As the Christian approaches the NFL/National Anthem Controversy, the first thing we have to understand is leftism is the greatest political threat to the church today by a mile. State-worshipping nationalism is indeed a problem, especially within the church, but it is dwarfed by cultural marxism. FoxNews watching Baby Boomers are responsible for a host of our present miseries, but they aren’t going to put my family in a gulag. The people who claim my very existence as a white person is oppressive and racist seem more than wiling to. These are the people who are driven to riot when someone as tame as Ben Shapiro, a quick-witted dispenser of fairly mundane GOP talking points, arrives to speak on their universities. These are the people who will ruin the lives of bakers, florists, photographers, etc. who will not use their skills to celebrate sodomy. These are the people who demand that anyone even tangentially connected with slavery must be erased from all historical memory.
Every major corporation kowtows to these people. Including and especially sports leagues like the NFL. Do not forget that when Texas and North Carolina put forth bills to protect freedom of conscience of Christian business owners, the NFL threatened both states to pull their business. The NFL also notoriously promoted Michael Sam, the Mizzou defensive end with underwhelming football talent (as evidenced by his quick departure from the league), but unbelievable value as a propaganda tool. They are quick to banish players who are merely accused of domestic violence or sexual assault, doing away with all semblance of due process in a move that is clearly made to placate radical feminists who wish all accusations of violence against women were similarly punishable by testimony of a single witness.
Like most cultural institutions in America, universities, entertainment conglomerates like Disney (the owner of entertainment products like Lucasfilm and ESPN), news media, tech corporations like Google and Apple, the NFL is moderately left wing. They have their finger on where the zeitgeist is and have set their course just a wee bit left of that. They are not radically leftwing, for if they were, Colin Kaepernick, the Fidel-Castro-loving, pig-sock-wearing, former 49ers quarterback, who is not without enough talent to at least justify a roster spot, would still be employed. They are clearly terrified to have their organization connected to whatever the worst inanities Slate, HuffPo, Vice, and Salon can inspire that will come out of his mouth at a press conference. The NFL is clearly willing to sip some diet woke, but if they let Kaepernick come back, a fatal overdose of wokeness will get injected straight into their veins.
Cultural institutions like these are who sets the terms of what is up for public debate. They are the ones who determine the Overton Window. As we have seen with President Trump, their hegemony over this is threatened, even if only by the man’s Twitter account. Perhaps the man is a petty, narcissistic dullard, who simply stumbles ego-driven squabbles. Perhaps he is a master persuader, playing three-dimensional chess while everyone else is playing checkers. Somewhere in between is probably the truth. After all, the man did shrewdly defeat a field of 16 presidential candidates for the Republican nomination, many of whom with far more significant financial and political backing than he had, and then, defeated a heavily favored and media-protected opponent to win the presidency. Did the man somehow bumble his way into the presidency? Or does he have a way of using what are perceived as trivial quarrels to his advantage, as he has during his entire career?
What’s clear is that for the first time in a generation or longer, there is a political leader on the right who is clearly willing to fight back. He now has the bully pulpit, for good or for ill, and is willing to use it to its full advantage. This is all but unheard of. Even when a political figure on the right attains high office, everyone knows they are supposed to play nice and slowly give the left what they want. Both Bush Administrations were this way, and, if we are being honest, the Reagan Administration was as well. Not to mention every Republican congressional majority in between. The job of the conservative movement (represented by D.C. politicians, think tanks, magazines like National Review, etc.) has always been to lose, but not look like you’re trying to lose. To borrow a well-used analogy, conservatism is the Washington Generals to the left’s Harlem Globe Trotters. They get well compensated to show up and play, they might even play very well some nights, but everyone knows what the final result will always be. President Trump has upset this dynamic. He has baited the NFL into responding to him by deeply offending millions of their consumers. Whether scoring a cultural victory or not was his intention (it very likely wasn’t his primary goal), getting regular Americans to turn off popular, moderately left-wing programming that is all but explicitly in direct competition with the church is a good thing.
While the fact that an actual counter-offensive in the culture war really is possible (even if it is being led by a man who may not be the most morally qualified to lead it), there are still some things Christians should be skeptical of here on the right as well. The Christian cannot simply baptize whatever is rightish, even though more often than not a politics that is faithful to scripture will end up plotted somewhere on the right. The symbols that are at the forefront of our cultural war are civic religious symbols. Love of country and neighbor is usually a very good thing. Those symbols really do represent the men who fought and died for their country. At the same time, those symbols also represent a country that legally-protects the slaughter of 3,000 babies every, single day, and it represents a country that has enshrined sexual perversion in its laws—even to the point of forcible celebration of that perversion. There are many things to be thankful for in this country, but Christians, who examine the good and bad of our nation biblically, ought not be too proud.
Secondly, while the racial aspect of killing of unarmed men by police is what has dominated the issue (especially because of the influence of radical leftwing groups, like BLM) this serves as a distraction because it isn’t ultimately a racial issue. Some of the killings were obviously unjust. Some extremely large cities have incredibly corrupt police departments. Some of the killings are justified (or at least plausibly justifiable). Some cities have fairly responsible police departments. The issue with police use of force fundamentally is that there is a different standard of force for policemen than there is for regular people. Whether the standard of an officer’s subjective feeling of fear for his life is enough to authorize the use of deadly force is adequate is not the subject of our current discussion, but suffice it to say, something isn’t right when police officers kill people who, at least with benefit of hindsight, pose absolutely no threat to their lives whatsoever. How exactly this can be changed, if at all, isn’t our purpose here now, but it most certainly will not change for the better through far-left political activism.
Say, for sake of argument, every, single police shooting of an unarmed black man definitively was unjustified. And say we could push a button to make that never happen again. The problems facing the African-American community (fatherlessness, out-of-wedlock birth, abortion, poverty, etc.) would still be just as much of a problem. The Black community in America does not need militant left-wing activism. It needs the gospel of Jesus Christ. It needs to hear that Jesus Christ is king and no other. It needs to hear that fornication is a sin, not because God is a god who hates sex and wants a G-rated world, but because it is a sin that destroys lives created in His image. All of America (not just the Black community) needs fatherhood to be exalted and seen as honorable as much as it needs to see fornicators and deadbeats shamed.
On the other side, the kind of people outraged at the symbols of America being profaned by NFL players need to understand that even if every NFL stood dutifully at attention and wept during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, all the great evils in this country would still be happening. Repenting and believing in America isn’t going to fix this. Only repenting and believing in Jesus will.