Aug 282016 1 Response

Confusing Wrong Opinions for Evil Hearts

We’ve got a problem. We’ve lost all ability to differentiate between differing opinions and dangerous opponents. Gone are the days where we enjoy meaningful friendships with those who deeply disagree with us. Here are the days where anyone who has a different perspective or experience from us is defined as evil. It’s a tragic inability.

Kaepernick and the National Anthem

The latest example is an NFL quarterback. During a preseason NFL game, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick intentionally sat during the playing of the national anthem. When interviewed, Kaepernick said he felt as though he had an obligation to stand up for the African-American community and its treatment by power structures in America.

Kaepernick was wrong (in my opinion). He was wrong in two ways:

  1. The national anthem is not the time to make a point. Give an interview. Write a book. Debate someone who believes differently. But don’t take the moment where we honor those who have fought for the flag and remember the many blessings of this country (like being able to play football for a living) and use that to make a political point.
  2. Kaepernick’s comments are limited and don’t match the full reality of the situation. His comments about police officers are wrong. They might be true about some law enforcement officers, but they were not the proper comments to be made as a blanket statement for everyone.

Kaepernick was wrong, but that doesn’t mean he is evil. It means he has opinions that I don’t agree with; it doesn’t mean I am better than him. It means he expresses his opinions in a way I don’t approve of; it doesn’t mean he is less worthy as a human being. (See: The Facebook Cycle of Hate)

(Update: After this article was originally written, a military veteran contacted Colin Kaepernick and asked him to choose a more respectful way to protest. The veteran suggested kneeling instead of sitting. Kneeling is considered a position of respect, submission, and prayer. Never has kneeling been seen as disrespectful. Kaepernick agreed to change his method because he wanted to make his point without disrespecting the flag, military, or others.)

Can He Just Be Wrong?

The scariest thing about the Kaepernick’s protest was not the protest itself, but the responses by many people–the racist terms, the desire by some to make rules where players have to stand during the national anthem, the call from others to kick the quarterback out of the country.

  • Why can’t he just be wrong?
  • Why can’t we just disagree?
  • Why can’t we say he has a perspective that is different than us?
  • Why can’t we try to understand his point?
  • Why does he have to be evil?
  • Why does his character have to be trashed?
  • Why do we have to pick apart everything about his life?

I think he’s wrong, but I also think he has had different experiences than me. I think he has a perspective and insight which I can learn from. It doesn’t mean I will agree with him. It doesn’t mean he would change my mind. It does mean it wouldn’t hurt for me to do a little work to look past the actions I disagree with and to listen to his story. (See: Refuge the Rage)

For some reason, we have lost our ability to disagree but still like people. To differ but still respect others. To have contrasting views but still learn from one another.

Hate First, Ask Questions Later

Instead, we hate. And we don’t just hate. We love to hate. We jump to hate as quickly as we can. We look for every possible difference we might have with another person and we fixate on those differences.

It’s a sad state of society, but it is a complete condemnation for Christians. It’s one thing for culture to have walked this path, but it’s an all out embarrassment that we as the Church have followed (if not led) culture down the path of hate.

I know very little about Colin Kaepernick. He played for a college team I never watched. He plays for a pro team I’m not interested in. I know he almost won a Super Bowl but has since struggled to keep his job. But one thing I do know, in the past he has spoken a very strong Christian message and he has an amazing story.

I disagree with the approach he has taken on this issue, but I also don’t have to walk in his shoes. I haven’t had his experiences. But more importantly, I see him beyond just this one issue. We can disagree here and agree in a thousand other areas. Why do I have to hate him? How does that help me, him, or any aspect of the situation? (See: Why Can’t We See In Ourselves What We See In Others)

Disagree But Love

Why can’t people simply say they disagree? The answer: because it’s easier to hate. It’s easier to excuse him as unAmerican, unChristian, and unhuman than to actually listen to his words, discern his actions, determine what we agree or disagree with, and then live in the nuance of disagreeing on one issue while still appreciating a person for other issues. Instead of doing the work, we take the easy road of hate.

And how far have we traveled down this road? So far that I hesitate to write this article because some will jump on me for giving him any sense of fairness. They will accuse me of supporting him (despite me writing that he is wrong multiple times) and they will verbally accuse me of not loving Jesus, apple pie, or the American dream.

Surely there is a better way.

  • What if we disagreed more, but hated less?
  • What if we listened to one another despite differences?
  • What if we formed opinions slower and opened our minds faster?
  • What if we sought unity before seeking division?

This is the better way.

Photo courtesy Kate.

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