I don’t watch much professional basketball but I do watch the trending topics on social media and it was impossible not to notice young Jonathan Isaac being questioned about his decision not to kneel or don Black Lives Matter gear at his game the other night. It was also impossible not to notice that when questioned he took the opportunity to extol the virtues and value of a commitment to something larger than a single issue in a single moment in time.
I actually find it quite sad that a person who plays a game for a living is also expected to defend political or cultural views in a forum where they should simply be answering questions about the game. It is a tragic sign of how we have managed to politicize every aspect of life, and it is no wonder so many people are so angry with each other all the time. When the political becomes personal it erases the importance of character. We are witnessing this in so many aspects right now. Too many people feel free to hate others simply because of one statement, one vote, or action. We are judging entire lives based on momentary interactions and it has become a scourge.
What was most impressive about Isaac’s statement (outside of his striking humility) is that he took the political and made it about grace. More of that, please! The Orlando Magic player explained his point of view without resulting to inflammatory language or even judgment of those who disagree. He pointed out that we are all tempted to point out some evils as the “worst” evils but we are subject to sin, and the only cure for sin is Christ. A bold statement even outside of the current political atmosphere.
-My life has been supported by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that everyone is made in the image of God.
-We dislike people that we shouldn’t hate in this life and sometimes we get to the point where we point fingers about which evil is worse.
-I think if you look around racism isn’t the only thing that inflicts our society
-The answer to [everything that plagues our society] is the Gospel.
Isaac isn’t alone. There are many Black people – and people of other races as well – who feel hesitant about bending the knee before anything other than the throne of God. In the Judeo-Christian realm in particular, our traditions and texts are filled with stories of ordinary men and women who were presented with the choice of worshipping foreign idols to maintain their positions, comforts or lives. In every instance, that “choice” involved kneeling before something other than God. Kneeling has a particularly symbolic meaning to Jews and Christians. We have been raised in the faith to literally abhor bending to idolatry and symbols. It’s practically innate. It isn’t at all odd to imagine that many of us, despite our support for certain political movements or activities, simply can’t get behind the imagery of kneeling.
Between the lines of Isaac’s statement is the sentiment that not only does it feel wrong to ignore the part the grace of God must play in any healing on any issue, the aspect of kneeling has begun to feel like we have made an idol of race. That is a dangerous place to be. Idols can be (and will be, eventually) toppled. God’s firm foundation is the only thing that will never pass away. We put ourselves in grave danger when we try to replace that foundation with the shifting sands of political thought.
What should be a natural association – God loves every life AND Black lives are important lives – has become torn by the claws of bitterness. This is how we know BLM (the organization, not the sentiment…listen to my JLTY podcast for more on that distinction) is riddled with Marxism. One of the key components of Marxism is the destruction of religion. Faith in a higher being replaces the authority of the state/movement. Anyone beholden to a higher authority cannot be shamed or controlled. This isn’t an opinion. Every single communist society on earth has outlawed religious freedom. The “religion” that is allowed to survive is tightly controlled and monitored by the state to the point where it barely reflects the original faith. Every good communist leader knows that their biggest competition isn’t capitalism, it is God.
This isn’t to say that those who choose to kneel during the anthem are faithless or Godless. There is a lot that goes into that decision, particularly if you are Black. Isaac said as much. I appreciated that he said he thought a lot about the issues and consequences before he made his choice. It just makes me sad that he had to make that choice in the first place, and then had to answer for it. Athletes are not politicians or pastors or leaders. They play a sport for money and provide a service for entertainment.
It is heartbreaking that we’ve reached this point. No athlete should be forced to decide between Black Lives Matter and God. The Gospel encompasses all of us in the concept of belonging and acceptance. It need not be separated out from any other sentiments. The choice to kneel in protest or not is a personal one, but it should have nothing to do with who you consider valuable and how you view justice. It is abhorrent that the media and the culture thinks young men like Isaac should have to choose between a political statement and his God.
Just let the kids play.