VCU CNS / Flickr tim tebow...
VCU CNS / Flickr

Kneeling is their signature move for different, yet not altogether dissimilar reasons. If you talk to either Tim Tebow or Colin Kaepernick they will both tell you that they have strong views on moral issues and that the key reason that they’re out there on the field is to bring glory to God. They both festoon themselves with biblical apocrypha. Tebow used to wear references to bible verses on his eyeblack and Kaepernick is covered in tatoos of praying hands and angels.

“Tebowing” became a word in the Urban Dictionary in 2014, translated as, “getting down on your knees and praying even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.” For his part, Kaepernick began kneeling last year during the national anthem unobtrustively. It was picked up and publicized and Kaepernick explained that he was giving a voice to those who didn’t have one.

Last Friday night in Huntsville, Alabama, Donald Trump called Colin Kaepernick a son of a bitch who should be fired, in so many words, and ignited a furor which has dominated the entire weekend and the feelings ignited are not going to cool off any time soon. Now the flames of controversy have spread from the field of professional football to the practice of Christianity itself as practiced by the two athletes, who are deemed to each represent a “version” of the faith. Washington Post:

One version is kneeling in private prayer. The other is kneeling in public protest.

One is concerned with private sins like abortion. The other is concerned with public sins like racial discrimination.

One preaches a gospel of personal salvation. The other preaches a gospel of political and social transformation.

One is listening to Eric Metaxas and Franklin Graham. The other is listening to William Barber and John Perkins.

One is rallying at the March for Life. The other is getting arrested at Moral Monday protests.

It’s been observed any number of times that there are two Americas, and within each America is a separate and distinct version of Christianity. The fundamentalists are practicing one religion, which proselytizes what they call “traditional” values, such as patriarchy, and white supremacy, based upon the fallacy that Jesus Christ was Caucasion. The other group of titular Christians are practicing a form of the faith based upon the Jesusonian values of inclusivity, tolerance, and most of all, love.

Onto this playing field have walked Tebow and Kaepernick. Both are immensely talented athletes and passionately committed young men. They have come to exemplify the polarization of American culture as exemplified by the ascension of Donald Trump, who, while the icon of our current cultural schism is by no means responsible for it. This has been brewing for quite some time.  Trump is the symptom of the American disease, not the cause.

Future historians will look back on this moment in history and see two young athletes on their knees, representing two wildly discordant points of view and approaches to life. And they do represent us. All of us. America is on her knees. We can only pray that we find the means to overcome our differences and embrace our similarities and rejoin as one nation under God. Really one nation, under God.

That is the high ground we must reach and we will either reach it now, or we will reach it after much more sorrow than we currently have endured. Let us pray that our differences are not irreconcilable and that we find the strength and the maturity to come together in peace. As another fine young man, Democrat Jason Kander of Missouri said, “Patriotism isn’t about making everybody stand and salute the flag. Patriotism is about making this a country where everybody wants to.”

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