Colin Kaepernick had a long week.
The professional football player refused to stand during the playing of the National Anthem, last week. Thursday night he compromised, and “took a knee.”
Responses have varied.
Kaepernick explained his reason after the game:
“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.”
I don’t pledge allegiance to the flag.
I stand for the national anthem, but I don’t put my hand over my heart. (And frankly, it’s never entered my mind not to stand. I may disagree with a governor or president and would never vote for them, but I’d still stand out of respect for the office. If I were a visitor to Canada or England, I’d stand when their anthems were played, with the same level of respect and the same lack of engagement.)
I don’t cross my arms, because I don’t want it to look like I might be placing my hand over my heart.
I usually hold my hands together in front of me, sometimes I just keep them in my pockets.
Flags, anthems, nationalism, nations. These mean nothing to me. Absolutely nothing.
I follow Jesus. So, “my kingdom is not of this world.”
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Matt. 5:33-37
(Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that Jesus is directly contradicting scripture here, as he does in other places — the hint is the ‘you have heard,’ ‘but I tell you,’ structure. That’s Jesus directly challenging and changing the contemporary understanding of scripture. But I digress.)
Jesus is saying don’t swear an oath. An oath is a vow, a promise, a pledge. Or as the dictionary uses as an example: “they took an oath of allegiance to the king.”
I grew up in a military household. I saw my dad, in uniform, salute the flag at the bow of the boat as he boarded. That’s on him, in support of the oath he took.
My vow, my oath, my promise, my pledge, my allegiance isn’t to a nation, a flag, or a poorly written song adapted as a national anthem less than 100 years ago.
I pledge my allegiance is to an itinerant teacher who had no place to lay his head. My oath is to one who rejected the political and religious leaders, who ignored the rulers of the land where he lived, and who instead brought a new way of living and being. I do my best to follow his Way. That’s where I pledge my allegiance.