Engaging in Dialogue: A Response from a Former Marine, Police Officer, and Pastor on Kaepernick
As I understand it, Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem was birthed from a conversation between him and an Army Green Beret member during the time when Kaepernick was sitting in protest of what he viewed as unfair treatment of African Americans by the law enforcement community.
The Green Beret service member approached Kaepernick and they discussed how the service member viewed his act of sitting. Subsequently, Mr. Kaepernick agreed to kneel instead of sit. As I understand it, afterwards, they both left with a healthy respect for one another.
This demonstrates something important. When we choose to engage in dialogue as a means of education and enlightenment in regards to differences in perspective and culture, we can make strides to bridging the gap of understanding.
As a veteran of the Marine Corps, the notion of kneeling during the playing of our National Anthem in silent protest lends to an array of conflicting emotions for me personally. Part of this is simply the fact that during the Anthem, I am in deep reflection.
Having proudly served in the Marine Corps, my conviction concerning the National Anthem is that it’s great! It’s part of the cornerstone of our great nation. The men and women who have diligently served in any capacity of the Armed Forces are unified in their allegiance to protect and defend the United States.
To many, the Anthem signifies both the pride and the sacrifice of those who serve and have served, and those who’ve fought and will fight in defense of our nation. In the same vein and with the same proclivity in the interest of freedoms nationwide, it is vitally important that the rights and liberties that those in our branches of the military safeguard are always protected.
Nevertheless, the events surrounding Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling may serve to teach us an important lesson; namely, that members of the military serve to protect and preserve all rights of American citizens, of which the right to protest is included. The Armed Forces are comprised of men and women from various political and socio-economic persuasions. I served alongside Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Although there were moments we knew we believed differently, once an objective was determined, no affiliation mattered. We were all sworn to abide by the rules and regulations set forth by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (and a strict adherence to the UCMJ was mandated).
What this teaches all of us is that we should never allow our differences to cause us to deviate from the document that guides and governs the things we hold dear as Americans: The Constitution.
As a former law enforcement officer, I know firsthand the frustration that at times may accompany the adherence to one’s constitutional rights in the throes of an uncomfortable situation. I remember numerous times when I was faced with doing what ‘felt good’ as opposed to doing what was constitutionally correct. Many times, this occurred when I dealt with people who were suspected of breaking the law.
So, while Kaepernick’s action may be viewed by some as unpatriotic, it’s not unlawful. Although I would not have chosen the particular method that Mr. Kaepernick chose in protest, I do believe that his actions have driven us to a needed conversation, which could prove to be a good thing in the days to come.
We should always remember that when one person’s rights are allowed to be violated, everyone’s rights are placed in jeopardy.
In my years of pastoring people from varied and diverse backgrounds, one of the most valuable pieces of information that I garnered was understanding that backgrounds shape individual perspectives; thus, openly embracing different perspectives made me a better pastor and a more effective voice and champion for Christ, both within the Body of Christ and on secular platforms.
Pastors have a vitally important duty to caution members of the Body of Christ to govern themselves in such a manner. If we don’t, we lessen our effectiveness as gospel witnesses because of a limited perspective.
Much good could come from us using this event as a reason to create or further a dialogue that will unify us through understanding as opposed to fortifying discord by lending strength to division.
Stacy Hilliard is a member of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, has been a pastor and denominational leader, and frequently speaks to and trains church planters.