This is my third week since officially deciding to boycott the NFL. One of my chief concerns was how I would do this without being just a social media activist who tweets about NOT watching football. I challenged myself to use the time I would normally have spent watching games on Sunday (and Monday and occasionally Thursdays) to further the causes I believe in.
Every Sunday, I teach the elementary-age children’s Bible study at my church. I try every week to connect the Bible study lessons for my 3rd-8th graders with current events or real questions they’ve brought up. Two weeks ago, we discussed the importance of storms and the importance of storm preparation. In light of the #NFLKneeldown controversy, this week’s lesson was on “What does our posture says when we talk with God.”
The takeaway is that there is no one right way to praise, pray, or petition God. So long as our hearts are in the right place, our posture should reinforce and reflect our attitude.
Bowing is a sign of reverence and meekness and humility. You recognize the difference between who you are and who God is.
To reach and stretch forth your hands is to appeal to God’s power and ask for that power to be applied to our situation. It is to recognize the difference between your power to affect your situation and God’s power.
To leap and dance is to express joy and thankfulness and perspective. It is to recognize that God has already provided for you the MOST valuable things in this life and that your problems or the things you don’t have pale in comparison.
To lay on the ground is to express unworthiness and repentance and desperation. It is to appeal to God’s sense of mercy, God’s love for us and his redemptive nature. Laying prostrate acknowledges our imperfection and unworthiness to even ask for some of the things we ask for.
OK, SO HERE’S THE CONNECTION.
To stand is to be at the ready, to recognize that God is just, and to be prepared to carry out orders unquestioningly — be they to fight or to serve — to further God’s cause.
To kneel is to acknowledge God’s lordship and ability to grant our petition, with readiness to act. It is a sign of humility and sacrifice to simultaneously ask that God grant you permission, power, or resources but also offer up ourselves as a vehicle to use that power or those resources to further God’s plan. The response to asking on your knees is to then stand and do something with what you’ve received.
So to apply our biblical lesson to other situations of honor and authority:
To NOT stand for — say a flag — is to say that the authority behind the flag is not just — and thus we will refuse to support unquestioningly the causes the flag compels us to rally behind.
To kneel at the same time is a sign of petition and readiness. It is an appeal for the authority to grant the use of its power to take action in its name. It is volunteering to be the vehicle that receives power or resources and takes up a fight in the name of that authority. It’s requesting a mission to return honor and glory to that authority by bringing about justice through righteous use of its power.
My kids are third, fourth, and fifth graders. They had no problems with the lesson. In fact, it was one of the liveliest sessions we’ve had in a long time, but kids are smart like that.
Recently, several NFL owners made a show of taking a knee along with their players. We can thank our president for forcing them to break their silence and pick a side. I hope they recognize that there is little courage in taking a knee when everyone else is doing it and when you are, in many senses, the source of power and authority. If you knelt before a king and asked for resources and the king’s response was to kneel beside you and echo that request, what would you think of the leadership of that king?
But let’s assume for a moment that the owners are not being facetious, that they themselves are requesting authority. Their taking a knee is them requesting authority from us — in the form of public opinion to take action now that this ongoing debate threatens their NFL kingdom. They are kneeling with Colin Kaepernick who knelt because unarmed African Americans could be murdered in front of our faces on social media but their killers never convicted in a court. They are acknowledging this and asking the public to help address the reasons why that is.
Laws must be changed and attitudes must be confronted, or this cycle will continue as it has since African Americans stopped being property and property rights miraculously became more important than people’s rights.
Someone please tell these NFL owners that after you kneel and should your petition be granted, the intention is that you rise—and upon rising you have everything you need to take action.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan linked arms this week with his players. But he also contributed more than $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee after the 2016 election. At least 8 other NFL owners did the same. I’ll consider that $8 million a minimal bar for what NFL owners do when they believe in a cause.
So kneel and arise, Sir NFL owners! I look forward to seeing what happens when the show of solidarity is over and these owners and players get off their knees and get to work seeing how much good their collective influence and fortunes can do.
This article, adapted with author permission, originally appeared at Medium.