Do You Expect Me to Believe that Mike Pence Did Not Know the 49ers Would Kneel?

mike-pence-national-anthem-ap-jt-171008_4x3_992 (1)

Apparently the President of the United States and the Vice-President of the United States plotted to pull a political stunt at yesterday’s Colts-49ers game.

 

So let’s get this straight:

  1. These two guys are spending their time discussing how to use the NFL player protests on racial inequality for their own political advantage.  This is grandstanding at its worst.
  2. Does Pence really believe that these NFL protests are about the American flag or the national anthem?
  3. Pence knows how to take orders.  He is the court evangelical of all court evangelicals.  I would love to know if the United States or Donald Trump has ever done something that would force him to choose his identity as a Christian over his patriotism.
  4. Pence made all the Indianapolis Colts fans come early to the stadium and go through extra security when he knew darn well that he would be leaving before the start of the game.
  5. It is likely that Pence spent well over $200,000 in taxpayer money to pull off this stunt.
  6. Please, please, please don’t tell me that Trump and Pence “want to bring this country together” when they pull stunts like this.
  7. Hard-core Trump supporters who practice the religion of patriotism will love this stunt.  Even worse, I know evangelical Christians who claim to worship a God who transcends national identities who will cheer this stunt.  When these people see the image I have posted above their chests will swell and their hearts will beat faster.  Patriotism is not wrong, but the kind political anger they feel–the same kind of anger expressed during their “lock her up” chants at Trump rallies–is sinful.

Here is Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star:

INDIANAPOLIS – North Korea and its nukes can wait. The White House has declared war on the NFL. And on the First Amendment.

Two weeks after President Trump decreed that NFL players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired, Vice President Mike Pence walked out of Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday after about 20 members of the San Francisco 49ers knelt during the anthem. The 49ers were in town to play the Indianapolis Colts.

Pence was in town to upstage Peyton Manning.

What, you think he didn’t know the 49ers would kneel on Sunday? Pence knew. The 49ers are the one franchise, the only franchise, that have had at least one player kneel before every game since Colin Kaepernick was the first to do it in the 2016 preseason. Kaepernick played for the 49ers, of course. Last week, following Trump’s unpatriotic assertion that he would fire someone for exercising their First Amendment rights, more than half the San Francisco roster knelt.

Pence knew.

Hell, the media members that follow Pence were told before the game not to bother leaving their vans and enter Lucas Oil Stadium, according to a tweet from NBC News Vaughn Hillyard. They wouldn’t be there long, because Pence wouldn’t be there long. Trump, as Trump is wont to do, took credit in a tweet for Pence’s walkout by saying he’d asked Pence to leave if anyone knelt.

This was planned.

Read the rest of the piece here.

Christian College Won’t Compete Against Teams Who “Disrespect” the Flag

OzarksAccording to The Chronicle of Higher Education, The College of Ozarks, a small Christian college in Missouri, will boycott athletic contests if they detect that their opponents disrespect the American Flag or the National Anthem.

This seems odd to me.  Why would a Christian college make such a definitive defense of the American flag?  I could understand if a Christian college made a rule stating that their own players must stand during the National Anthem, but why make players from other teams do so?

Here is a taste of the piece:

The college said it had changed its contracts for athletics competition, adding a rule that all players and coaches involved show respect for the American flag and the National Anthem. “It’s a shame sporting events are being used to communicate disrespect for this great country,” the college’s president, Jerry C. Davis, said in the news release. “It’s time for colleges and universities to be positive role models. We need more emphasis on character and unity and less emphasis on political correctness.”

Read the entire article here.

 

 

Are the NFL Protests Religious?

Kap

In the movie “Concussion,” Dr. Bennett Omalu, the medical researcher who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopahty (CTE) in the brains of deceased NFL players, is told that he is going to war with a corporation that “owns a day of the week, the same day the church used to own.”  Here is the scene

I thought about this scene as I read Tara Isabella Burton’s piece at Vox titled “Football really is America’s religion. That’s what made the NFL protests so powerful.

She writes:

But, for better or for worse, football — like many American sports — has always been, if not political, then at least politicized. The popularity of American sport culture is deeply rooted in the history of a particular kind of American “muscular Christianity,” a conflation of nationalism, nostalgia, piety, and performative masculinity. From the football stadium to the basketball court, American sports have been as much about defining a particular kind of male and typically Christian identity as they have been about the game itself.

For participants and spectators alike, sport culture is quite religion-like. As professor and theologian Randall Balmer put it in an article for Sojourners, “the sports stadium has replaced the church sanctuary as the dominant arena of piety at the turn of the 21st century, especially for American men.” And that makes the decision of athletes to protest during the “sacred” time of the game, rather than off the field, all the more powerful.

To better understand how American sports culture developed, we should turn to Victorian England, where “muscular Christianity” originated as backlash to the culture of the time. The rise of the middle class and the development of industrialization meant that your average Victorian gentleman wasn’t exactly physically active. And Victorian religion tended to focus on women and female piety. Women were generally seen as the “angels in the house” who would domesticate their men — and make them better Christians.

Read the entire piece here.

This brings a whole new perspective on “taking a knee.”

A Member of Ben Sasse’s Dissertation Committee Offers Him Some Advice

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse has a Ph.D in American history from Yale.  Here is an exchange between Sasse and Yale historian Glenda Gilmore.  She served on Sasse’s dissertation committee along with Jon Butler and Harry Stout.

What Was Being Worshiped Yesterday at First Baptist Church in Dallas?

Jeffress 1

Yesterday was “Freedom Sunday” at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.  The pastor of First Baptist is Robert Jeffress.  He is a Trump supporter, Christian nationalist, and prominent court evangelical. As the pictures attached to this tweet indicate, it was a day of patriotic celebration in the church sanctuary.

People waved American flags during the service.

The last time I checked, the waving of the American flag was a sign of support or loyalty to the nation.  Jeffress had no problem allowing such an act to take place in a church sanctuary–the place where Christians worship God as a form of expressing their ultimate loyalty.  Patriotism is fine. Flag-waving is fine.  But I wonder if any of the congregation felt uncomfortable that all of this took place in the church sanctuary on a Sunday morning.

Jeffress 2

There were fireworks.  Yes, fireworks.  Somehow the pyrotech crew at First Baptist figured out a way to pull this off without burning the place down.  I assume that these fireworks did not represent the pillars of fire that led the Israelites through the wilderness in the Old Testament. (Although it wouldn’t surprise me if someone during the service connected these patriotic fireworks to God’s leading of his new “chosen people”–the United States–through the desert of extreme religious persecution). I also don’t think the fireworks were meant to represent the “tongues of fire” present on the day of Pentecost as recorded in the book of Acts, chapter 2.  (Also, from what I am able to tell from the church website, First Baptist did not celebrate Pentecost Sunday on June 4, 2017).

It also looks like the congregation of First Baptist sung the Woody Guthrie classic “This Land is Your Land.”  I am guessing they did not sing all of the original verses.

How can this not be a form of idolatry?

NOTE:  Thanks for finding your way to The Way of Improvement Leads Home. Learn more about us here.

The American Flag, the Nazis, and the Socialist Origins of the Pledge of Allegiance

bellamy_salute_1050x700

Check out Jordan Teicher’s great short piece at JSTOR Daily about the so-called “Bellamy Salute.”  (Pictured above in 1915).

Seventy-four years ago today, lawmakers passed an amendment to the U.S. Flag Code, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt had approved just a few months earlier, instructing Americans reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to do so while “standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.”

This may have been the earliest federal rule addressing what civilians should do to accompany the recitation of the Pledge, but it was by no means the first time someone had thought about it. That distinction goes to Francis Bellamy, a Christian socialist minister who, in 1892, was working at Youth’s Companion magazine. He came up with a physical component to the Pledge because, in fact, he was the guy who wrote it.

Keep reading.

Grace Wisher and the Star Spangled Banner

The good folks at the National Museum of American History have published a post telling the story of Grace Wisher, the 13-year-old African American servant who helped Mary Pickersgill design the Star Spangled Banner which flew over Fort McHenry and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem of the United States of America.  Here is a taste of Wisher’s story as told by Helen Yuen and Asantewa Boakyewa of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore:

The size of the Star-Spangled Banner and its six-week timeline for completion would have necessitated many people working on the flag, including Mary Pickersgill’s three nieces and Grace Wisher. The household also had an enslaved person, whose name we do not know.
The home where Pickersgill and Wisher lived is now a museum called the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House. It holds a 1962 painting by famed Baltimore artist Robert McGill Mackall. The portrait features the Pickersgill household and the three men who commissioned the garrison and storm flags for Fort McHenry: Commodore Joshua Barney, General John Stricker, and Colonel George Armistead. As a tribute to Wisher, the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House drew in a ghost figure into the painting that represents the young girl. Due to our uncertainty of what she looked like, the placeholder is a traced line, but the recognition is tangible.
A major show inspired by Wisher is now on view at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore, Maryland. The exhibition For Whom It Stands: The Flag and the American People chronicles the flag through our nation’s history and culture. Coming full circle, the museum and exhibition are on the same city block where Wisher once lived and sewed the flag. Although none of Wisher’s personal effects are on display there and may have been lost to history, her untold story is a major theme of the show.

Why Doesn’t the U.S. Olympic Team Lower the Flag?

I am sure Amy Bass knew this, but I did not.  During the opening ceremonies, the United States is the only country whose Olympic team does not dip its flag when passing the box containing the leaders of the host nation.  The tradition–a clear manifestation of American exceptionalism–goes back to 1908.

David Wharton explains it all at the LA Times.  Here is a taste:

Most Olympic teams briefly lower their colors as a sign of respect when they march past the box where the host nation’s leaders are seated. The U.S. does not.

When the Americans pick a flag bearer for the 2012 London Olympics this week, he or she almost certainly will be advised to uphold a tradition that dates back more than a century.

According to popular legend, shotputter Ralph Rose set the tone at the 1908 Summer Games — also held in London — when he supposedly proclaimed: “This flag dips for no earthly king.”

To the rest of the world, it seemed like blatant nationalism. The truth of the matter, and the history of America’s refusal to dip, is far more complicated than that.

I wonder if this non-dipping practice will have any deeper resonance this year.  After all, the Olympics are in England!  You know–1776 and all that.