Sports

Grave Danger Part 2: Trump, the NFL Protests, Why Now?

Last week I wrote about organized evil that appears to be growing in the United States and other nations.

The obvious questions are “What is allowing this to happen?” and “Why now?”

Today, I’d like to discuss what is America’s gravest and most ominous threat. It is not anarchists, God-haters and communists, snowflake universities, twenty trillion dollars in debt, global terrorism or North Korean nukes, or inept and delinquent political leadership. Read More

Hey Colin–Patriotism is a Fruit of Gratefulness

Just a few years ago, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick (pronounced Capper-nick) was one of the most known football players in the world–having led the San Franciso 49ers to two NFC championships and one Super Bowl.

His abilities were unique. Strong armed, tall, and could run like a gazelle, Kaepernick had reached the top echelons of America’s favorite sport.

But this week he’s in the national doghouse. Why?

Because Colin doesn’t understand that patriotism–as shown recently at the Olympics by numerous athletes from many countries–is a beautiful fruit of gratefulness.

Here’s what happened.

Kaepernick was found sitting down during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” in a recent pre season game while all the other players and coaches stood. The national anthem is sung before most sports contests in America. When asked by a reporter about why he did it, he replied:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

The National Football League does not make its athletes stand for the national anthem, and, indeed, the 49ers said it was within Kaepernick’s right to not participate. But some coaches say they expect members of their team to stand, regardless of their personal feelings.

Here’s how Rex Ryan, the Buffalo Bills head coach, addressed it in a Sunday news conference:

“Anytime I talk to my team about that, if there’s personal beliefs or whatever that keep you from doing it, I understand. But at the same time, you know, you’ve got to look at the gifts that we have, the opportunity that we have to play a great game is through the men and women that serve our country. I think that’s an opportunity right there just to show respect, and I think that’s why when you see our team, every one of us are on that line and that’s kind of our way of giving thanks.”

Most coaches and athletes agree with Rex, including Colin Kaepernick’s birth mother, Heidi Russo who sent out the following tweet following his action:

“There’s ways to make change [without] disrespecting [and] bringing shame to the very country [and] family who afforded you so many blessings.The path less traveled doesn’t need to be one of destruction.” 

Russo and many others believe that Kaepernick should be grateful for his nation. He was born in a country where he could be adopted into a white family who cared for him. He was allowed to go to university where he became a star under a series of coaches.

Because of America’s freedom, Kaepernick made it into pro football where he currently has a $114 million six-year contract with the 49ers that makes him the 14th highest-paid NFL player. That puts him in the top 0.8 percent of the millionaire’s club that is professional football. Kaepernick’s income also places him in the top 0.05 percent of Americans. He has much for which to be grateful.

Steve Berman puts it this way:

“Colin Kaepernick is an American. He enjoys the civil rights offered to all Americans, to speak his mind. He enjoys the economic freedom offered to all Americans, to earn a lot of money. He enjoys the social status available to all Americans who work hard to achieve success. He enjoys using his God-given talents and abilities to entertain millions of us while playing a game while others make 1/10,000th of his salary for sleeping in a container truck in Afghanistan.”

“If Kaepernick really believes that the best use of his massive fame is to disrespect his own nation because social injustice exists, and some people are raised without the racial harmony he experienced, he has that right.”

“But maybe, instead of playing the “God Damn America” card, it would be more productive if he could take his $114 million and use it to help some of those who would appreciate his help.”

“In the end, this is America. It’s a free country. And Colin Kaepernick is free to be an idiot.”

Former US Representative Colonel Allen West, himself a black man, was far more upset.

West said a Scripture verse comes to mind: “Wisdom for Mr. Kaepernick: Proverbs 17:28, ‘Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues’ Or as the old folks down South would say, ‘Best for a stupid person to keep their mouth shut and not open it and let everyone know they are'”.

He says to Kaepernick: “You sir, may certainly have the right to sit on your ‘fourth point of contact’ when the National Anthem is played, but never forget, you live in a nation that has provided you the privilege to have that right.”

West concluded with these words: “The American flag has a very touching meaning for those of us whom it will drape our coffin—as it did for my dad…and it will be for me. May you seek God’s forgiveness and find humility because we the people are not going to forget what you did and said.”

So, why did world famous athlete Colin Kaepernick do what he did?  Here are a few possibilities:

1.  Maybe he has believed the lie of the Black Lives Matter folks that massive racial injustice still exists in the United States. That is a palpable untruth. Injustice will always exist in pockets in free nations and in deluges in much of the world. America is not racially perfect, but is better today than anytime in its history despite the demagoguery of the present Administration to try to gin up the black vote.

2.  Maybe he has become a communist sympathizer. Following his latest game, Kaepernick came to the podium wearing a T-shirt that lauded Malcolm X shaking hands with Fidel Castro in the 1960s. That at least fits. Communists hate what the free world stands for.

3. Maybe he’s on his way to becoming a Muslim. It’s not totally far-fetched. He has a Muslim girlfriend. Some close to him feel he has turned away from his Christian faith and embraced Islam. He recently sent Ramadan greetings out on his social media accounts. Islam is virulently anti-American, as exemplified by the rhetoric and behavior of the Nation of Islam.

4.  Maybe he’s just bitter that he’s about to lose his job with the 49ers and may be looking for another team. Change is difficult, even when you’re making eleven millions dollars a year.

5.  Maybe he’s just immature and needs to grow up. We all do in some areas of our lives.

There are two famous black men that Colin Kaepernick should learn from. One is Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave who played a critical role in the abolitionist movement in the mid-19th century. He had been a frequent critic of American policy. However, he believed that the dearly held principles of the Declaration of Independence, and its unequivocal statement that all men are “created equal,” would eventually lead to slavery’s dissolution.

Douglass pulled no punches in criticizing slavery as a massive contradiction in American life, but he understood the evils of the system would be corrected by embracing the country’s origins rather than rejecting them. He encouraged black Americans to sign up and fight for the Union under the American flag during the Civil War, played a crucial role in recruitment efforts, and convinced many former slaves to serve in the military and embrace the United States as the vessel—not the thwarter—of freedom.

Douglass was known to frequently play “The Star-Spangled Banner” on his violin for his grandchildren in the years after the war. He said in an 1871 speech at Arlington National Cemetery that “if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army.”

The other person Colin Kaepernick should follow is Ray Charles.

When I first heard about Kaepernick’s national impiety, I was listening to Rush Limbaugh’s radio program in my car. Rush said in that broadcast that he had one response to Kaepernick’s bad judgment.

Then he played, for four minutes, Ray Charles’ moving rendition of America the Beautiful. Here is a link to a 2001 version, sung just following 9-11. Please watch it to the end. It will give you goosebumps.

Douglas and Charles and millions of other Americans have it right. Patriotism is the fruit of a thankful heart toward God, your heritage, and for those who laid down their lives for your freedom.

Hey Colin–Patriotism is a fruit of gratefulness. Get your head out of your butt, stand to your feet, put your hand on your heart and sing!

We will gratefully join you.

 

 


 

“who more than self their country loved.”

 

Whoever Will Be the “Greatest” Among You

Muhammed Ali, one of the world’s best known sports figures, died last week at the age of 74.

After his passing, many broadcasters, athletes, government leaders and entertainers lined up to pay their respects. Ali had famously shouted “I am the Greatest” after winning the heavyweight crown from Sonny Liston in 1964.

The Sunday after Muhammed Ali’s passing, I spoke at a church in Oregon about what the Bible says about being the greatest.

So what is God’s take on Cassius Clay/Mohammed Ali?  Was he really the “greatest” and worthy of our adoration and imitation?”

I have to admit that as a young man, I was fascinated by both boxing and Mohammed Ali’s rise to become the heavyweight champion of the world.

But when he died last week, I was greatly saddened by the lack of honest critique of his life, accomplishments and role in history. It’s as if every celebrity and commentator wanted to get on the bandwagon of nostalgia and simply declare him “the Greatest” without any reference to his character or influence.

I will not make that mistake today.

But first, a little history on what I consider the tragic life Cassius Clay/Mohammed Ali who was one of the most recognizable sports figures of our time.

Early Life

Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. He was named in honor of the 19th-century Republican politician and staunch abolitionist, Cassius Marcellus Clay. His father painted billboards and signs, and his mother was a housewife. Although Cassius Sr. was a Methodist, he allowed his wife to bring up both Cassius and his younger brother as Baptists.

We don’t know how deep his faith went, though he commented in his autobiography:

“My mother is a Baptist, and when I was growing up, she taught me all she knew about God. Every Sunday, she dressed me up, took me and my brother to church, and taught us the way she thought was right. She taught us to love people and treat everybody with kindness. She taught us it was wrong to be prejudiced or hate. I’ve changed my religion and some of my beliefs since then, but her God is still God; I just call him by a different name.”

He was first directed toward boxing by a Louisville police officer and boxing coach who encountered the 12-year-old fuming over a thief taking his bicycle. He told the officer he was going to “whup” the thief. The officer told him he had better learn how to box first. 

Clay made his amateur boxing debut in 1954. He won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union national title, and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Italy. 

Young Cassius Clay was feisty, mouthy, and a very good boxer.

Professional Career

Clay made his professional debut on October 29, 1960, winning a six-round decision over Tunney Hunsaker. From then until the end of 1963, Clay amassed a record of 19–0 with 15 wins by knockout. In each of these fights, he vocally belittled his opponents and vaunted his abilities. He called Jones “an ugly little man” and Cooper a “bum”. Madison Square Garden was “too small for me.” Clay’s self-centered behavior provoked the disdain of many boxing fans.

By late 1963, he was the top contender for Sonny Liston’s title. The fight was set for February 25, 1964. Clay was a 7–1 underdog. Despite this, he taunted Liston during the pre-fight buildup, dubbing him “the big ugly bear”. “Liston even smells like a bear”, Clay said. “After I beat him I’m going to donate him to the zoo.”  Clay turned the pre-fight weigh-in into a circus, shouting at Liston that “someone is going to die at ringside tonight”.

The outcome of the fight was a huge upset. In the sixth round, Cassius Clay dominated, hitting Liston repeatedly. Liston did not answer the bell for the seventh round, and Clay was declared the winner. Following the win, a triumphant Clay rushed to the edge of the ring and, pointing to the ringside press, shouted: “I am the greatest! I shook up the world. I’m the prettiest thing that ever lived.”

He went on to fight for another 16 years, losing the heavyweight title on two occasions and winning it back. Famous fights included his matches with Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

Conversion to Islam

Soon after becoming heavyweight champion, Cassius Clay came under the influence of Elijah Mohammed and the Nation of Islam, converted to the Muslim faith and changed his name to Muhammed Ali. Elijah Mohammed was an evil man–the Osama bin Laden of the day. He was responsible for the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 and extracted much of Ali’s boxing wealth to advance radical Islam in America.

Ali changed from the Nation of Islam to Sunni Islam in 1975. He went on pilgrimage to Mecca on two occasions–in 1972 and 1988. By 2005, Ali had become more “spiritual” than religious.  He embraced Sufi Islam, which means “wisdom”, and is not classified as a religion. In his later life, Ali continued to try and convert others to Islam, but he spent more time doing charity work. His daughter Hana explained:

“It was important for him to be very religious and take the stands he did in earlier years. It was a different time. He still tries to convert people to Islam, but it’s not the same. His health and his spirituality have changed, and it’s not so much about being religious, but about going out and making people happy, doing charity, and supporting people and causes.”

Mohammed Ali also became America’s most famous draft dodger during the 1970s saying “I won’t fight no Viet Cong!” You may not know that he was married four times, had numerous affairs, and fathered at least seven daughters and two sons, some out of wedlock. Those facts did not make the nostalgia reel.

So what is God’s take on Mohammed Ali?  

Here are my conclusions based on reflections from the Bible:

1.  For much of his life, Ali’s character was opposite of greatness. Jesus likened true greatness to  servanthood (Matthew 23:11), humility (Philippians 2:1-11), childlike innocence (Matthew 18:3), and lovingly deferring to others (1 Corinthians 13). Mohammed Ali’s life reeked of egotism and pride.

2.  His rebellion against authority (1 Samuel 15:23) and draft-dodging set a bad example in the US, and helped cause the death of many people in Viet Nam. Ali could have been a humble conscientious objector and served in a non-combat role. Instead he publicly led the parade of America’s first defeat in war. The communists won and millions were slaughtered. That’s why the Left adores him.

3.  He rejected the Christian faith of his parents (Proverbs 1:8, 9), and embraced radical Islam, then Sunnism, then finally philosophical spirituality. Probably more than any other figure, he lulled America to sleep in the 1960’s about the evils of Islamic jihad–then bailed out himself in later life.

4.  Mohammed Ali was an immoral man that used many women and did not live for family values (Ephesians 5:3). His life was about himself–not loyalty to others.

5.  He reaped what he sowed from boxing–early-on-set Parkinson’s due to continued trama to the head (Galatians 6:7). He lived thirty years of his life as a pale shadow of himself due to his choice of vocation.

6.  He was involved in much philanthropy and seemed to like children. In this way, his life was similar to Elvis Presley’s. He had a big heart and relational gifts that could have been used greatly in the lives of others and for Christ’s kingdom. But pride and destructive behavior limited  it.

The Greatest?

So why was there so much Ali worship after he passed?  That’s an easy answer.

In our new post-Christian world, he’s a shining worldly (satanic) example:  Arrogant, famous, boastful, rebellious, anti-authority, self-consumed, immoral, anti-Christ, pro diversity in religion, and with a veneer of good works.

That makes him “great” in our growing secular society where self expression rules. But not in God’s kingdom where death to self, humility and servanthood are the true measures of greatness.

It is Jesus who is truly the Greatest in what He said, what He did, and who He is (book of Hebrews).

Follow, adore, and imitate HIM.