people at the hands of state-sanctioned law enforcement officers. It’s not only disrespectful, but generally illogical.

So if you’re a conservative who can’t understand how Kaepernick could love America but give it such harsh rhetorical treatment, just imagine America as a bicentennial toddler in need of a spanking.

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Today’s Racial Microaggression Courtesy of WinCo [UPDATED]

In case any of you doubt the existence of racial micro-aggressions:

I was shopping at WinCo today, and when I went to pay for the $150 or so worth of food on the checkout counter, the young lady at the counter told me that “I’m sorry, it came up declined.”

I was taken aback by this, but I didn’t want to get defensive until I checked my bank account on my phone, so I did so.

“Huh. I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of money on that card,” I said, as I pulled up my app and waited for it to load.

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In Praise of the Get Out Brotherhood

By now you’ve no doubt heard about Jordan Peele’s hit film Get Out, the satire that inverts genre tropes to show an African-American perspective on horror. It wildly exceeded its opening weekend earnings estimates, and has enjoyed a strong buzz from the cultural cognoscenti for its rich, layered portrayal of liberal racism in both interpersonal and institutional forms.

And Lord knows we need more discussions about revealing and deconstructing racism in America… [cue Stephen A. Smith voice] howeva… I just need to stop and give thanks for what was, for me, the most life-giving aspect of the film: the friendship between the protagonist Chris and his friend Rod.

(And yes, I realize how ridiculous it sounds to refer to a horror movie as “life giving,” but stay with me.)

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Get Out: Why Evangelicals Should See It

Get Out is a taut horror thriller from Jordan Peele, famous as half of Comedy Central’s sketch comedy duo Key & Peele. In Get Out, Peele makes his debut behind the camera, directing fresh-faced Daniel Kaluuya (Black Mirror, Sicario) and Allison Williams (The Mindy Project) with his original script. But rather than comparing it to horror classics, I found it instructive to compare Get Out to another story with a relationship at its center – 2015’s film adaption of the hit musical The Last Five Years, starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. They’re both masterful in the way they use characters to hone a sense of perspective.  And Lord knows, when it comes to racial issues, evangelicals could use a healthy dose of the black perspective.

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What Traffic Can Teach Christians About Racism

So one of the problems I see in our political discourse, is that we often use the same words but mean different things.

And nowhere is that problem more vexing than in our discussions about race. It’s been a problem for a long time, of course, but ever since the election of Donald Trump, there have been a fresh round of arguments springing up on cable-news pundit panels, message boards and social media feeds. And the typical argument goes something like this:

 

Progressive: [Insert recent news story] is a clear example of racism! That [incident, action, statement or idea] is racist!

Conservative: No, it isn’t! Why do you make everything about race? That had nothing to do with race. [Insert person at the center of story] is not a racist!

Progressive: You don’t know what you’re talking about! Your denial of racism is racist!

Conservative: You don’t know what you’re talking about! Your accusation of racism makes you the real racist!

Rinse and repeat.

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Engaging the Halo Prophecy

They say that those who don’t know their history are bound to repeat it.

And there’s a less well-known but corollary idea, that people who create realistic fictional content end up pulling their ideas from recent events.

But every once in a while, both ideas converge: a piece of speculative fiction, drawn from elements of real-life, ends up over time looking like a retroactive prediction of real-life events.

Remember how Back to the Future II predicted this year’s Cubs World Series win? I recently stumbled onto a similar phenomenon, with even bigger consequences.

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How to Move Forward and Fight Better Political Battles (Starting Right Now)

Last night, I posted the following status update to my Facebook account:

 

Wait, there’s been reports of racial harassment to people of color from Trump supporters? Well, we shouldn’t be surprised.

I mean, when white Republicans send candidates to the White House, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending a candidate with supporters that have lots of problems. They’re bringing crime, and they’re racists, and some of them, I assume, are good people.

 

It was my tongue-in-cheek way of trying to get conservative Republicans who feel defensive about accusations of racism to see how it feels to be targeted rhetorically, and then to remind them that guess what? Your choice for president said this, and much more.

But satire is always a risky proposition when it comes to making a point, and most of the time it ends up serving as a way to signal congratulations from people who already agree with you. Last night’s post was no exception. A bunch of my Facebook friends who knew what I meant, laughed. (One friend said she laughed so hard, she ran out of capital letters. “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahahaha,” That cracked me up.)

On the other hand, a few of them responded somberly, aghast at the ideological divide that this election has revealed. They wanted to stick up for people they know who voted for Trump who they feel are good people who agonized over a difficult choice and just made it differently than I did.

I get that.

I still think they’re wrong for choosing Trump, but I get it.

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Donald Trump’s Win Is A Blessing of Pain

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

 

For a variety of reasons, I voted for Hillary Clinton for president.

 

Like many, many others, I did not get what I wanted.

 

But I did get something valuable.

 

I received the gift of pain.

 

As gifts go, pain is not usually high on anyone’s most-wanted list. It’s the reason why, when people want to exclaim strongly about how much they dislike something, they usually offer up a painful alternative that they would rather choose. I’d rather light myself on fire. I’d rather snuggle with razor blades and bathe in lemon juice. I’d rather have a root canal.

Actually, that last one seems rather apt, because the potential for pain from a root canal stems from the exposure of nerves in our teeth. We hurt because we are getting unfiltered, unadulterated, no-holds-barred pain signals from our bodies’ specialized pain sensors. When you need a root canal, your teeth hurt to remind you that hey, something is REALLY WRONG. 

That’s right. Pain is a messenger.

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The End Is Near, Still. Yup, Still Near. Any Day Now. So … What Are We Gonna Do?

So, I grew up a music nerd.

Specifically, I grew up as a Christian music nerd, and while I know the term “Christian music” can be problematic, let the record reflect that in the beginning of this sentence, the word “Christian” is modifying “nerd,” not “music,” which means that really what I’m saying is I was a music nerd who was also a Christian.

(Lest anyone doubt my nerd credentials, I present as Exhibit A: that previous sentence.)

I listened to a lot of contemporary gospel, and to what people later in the 90s referred as “CCM” (contemporary Christian music) which means that because my parents were harbingers of diversity — or, more accurately because they were New York transplants in the Pacific Northwest and needed to retain elements of blackness in order to retain their sanity — they exposed me to the best Christian music from both white and black artists. My love for the music of Andrae Crouch is well documented, but there was plenty of Russ Taff and The Imperials, Edwin & Tramaine Hawkins, The Winans, Reba Rambo & Dony McGuire, Commissioned, Michael W. Smith, Sandy Patti, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Rev. Milton Brunson & The Thompson Community Choir… on and on.

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Philemon: The Identity Conundrum

Editor’s Note: This is the written draft of a sermon that I delivered at Kaleo Covenant Church. The alternate title I considered using was: “‘Who'” & ‘What’: When To Use Which, How & Why.” To set the mood, I walked out to one of my favorite songs, which I reference later in my introduction. Hope you enjoy it.

 

 

It’s September, a time for a new start. It’s back to school time, yes, but it’s also a time when our home lives and routines tend to engage again. Summer travel season is usually over by September. Football is on TV, it’s the start of a new financial quarter… et cetera.

September is my favorite time of year, in part because my birthday is in September, but also because I think it’s a time for optimism. I have a lot of great September memories of starting school, starting a new job, moving to a new place… I have such a history of hope that comes alive in September. Also, “September” by Earth Wind & Fire… that will always be my jam.

Part of the hope that I tend to carry when starting a new season is that it represents a new start. Especially if you’re starting up at a new school or a new job, you’re getting a chance to make a first impression all over again, which means that you’re no longer shackled to the baggage that you carried before. If, in your previous life, you were known as a jerk, or a screw-up, or a loner, or bossy, or any other persona that you would rather leave behind, September is a time when you can start anew, and become the person YOU want to be, instead of the person that others have known you to be.

Today we’re going to be looking at a Scripture passage that deals with someone who has the opportunity to create a fresh start, and to examine questions about his identity. So in a little bit, I’m going to ask you to pull out your Bibles and read along with me.
But first… it’s important to define some terms that are important when discussing identity.