I’m old enough to remember when quarterback Tim Tebow took a lot of crap for kneeling during NFL football games. Not during the national anthem, but whenever. He was mocked for being just a little too religious on the field for people’s liking. It may or may not have had something to do with his marketability as a player: he had all that baggage. In a 2018 interview, he clarified his reasons:
A lot of people even think it was a touchdown celebration. I never did it to celebrate a touchdown. I did it from my sophomore year in high school all the way through the NFL, that before and after games I would get on a knee to thank my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, and also put things into perspective. … It was never something I did to take away from somebody else. It was just something I did with a personal relationship with my God.
And I’m old enough to remember when quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a lot of crap for kneeling during the national anthem at NFL games. He was mocked for being just a little too sanctimonious on the field for people’s liking. It may or may not have had something to do with his marketability as a player: he had all that baggage. In a 2016 post-game interview he clarified his reasons:
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.
Both men made news by kneeling.
But that was then.
Here’s what made news this past weekend:
“Jonathan Isaac chose to stand for the National Anthem without a BLM shirt.”
Less than four years after Kaepernick was pressed to explain why he hadn’t stood for the anthem, professional athletes are now making headlines by standing for the anthem.
And they’re being pressed just as hard to explain themselves.
Isaac offered his explanation Saturday.
[I don’t think] putting that shirt on and kneeling went hand-in-hand with supporting Black lives. For me Black lives are supported through the gospel. All lives are supported through the gospel. We all have things that we do wrong and sometimes it gets to a place that we’re pointing fingers at who’s wrong is worst. Or who’s wrong is seen, so I feel like the Bible tells us that we all fall short of God’s glory. That will help bring us closer together and get past skin color. And get past anything that’s on the surface and doesn’t really get into the hearts or men and women.
Isaac was mocked for being a bit too unsupportive on the court for people’s liking. His failure to kneel may or may not have had something to do with his tearing an ACL on Sunday. (Doctors haven’t made that connection, but Twitter sure has.)
What really caught my attention wasn’t that athletes had gone from getting crap for kneeling to getting crap for not kneeling in less than four years: it was the radical transformation in sports commentary.
I direct your attention to an article entitled “Jonathan Isaac is Free to Not Kneel. But as a Christian, He’s Missed the Point on Black Lives Matter.” It appears on Deadspin, a sports website whose motto is “Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise (or Oxford Commas).”
The article isn’t about Isaac’s decision not to kneel or wear a tee-shirt. It’s not about kneeling or not kneeling. It’s about whether his explanation was theologically correct.
Sportswriter Donovan Dooley concedes that Isaac had the right not to kneel, and the right not to wear the popular shirt that all the kids are wearing, and the sportswriter even claims that he himself doesn’t care about all this stuff. The sportswriter for this sports website then cites from Proverbs, Ezekiel, and Galatians to prove that Isaac was wrong, wrong, wrong not to kneel on the basis of his faith.
For real. Proverbs:
In the Bible the book of Proverbs chapter 27, verse 17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Ezekiel chapter 18, verse 19 says, “Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live.”
Galatians chapter 6, verse two says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Stop the press! That millionaire ballplayer’s Christianity is not orthodox!
Isaac’s willingness to stand or wear a Black Lives Matter T-shirt is a minute detail in this situation, it’s his answer as to why he chose to act the way he did is what can’t be overlooked. Even though Isaac says he believes Black lives matter, his answer to the questions posed to him yesterday were tone-deaf and counterproductive to removing these evil and sinful systems of oppression that exist in our society.
As Christians, accountability is one of the main principles we should be preaching. And we can’t do that if we are refusing to address issues like systemic oppression head-on.
This isn’t a time to hide behind “other sins” or the fact that “we all fall short” we already know that. This is the time to cure the ills this country has created through its own sin.
Remember: those are the concluding paragraphs of a sportswriter’s sports article on a sports website.
Let’s leave theology out of this for a minute, if that’s okay. Not because I don’t enjoy theological debate as much as the next guy, but because I’m not here to parse the tenets of Christian orthodoxy—I’m just not sportswriter enough to want to get into that.
Let’s talk about language for a minute.
Dooley writes about Isaac’s “willingness to stand.” The assumption behind that is that standing for the anthem now requires an act of will. But as NFL quarterbacks Tebow and Kaepernick will be the first to acknowledge, that’s backwards: standing for the anthem is the traditional behavior. It’s kneeling that’s the exception. Would you ask someone why they were setting off fireworks on the Fourth of July, or roasting a turkey on Thanksgiving, or hauling a tree into their living room in December? These are just the things the majority of Americans do. That doesn’t mean theyr’e right, or necessary, or important: only that they’re the national default settings.
Dooley’s implication is that kneeling is the default setting, and that in having chosen to stand for theologically unsound reasons, Isaac has made himself a heretic.
So Sportswriter Dooley and all the other upstart nonconformist rebels speaking truth to power are all worked up because the stupid sheep Isaac isn’t kneeling like all the other nonconformist rebels.
(Although I must remind you that the sportswriter Dooley wants you to know that’s okay, that’s not a problem, he graciously concedes that Isaac has the right not to kneel—to sportswriter Dooley, the only problem is that Isaac’s Christianity is wrong. Because the sportswriter Dooley can prove that Christianity tells us we must kneel for the anthem and wear BLM tee-shirts.)
So here we are.
In describing a period of extreme religious controversy in Constantinople, Edward Gibbon quotes an intelligent contemporary as having observed that “this city is full of mechanics and slaves, who are all of them profound theologians, and preach in the shops and in the streets. If you desire a man to change a piece of silver, he informs you wherein the Son differs from the Father; if you ask the price of a loaf, you are told, by way of reply, that the Son is inferior to the Father; and if you inquire whether the bath is ready, the answer is, that the Son was made out of nothing.”
And if you browse a sports website, you are informed by the sportswriter that Galatians tells us an athlete should kneel for the national anthem and wear a Black Lives Matter tee-shirt.
Like the sportswriter Dooley, I don’t really care whether players stand, sit, kneel, crouch, squat, or do cartwheels during the national anthem. I don’t dispute their right to do whatever they like, for whatever reason they choose. I don’t even care whether their religious reasons are orthodox, reformed, or heretical.
I just prefer to take my sports, and all my entertainment, the way I take my coffee: without sanctimony. And I prefer to take my sportswriters the other way I take my coffee: without a heaping tablespoon of scripture.
I don’t think I’m at all alone in these sentiments. Maybe all the kneeling on basketball courts, baseball diamonds, and gridirons will solve whatever the kneelers think needs solving. Maybe it won’t.
But it’s not doing much for basketball, baseball, or football—or sportswriting.
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering what the hell any of this has to do with Denmark. De er skøre, de amerikanere, you may be thinking, men det vidste vi jo allerede.
But I tell you: this is where it leads. This is the logical destination of the “woke” left. They have seen the light, theirs is the kingdom, and we peasants will bloody well kneel when they want us to kneel…. or we will face the judgment of the Grand Inquisitor.
This Inquisition does not come in magisterial black robes; it comes in the form of a mob on the street, a rally in the square, a Twitter swarm, a public doxxing, a mandatory sensitivity training struggle session—or a good old fashioned public theological whipping by some fire and brimstone Sportswriter.
The Inquisition is well underway in America.
Let’s keep it out of Denmark.