I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb~ Revelation 7:9 NIV
This post began as an ugly rant detailing my personal loathing of purely symbolic forms of protest. Most of my anger was targeted at what I see as a stupid, futile and divisive effort to bring attention to the real problem of racism in America. After some thought I concluded that the subjects of racism and protests against racism are worthy of a slightly more nuanced approach than an angry rant.
I will begin by saying that if there was ever something worthy of a protest its racism. Hating or discriminating against anyone because of their skin color is ridiculous, prideful, and totally anti-Christian at its core. Racism is not something that should be tolerated in Christian circles (more on that later) or in a civilized society.
That being said.
Some have compared the protests of the 1960’s to football players kneeling during the national anthem. There really is no comparison between the heroism of the Civil Rights Movement and the kneeling during the national anthem idiocy we see today.
With a few notable exceptions (all of them white) the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were severely marginalized people who lacked power, money, influence and options. There were literally no other alternatives open to them other than peaceful protest to draw attention to their plight. It’s also important to note that those protesters were not attempting to vilify their country or the people in it. They were simply striving to bring much-needed attention to a very real problem plaguing our nation.
Furthermore, the Civil Rights Movement had an endgame in mind (an end to Jim Crow laws and the disenfranchisement of black voters). The leaders of the movement used protests in conjunction with legal action as they worked at a grassroots level to transform attitudes regarding race. The efforts of those brave men and women paid off. Hearts, minds and laws were changed. As a result America became a better country, not a perfect country by any means, but certainly a better one.
The football players protesting today are not marginalized poor people living out their lives on the fringes of society. They are some of the wealthiest and most advantaged people in all the world. If they wished to do something meaningful to solve the plethora of problems troubling the black community they certainly have the power, influence and financial resources to do almost anything they wanted to do.
However, these athletes are not interested in doing the work it takes to become change agents. They simply want to bellyache about things they don’t like in the most public, contentious and annoying way imaginable. To add insult to injury, they malign the nation and the people who have made them wealthy beyond reason for playing what is arguably just a dumb game.
I do not begrudge anyone the right to express him or herself in any way they see fit. If overindulged football players want to kneel rather than stand during the anthem that is totally cool with me. That said, I will not be purchasing any overpriced football fan crap for my family.
But, I digress.
My biggest issue with these types of protests is that they are purely symbolic. No words exist for how much I despise pointless symbolism. The Civil Rights protests were not empty acts of symbolism. Protesters sought to bring attention to racial injustice by acting in ways that impacted the cities where the protests took place in peaceable, but consequential ways. Kneeling during the anthem is the equivalent of telling a homeless person to “go, be warm and well fed” (James 2:16). Symbolic fits of melodrama do nothing to solve real problems and ultimately just spread dissension and pit Americans against each other (Proverbs 16:28).
It’s just wrong.
God does not see skin color the way we see skin color. When God sees the variations in our skin tone He sees the beloved creation that He declared to be “very good” (Genesis 1:27-31). It’s our responsibility as Jesus followers to help our foolish and sin-sick world see the issues of our day the way God sees those issues. We do that by living our lives in a colorblind fashion and by pointing people back to the God who loves everyone and hates biases based on superficial and irrelevant things like skin color (James 2:1, 8-9).
And by shunning purely symbolic, stupid forms of protest.