Christian Humanism

Christian Humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, rational inquiry and a commitment to the values taught by Jesus as a guide to the ethical life are not only compatible with Christianity, they are fundamental to a proper understanding and interpretation of Christian belief. Being a Christian means at the least feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, healing the sick, supporting the poor, comforting the lonely, seeking peace and standing with the powerless against the mighty.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Protesting The National Anthem

I was surprised at the furor created by Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, when he exercised his right to protest the singing of the National Anthem at a pre-season game.  Before commenting on the issue (I am generally supportive of Kaepernick’s protest) I need to say that I have not been a fan of Kaepernick’s and admit to some prejudice against him because I was put off by his arrogance about his status as a high profile college quarterback as well as his excessive body tattoos that seemed out of place on a college quarterback.  So when Kaepernick first protested by sitting during the playing of the National Anthem, my first instinct was to dismiss him as just another high profile sports figure having a public tantrum about something.

Two events transpired that caused me to rethink the seriousness of Kaepernick’s protest.  First, I heard him speak to the press about the reason he refused to stand for the National Anthem and the lengths to which he was willing to go to continue his right of protest.  Earlier this week I had attended a luncheon and was seated next to the institution’s chaplain who just before he said the traditional prayer of blessing of the food invited the guests to stand and say the “Pledge of Allegiance” because, as he put it, given the event of the past week in which the National Anthem was the subject of disrespect (most everyone understood what he referred to), it was our duty as Americans to stand in support of our flag.  At that moment I wanted to protest his statement by refusing to stand, but I went along with it (although I did not recite the Pledge) because it was neither the time nor the place to make a statement when I would have no opportunity to explain my reason for the silent protest.

Second, I was shocked and dismayed to learn some things relevant to the history of the National Anthem that I had not known until I read an article by Jon Schwarz[1]   in which he discusses in some detail some facts about the War of 1812, the role of the British in supporting the rights of Free Blacks and encouraging both slave and free to join the forces fighting against the Americans (who had started the conflict by trying to seize Canada from the British), and Francis Scott Key’s celebration of the deserved deaths of the Free Blacks supporting the British (as clearly stated in the third stanza[2] of the National Anthem, a stanza we don’t hear sung).  

Francis Scott Key, as I learned in that same article, is not a man deserving of a positive memory in the history of our nation—he was a slave owner and an advocate of treating Blacks as “property” to be owned and sold and with respect to the British, insisting that Blacks who were freed by the British were still “property” and must be returned to their rightful legal owners. 

All that aside we get back to the issue: the right and duty of citizens in our democracy to publicly protest the acts of our government when those actions raise questions of morality or violation of the rights of our citizens, a right that is constitutionally protected.  We should celebrate the exercise of that right even if we do not always agree with the issue being raised by the protestor because supporting their right is also supporting our right when we have an issue that needs to be raised.   

While there are many voices clamoring that he be kicked out of football or worse, we have also seen other brave voices reminding us all that Colin Kaepernick’s protest is not only legitimate and commendable, but that by supporting his right to protest we are protecting our own civil rights in a democratic society.





[1] “Colin Kaepernick Is Righter Than You Know: The National Anthem Is a Celebration of Slavery,” The Intercept, August 28, 2016.

[2] No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.