Kneeling for the Anthem

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Watching the NFL players protesting while the national anthem plays makes me wonder where these protesters live. First, if I understand them, they protest against violent police and a justice system that appears to be aimed at people of color based upon statistical facts. Yes our kids get arrested, land in jail, live on probation and have little opportunity for changing the world that is stacked against them. Our kids live isolated from the America I grew up in, with all the opportunity for work and education. They do not know people who went to college, the professionals they know like teachers and lawyers are more likely to seem like enemies who do not understand them, than a mentor to follow. Their world surrounds them with sounds of partying, playing with sex, drugs, and anger. Our kids swear and easily move towards anger both verbally and physically, and have little respect for authority. You will never hear the response “yes sir” come from them, but rather an angry stare fires from their eyes and mouth in response to any command. Their music and digital games display raw anger and violence with extreme hatred.

I would not want to be a police officer in my community. It’s hard enough to be a pastor. One night years ago I watched police remain cool asking my partying young neighbors to turn down their extremely loud music at one in the morning. The kids did not get up, did not respond with any level of respect, but remained obstinate and mouthy. I could not have done what they did. I can not imagine what it would be like to face angry youth in a real criminal situation!

All this said I wanted to set the context of what people protest. The problem resides in our communities and the justice system only reflects the image of a much broader set of problems. We want to answer the problems by pointing to one element and place blame. We want to stand far removed watching our televisions to get the “story” (often slanted – and a bullet point of fact). The facts that remain untold have as much to do with the abandonment of poor communities by people of means. Even people in our community move out as soon as they possess the means. We want to give money, volunteer once a year, or take some marginal step rather than immerse ourselves in the problem. But until people immerse themselves in the problem they will never understand it and they will never be able to solve it. This explains why our government’s solutions fall far short to any real lasting change.

So protesters, WHERE DO YOU LIVE? To protest from the cheep seats of distant suburbs and gated communities just does not have the same feel as if it were done by those living in the community doing what they can to see and make change. I get a little incensed watching a multimillionaire protest the problems in my community, since the distance they live from the community serve to create and perpetuate the problems of my community.

By the way I have lived in my community by the will of God for thirty years. I see the problems. I understand that only a change of heart, mind, and soul will change the situation in which our kids live. Such change is needed in the poor community and the wealthy community – then God’s grace will move us to bring equity, and like in Acts 4 end poverty. The only way for this to happen would be a miraculous out pouring of the Holy Spirit that comes from faith in Jesus Christ. While I believe this is possible, for with God all things are possible, I also believe that we will only see full equity in the Kingdom of Heaven. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.

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About the Author:

Dr. Brown the pastor of Military Ave. Church in one of America’s poorest neighborhoods since 1989 where he serves with his wife Barb. He holds D.min and M.div from Gordon-Conwell. He authored Justice Matters a book addressing compassion ministries among the poor. His children now grown still worship and serve at Military Ave. Church.

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