I was dismayed by a recent Facebook video posting of a hockey coach giving his (high school/college age) players a locker room pep talk, by saying “If anybody is going to disrespect the flag, get the f*** out.” After another minute of his rallying cry, the video cuts to President Trump speaking about his views on respecting the flag and our nation, at which point I scrolled forward through the newsfeed praying in the Spirit.
Having been a sixth grade Social Studies teacher for five of my 17-year-career, I know first-hand that teaching patriotism and nationalism can be a sticky wicket, especially when students espoused understandings and beliefs that differed from my own.
As the hockey coach’s statement ruminated in my heart, I began to wonder about the origins of the phrase “America, love it or leave it” and the corresponding brand of divisive thinking.
This pro-war slogan of the Vietnam War era appears to have its beginnings with Walter Winchell, who supported Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1950’s when the fear of communism swept across the United States.
What purpose does such unimaginative thinking serve? Can that kind of polarized rationale really solve anything, much less the myriad of complex and serious issues currently facing the United States? What causes someone to so vehemently support such linear and dimensionless reasoning?
I can only imagine the intense and profound pain one must feel in one’s heart to hold such oppositional and unrelenting beliefs.
In light of this, how do we minister to our fellow man?
Perhaps this is what Jesus had in mind when he said,
“You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you not to stand up against someone who does you wrong. On the contrary, if someone hits you on the right cheek, let him hit you on the left cheek too! If someone wants to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well! And if a soldier forces you to carry his pack for one mile, carry it for two!” Matthew 5:38-41
Israel, under Roman domination, was faced with this exact, same oppressive mentality and Jesus called them to a supernatural, sacrificial, non-resistant Love . . . much like Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. called in their time and place.
This kind of Love empowers the giver to a greater spiritual awareness while also inviting healing (or at least planting the seed of that possibility) within the receiver.
I have only an inkling of what this would look like in today’s world.
Perhaps it looks like a football player with one hand on his heart and the other hand on the shoulder of a kneeling player during the playing of the national anthem.
Or . . .
. . . maybe it looks a hockey player courageously rising out of his seat, approaching his coach with humility, giving him a gentle bear hug, telling him thanks with genuine sincerity, and walking out of the locker room . . .
. . . while trusting in a more spacious and spiritual purpose.
Whatever it looks like, and however difficult or challenging it may be to do, it is an action filled with the fullness of Truth, Beauty and Love.