What Does Jesus Say to the #TakeAknee Issue?

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The football season has begun and just a few weeks in, it is layered with controversy and drama. Much of the controversy has been fueled by recent comments from the President. In a speech to a crowd in Alabama, the President directed his remarks at Colin Kaepernick (and anyone else who would kneel during the anthem) as a “son of a b*tch.”

These remarks have fueled backlash and additional resistance from more players in multiple sports. In the larger conversation of Kaepernick’s well-known kneeling, the point of hostility has been with many people seeing the protest as an act of defiance towards the US flag, the anthem, the military and the U.S. as a country in its entirety. Those who oppose this tactic would prefer protesters to choose another way to voice their anger and concern, maintaining, in their eyes, the sacredness of the flag.

But the refusal to see the issue Kaepernick is creatively articulating is the core of the issue. In this respect, when nationalism is held as the highest value, anything or anyone that can potentially challenge the infallibility of this ideology will be placed on the margins.

The refusal to see the issue Kaepernick is creatively articulating is the core of the issue. Click To Tweet

Would Jesus Take a Knee?

The core issue in #takeaknee is the refusal of many to compassionately hear the cry of black and brown bodies by passionately drowning it out in red, white and blue symbols.

As I’ve contemplated this story over the past year, I’ve done so asking what the American Evangelical Church can learn from this. Before offering a brief reflection on that, it might be helpful to review Kaepernick’s protest in light of a well-known act of protest from Jesus.

What does Jesus have to say about Kaepernick’s protest?

What does he have to say about challenging the sacred cows and symbols of his day?

What does he have to say to #takeaknee?

A quick glance at one of Jesus’ oft-repeated actions can help us. When you examine the gospels, you’ll consistently see Jesus offering physical and social healing on the Sabbath (a sacred day much like our American NFL Sundays). When Jesus did this, I can assure you that he was being intentional. Jesus knew the push back he was going to receive from religious leaders, and yet, he was not deterred one bit.

Healing on the Sabbath as Protest

Why did Jesus consistently heal on the Sabbath? He could have healed on a Tuesday morning. Or on Thursday afternoon. He could have gotten the week off to a good start by offering sight to blind people on Monday. Why on the Sabbath? Here’s what might be at work.

The Sabbath was one of the sacred cows of Jewish religious life. Moses explicitly gave instructions about the place of Sabbath and the details surrounding the practice. Yet those who practiced Sabbath consistently overlooked those in need (Luke 13). Jesus, on the other hand, consistently heals (which according to religious leaders constituted work) on the Sabbath. Why?

Maybe in this act he was protesting the inconsistency in their ideals (found in Torah) and their practice. He was exposing the dissonance of their spirituality. He offends the sensibilities of those who have held to the law of Sabbath, but not to the renewal it was to create.

Jesus could have healed on Tuesday, but it would not have as effectively called attention to the ways the religious community had gone astray.

Perhaps this is a good framework to see the protest of the Flag. There might be no higher symbol of value in the collective consciousness of Americans. Yet, there’s something under the flag that needs to be perpetually addressed. Namely, the failure to live up to the ideals the flag represents.

Jesus didn’t get rid of the Sabbath. He wanted to see it reflect its original intention.

Kaepernick didn’t burn the Flag. He wants to see it reflect its original intention—liberty and justice for all (especially in the area of police brutality).

Now, what does all of this have to do with the Church?

Jesus didn't eliminate Sabbath, Kaepernick didn’t burn the Flag. Both point out their intent. Click To Tweet

Unquestioned Nationalism

For far too long, to be a Christian has meant putting this country above everything.

Any perceived slight against the United States is seen as ungratefulness or as an act of betrayal. In this way, the country is to be addressed in such a way that ignores the reality of its anti-Kingdom of God ways. When this perspective takes root in a Christian, a church, a denomination or an institution, we betray our call to worship God.

The deeply reactive and emotionally triggered responses towards Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the National Anthem might be a sign of a deeper idolatry. One of the ways idolatry manifests is in language of unquestioned allegiance. Sadly, this unquestioned allegiance is not held by non-Christian civil religion adherents, but by church going, bible believing, faithful volunteering Christians.

This Kaepernick #takeaknee case-study is to reveal the subtle (and not so subtle ways) American Christians have bought into the myth of exclusive American exceptionalism. Are there things about America that are exceptional? Absolutely. Are there realities that betray that exceptionalism? Without question.

Kaepernick reveals how Christians have bought the myth of American exceptionalism Click To Tweet

Until Christians can hold these two realities together, we will fall into the trap of idol worship at the altar of American exceptionalism, with the flag replacing the cross.

This controversy is to remind us that while we have made progress in this country, we have a long way to go.

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9 responses to “The Two Sins of Multi-Site Video Venue: The Case of Mark Driscoll/Mars Hills and How Should We Respond?

  1. Thanks for this balanced approach to the topic. So much discussion on multi-venue churches either demonize it or praise it as “the” way to do church.
    Every new idea has its pitfalls and benefits. This article gives a great assessment of both.

    1. If this is balanced, I wonder what the deomonizing variety looks like. I don’t disagree with the assessment here, but…the whole thing is framed around two sins endemic to this way of being church. Not exactly aiming to be balanced (which is fine by me).

  2. Thanks for the article,I just think that the whole idea of multi-site church is simply sad.
    Unbelievingly sad. We so much have nothing left, that we accept to see a preacher-star on a screen, and call it “church gathering”…

    We often analyze things retrospectively, but, we could say that the exageration of the centrality of preaching seem to explain that developpment in recent western suburb context. Since the reformation, we have the tendancy to gather not around the presence of Christ, so something should replace it. It becomes “the” good teaching of “that” church (fundamentalist churches), and/or the charismatic personality of the preacher, or the felt presence in the worship style. … So: decreasing the centrality of the real presence leads to exaggerating the importance of the preacher. (Hauerwas says something like that about our liturgy-less gathering and our need for preacher-entertainers, and the non-sustainability of it…)

    That this kind of sad multi-site “gathering” developped in recent North-America evangelicalism is therefore, retrospectively, not really a surprise, even though it’s always surprising what kind of “wal-mart-ization” of the church people are able to tolerate without becoming totally depressed… (… but I suspect we, North American christians, are somewhat cynical, and would need a shock treatment with some chestertonian common sense…)

    The second “sin” you mention lets easily see your anabaptist preferences. From a catholic point of view, hierarchy is not working against mission (catholic are, up to now, the largest christian group in the world, and it was not, contrary to the secularist myths, forced conversions all the way from China to Chile, and from Africa to Ireland).

    Saying — sorry for being a bit harsh here — “platitudes” like “hierarchy may lead to authoritarian abuse, so hierarchy is bad” is like saying “some fathers are jerks, so let’s ban all fathers”.

    You have probably written elsewhere about the crisis of thrust toward authority, explained in part by church abuses. We can have 2 attitudes in that kind of debate: situations like Mars Hill happen, so hierarchy and authority are bad. Or: God build his church, whatever may happen. If a hierarchy can thrust God, and can thrust that Christ is really present in each gathering in each church, then the authority of this hierarchy is counter-balanced by this local reality. In other word, if Christ is believed to be really present in every gathering of every church, the authority over those church need to be very careful how they exercise this authority.

    It comes back again to my first point: around what are we gathering?

  3. Tommy,Helpful. Thank you. I’m on my phone so this response is short. IMO hierarchy only works in consolidation. Structures which organize existing believers. It works for numbers of reasons in Catholic church in this sense. I’ll comment more later. 🙂

  4. I was on staff for a short time at as MSVV. We tried very hard to have it all, to be both missional and multisite. The fact was, we were always an afterthought or even a bothersome inconvenience to the mothership.
    More importantly, “content” was made by and for the (mostly upper-class and white) mothership. We had one venue near a trailer part and another in a 99% hispanic neighborhood.

    Imperialism seems inevitable.

    As I said in my own post on this topic “The kingdom of God is at hand. How can anything be called a church that is not also at hand?” http://www.chrismorton.info/2014/11/06/which-multi-site-megachurch-will-dissolve-next/

  5. MSVV stems from a prior problem: that people are attracted to the preaching of a particular person. As that preaching draws more and more people, you either become a megachurch meeting in a stadium or you go MSVV.
    Now, the remedy of course is to build mitosis into the DNA of the church, so that as you grow you grow toward dividing into two rather than just growing in size. That sounds good in theory, but you’re still left with the reality that a lot of people prefer to listen to one preacher over another. Driscoll has mentioned this before, that they tried planting churches but those plants died out as people didn’t want to leave the parent church.

    Now, there may be all manner of ways of building in safeguards against this, but at the end of it all the preacher must be willing to pull the nuclear option on the congregation and be prepared to step down from preaching altogether. They have to be willing to wean the congregation off of them and onto Christ.

  6. I am an ordinary layperson who has been a “preacher’s kid” for over 60 years. I have lived through and experienced many of the “fads” of church leaders—“church growth movement”—“seeker sensitive” movement—MSVV—etc. etc. Let’s keep it basic and authentic. I am weary of “fads” and “marketing” techniques.

  7. […] The Two Sins of Multi Site Video Venue (MSVV) Churches – In the wake of what some consider the key Evangelical news story of 2014: “Multi-Site Video Venue (MSVV) is prone to decontextualization. When one franchises either a teacher or a church model based on one location and transfers it en toto to another location, one has in essence disregarded the local context, its culture and instead assumes that who we are and what we say as a church applies to you with no dialogue or presence needed. It asks people to come to me on our terms. We have what you need. It is a profound act of colonialism.” […]

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