Three Minute Thoughts:
Context and Perspective 
 
May 24, 2018 

To be clear, I think that the NFL missed the mark when it comes to standing for the National Anthem. Even if one agrees with the position that players should stand in respect, a policy that is formed behind closed doors without input from the ones most affected by the policy is one that needs to be critically looked at.

More troubling to me is the social media response that I have seen to the NFL decision, I have even seen posts that refer to the NFL decision as “white supremacy” and “slavery”. These are the comments that bring me great pause and sadness, specifically when they are made by Christian leaders. Great leaders provide context and perspective, rather than generating attention getting soundbites. It concerns me that our society is one where we seek to call any decision that we disagree with “racist”, “sexist”, or “oppressive” simply because it will draw attention to our cause.

The NFL decision is one that I cannot support, but to say that it is white supremacy or modern-day slavery goes too far; the facts simply do not support those claims. Slavery involves persons who are treated as property, who have no choice in the matter; NFL players are free to play the football or not, and they are free to respond to the National Anthem how they would like to without fear of bodily harm. This is not an issue of slavery, nor is it an issue of white supremacy, while the majority of owners are white, not all are (and not all the owners voted in favor of this decision*); and not all players are black. Roughly seventy percent of players in the NFL are African-American, and the decision by the NFL does not apply to them any differently than it does to white players. The NFL has decided to give two “approved” options for players during the National Anthem. This falls short of the definition of white supremacy from Merriam-Webster “a person who believes that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races.”

It must be acknowledged that the NFL owners seem to be missing the point of the protest, players are seeking to address real issues of injustice that are taking place in this country; issues that must be addressed, and they are doing so in a peaceful manner. That kneeling during the National Anthem is receiving more attention than the issues of injustice in our country is simply heart-breaking.

While Christian leaders should point out injustice when we see it, we must be honest in doing so; something being wrong does not give us the right to attach false statements to it simply to add “shock value”. We need to provide context and perspective; we live in a deeply divided nation, a nation that needs healing that comes through conversation and dialogue. There are too many divisive statements coming from leaders in Washington and in churches. What we need is conversations from hearts broken by the state of the world that we live in; rather than more accusations. The church must be a place where the deep divides of our this world can be talked about; rather than a place where rhetoric and inflammatory language lives.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Those words should haunt us; divisions breeds division, understanding is the way to unity. May we be people of unity!
 
 
*https://www.sbnation.com/2018/5/23/17368782/nfl-national-anthem-protests-rule-annual-spring-meeting
 
# 1,000 
 
11.14.2017

November 11, 2017 was a date that the sporting world turned its attention to a small gym near the center of North Carolina. Two teams, the Duke Blue Devils and the Utah Valley Wolverines, met on a hardwood court and for 40 minutes played a game of basketball. The result, a Duke victory, was expected; and a massive celebration ensued as one of the greatest college basketball coaches in history reached a milestone … leading a single school’s basketball team to victory 1,000 times. 

The numbers are staggering, in 38 seasons as the head coach of Duke, Coach Mike Kryzewski (Coach K), has won 1,000 games. That’s an average of 26 wins per season, in a sport where a team can only play a maximum of 31 regular season games. On the list of great coaches you will always find Coach K’s name mentioned and for good reason. Over his time at Duke he has adjusted his coaching style and game-planning to account for the changing culture of the game and the players on his team; he has passed the test of longevity; he has coached at multiple levels, winning college championships (5) and olympic gold medals; he wins more than 75% of the games that he coaches. The numbers simply go on and on … but I think one of the most amazing numbers is simply a date 3.12.1983 

March 12, 1983 was the day after Duke’s final game of the 1983 season; a season in which they had a record of 11 wins and 17 losses. Their last game of the season was not simply a loss, rather it was a 43 point loss to a team from the University of Virginia. A day when no one could have imagined that this young coach with a last name that was difficult to pronounce and who had just finished coaching his third season at Duke would begin one of the most remarkable runs in college basketball history. 1983 would be the last season in which Coach K would not lead the Blue Devils to the post-season tournament.* The next season he took nearly the same group of young men, and coached them to a 24-10 record and into the second round of the NCAA tournament; and the streak has continued to this present day. After 5 tournament titles and 962 more wins; we rarely remember the difficultly of the first few seasons; or think about the day after the 1982-1983 season ended; but something significant happened that day. 

March 12, 1983, Coach K had a choice; to give up after disappointment or to persevere through adversity. Whether he thought much about the choice, I don’t know; but the results of the choice are obvious to each of us. His focus on teaching, leading, and coaching has transformed a school suffered a 43 point loss into what is arguably the elite basketball school in the country. 

Often we pay attention to the big numbers, because they are eye-catching and easy to notice; and, in truth, we should because they do tell an amazing story. But behind the numbers are the moments that we so often miss; the March 12th’s. We all understand what March 12th’s are; they are those days/moments when: 

  • We are forced to acknowledge our disappointments 
  • We come face-to-face with failure 
  • We have to make difficult, painful decisions 
  • We realize others don’t applaud our efforts

March 12th moments are moments when choices are made that no one celebrates; but it is the March 12th’s that make the 1,000’s possible. How we respond in the difficult moments, when others may not be watching is what gives the opportunity for 1,000 wins. 

Make your March 12 decisions in such a way; that the “1,000 win” moments are possible.
 
 
 
In the 94-95 season the team did not make the tournament, but Coach K only coached the first 12 games due to a back surgery and was 9-3 in those 12 games
# Anthem 
 
9.25.17

Odell Beckham Jr. is an incredible talent; as millions watched yesterday he made two remarkable catches for touchdowns, showing talent that leaves the viewer in awe. However, those catches were not the headlining story of the day; nor were the other great plays that were made. Rather the headline was the response of NFL teams to President Trump’s comments in Alabama a few days ago. That we have arrived at this place, where a player’s posture for the national anthem, is the headlining story is a sad commentary on the state of our national discourse. 

The difficulty in writing any words on this topic, is that the author instantly makes a large portion of the population angry by picking a side and defending it; so I will not attempt to do so. Rather I will say that I am saddened by individuals who are on both “sides” of this debate. 

The issue is not whether a person stands, kneels, or sits during the national anthem; while standing is the traditional way to show respect, it is not a crime to do otherwise. We do live in a country where we are allowed to express our views; and kneeling or sitting during the anthem is a legal, and non-violent means, of doing so. Personally, I choose stand and show respect and gratitude for the opportunity to live in the county while the anthem is being played and I am a bit saddened to see others choosing a different response to the anthem; however I am not angry with them for making that decision, as I understand they are seeking a peaceful way to draw attention to an issue facing this nation. 

This “issue”, our reaction to the choice of how to respond to the national anthem, is not really the big issue; the big issue we are facing in the United States is a lack of civil discourse. Our refusal to honestly discuss issues rather than making everything personal. 

It was wrong for the President to refer to NFL players, who choose to sit or kneel during the anthem, as “sons of b________”. Turning disagreement with the stand that they are taking into a personal attack was wrong. It was wrong. Period. There are no excuses. 

It was wrong for LeBron James to call the President a “bum” and saying that a invitation to the White House was no longer an honor since President Trump became the President. It was wrong. Period. There are no excuses. 

It was wrong for the President to “un-invite” the Golden State Warriors to the White House because a player (in this case) Steph Curry expressed reservations about going. It was wrong. Period. There are no excuses. 

It was wrong for athletes to make their responses to President Trump’s comments personal; Lesean McCoy, for instance, tweeting “It’s really sad man … our president is an a_________” It was wrong. Period. There are no excuses. 

I was taught that part of being a responsible adult is the ability to sit down and have a respectful conversation with a person, especially when you disagree about the topic you are discussing. Disagreeing, even strongly, about a topic is no reason to resort to name-calling or personal attacks. Whenever we allow the conversation to move away from the issue and toward the person we disagree with, we prohibit the conversation from moving forward and further entrench ourselves in this cycle of distrust and hate. 

How much better would it be for our President or our athletic hero’s to simply say; “I don’t agree with the stance that ________________ (the other party is taking), but I respect their right to disagree with me and would appreciate the opportunity for us to have an honest discussion about our viewpoints.” 

No, we don’t need a world where everyone agrees; rather, what we need is a world where we know how to disagree well. My prayer, is that followers of Christ show the world what it means to respectfully disagree with others. May we repent and ask for forgiveness for those times when we have attacked others; and express our disagreements in ways that model the love, hope, and justice that Christ showed.

# Charlottesville
 
8.19.17

Charlottesville

 

On August 13, 2017, I began our Sunday service with a statement expressing my sorrow at the events that were taking place in Charlottesville, Virginia. I strongly stated that, as a pastor, I am opposed to racism, bigotry, and hatred; and, speaking on behalf of The Cross Church, we believe that the Gospel of Christ is a Gospel of love, peace, and hope. Further, I reminded those gathered that the events we had been watching on the news and reading about were not the issue, rather what we were seeing on the news were symptoms of the deeper issues of sin and hatred; we prayed not only for God’s peace to fall on Charlottesville but also for God to work in our hearts to remove remnants of sin and hatred in order that we could better be instruments of God’s peace in the world. 

The past few days have brought changes across the country, that have been cheered by many but cause me concern. More statues have been taken down. Some statues in MD (and possibly elsewhere) were removed in the middle of the night to avoid mass protests and riots; these decisions by city councils and government officials, have been widely cheered and critiqued on social media and news outlets. Currently their is a strong sentiment throughout the country leading to the removal of these statues. It is this sentiment that gives me pause. 

I will, without hesitation, stand behind the statements that I made on Sunday morning, August 13th. But I am concerned with the climate of our nation that makes disagreement with the removal of statues equivalent to a crime (in the court of public opinion). One of the things that is vital for a government like ours to flourish, is the opportunity for honest disagreement and differences of opinion. When any person is vilified for a having a difference of opinion, discussion is discouraged and hatred flourishes. Yes; racism, slavery, and hate on the basis of race is wrong; but it is no less wrong to hate another person because they disagree with a belief that you hold. I would love to see the end of racism; I would love for my daughters to have the same opportunities in life that little boys do; but in seeking these goals, it is imperative that I treat those who disagree with me in respectful and honorable ways. 

This is even more important for those of us who follow Christ. Paul expresses this truth in Romans 12 exhorting us to “live in harmony with each other … do not repay anyone evil for evil … if it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with with everyone.” (Rom 12:15-18) Paul was not implying that we should agree with everyone, far from it, rather he was expressing the importance of living together peacefully; even disagreeing peacefully. 

A mark of a healthy society is the ability to dialogue peacefully and respectfully, even about topics about which we have strong differing beliefs. The inability of differing opinions to be vocalized leads to violent clashes; but dialogue changes minds and hearts which will lead us forward far more effectively. May those of us who follow Christ, be those who set the example; listening to each other and speaking the truth in love.