The Christ Center at Transfiguration ELCA
The Christ Center Harlem

I Pledge Allegiance?

The NFL Players are kneeling to bring attention to the notion that the USA still has some work to do for  equality and justice of black and brown bodies. People are really upset about it! Should we pick a side on which to stand?

Pastor Kevin contributed this post last year to the Progressive Youth Ministry blog.

One summer years ago, my aunt and uncle gave my cousins, sister, and me the option of either camping on the beach, or going to the mountains. We chose the mountains and drove up to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. I’d say we kids ranged in age from 10 to 13 years.

The seven of us made the drive up to Tennessee, and it didn’t disappoint! From the lovely scenery, to the arcades, food, and putt putt, it was wonderful! We hadn’t been to the mountains before, and this was a great first impression.

My uncle had rented a house for us to stay in that had all of the amenities, including a neighborhood pool. We spent a lot of time swimming and playing around.

When it was time for bed on the third (and last) night of our stay, we settled down. During the night, there was some loud banging on the front door. We, the kids, were all lying in the front room, closest to the door, frozen in fear. Who in the world was that? Eventually, the knocking (or banging, rather) stopped. When we got up in the morning to leave, there was a pile of human waste on the front stoop. It was clear that somebody didn’t want us there. My uncle, who had slept through the ordeal, said, “Why didn’t you wake me?”

Impression ruined. Forever.

A few weeks have gone by since Colin Kaepernick started his protest of the American flag during the playing of the National Anthem, and the crowd has literally gone wild. Almost everybody has an opinion, right?

Some of us say, “How dare he disrespect veterans by sitting (or most recently, kneeling)! So many folks died for the freedoms he has come to enjoy. Plus, he’s rich! Did not the flag help to get him where he is today?”

But I would submit that there has been a lot of sketchy stuff that has gone on underneath the banner of that Ragged Old Flag: subjugation, thirst for power, and domination have all been observed under it. And if we are going to be a called people who proclaim the Gospel of Christ, who lift up the downtrodden, we’d do well to start by opening our hearts and ears to the least of these.

Are the hurting voices of the downtrodden creating division, or shining light on issues that need to be exposed? Should we continue to pledge allegiance to pain? To heartache? To being considered second-class? When I think about all of the folks that say, “Well, that protest is making me uncomfortable,” I consider how uncomfortable and afraid I’ve been my whole life as a Black man in America.



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