by Bil Aulenbach

Take a Knee

I’m a take-a-knee guy because of Jesus and because I am a veteran.

I am proud of those athletes who have taken a knee during the national anthem. The gesture is nonviolent, delivers a very strong message—and no one gets hurt. I believe that protesting is one of the foundation stones of a democracy and what being a Follower of the Way is all about.

In the 1770s, many British subjects took a knee to the British government and proclaimed, in very loud voices, “No taxation without representation.” Those who took a knee won, and protesting became a way of ensuring that our country kept adhering to the principle of liberty and justice for all.

I would never criticize any black person in our country who took a knee. Anyone with half a brain can see how cruelly this country and most of its leaders treat people of color. There is very little justice as we watch the courts and justice system fill prisons with people of color. African Americans are forced to live in ghettos, which simply breeds anger and hostility. Their educational opportunities are minimal. Police brutality is maximal. They still live in slavery but this time with invisible chains. I see how oppressed they are and am amazed that they don’t riot, loot, and murder white people more often.

I am a committed Follower of Jesus, who has transformed my life by his example. Jesus took a knee for the poor and oppressed of his time by attacking his own Jewish hierarchy, the rich, the Jewish priesthood, and the system. He paid a heavy price for taking a knee, but he made no bones about reminding his Followers that their mission was to take care of the “least of these” (Matthew 25:45).

Unfortunately, the institutional church seems to be too much concerned with its own survival to lead the protests against this form of oppression. Often, I see the institution of the church emulating the position of the Jewish religious authorities in Jesus’s time. Their silence about these issues is deafening except for a few voices such as Jim Wallis and Sojourners.

I am a Marine Corps veteran (I served from 1954 to 1960). After graduation, I joined to serve my country, of which I am extremely proud. In my own little way, I wanted to make certain that liberty and justice for all prevailed. I served so that people were free to protest, hold demonstrations, sit during the Pledge of Allegiance, and even burn the American flag as a form of protest.

I still stand for the pledge, but I absolutely refuse to say the word “God.” I want the word eliminated out of respect for atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and other non-Christians. I will not say “with liberty and justice for all,” especially in light of how our country is presently governed, because that concept has been almost eliminated from our country.

I have this fantasy: Suppose every woman in American, every person of color, every member of a religion besides Christian fundamentalism, every atheist and agnostic, every member of the LGBTQUI community, every Dreamer, every poor person, everyone who is denied medical access, and every homeless person took a knee. The only people who would be left standing would be Christian fundamentalists and a bunch of filthy-rich, self-absorbed white men—who are presently running our country, elected or not.

That’s scary! I hope not only athletes but also others who believe in liberty and justice for all will continue to take a knee. And if the yellow-bellied team owners disallow taking a knee, my protest will be to never watch another professional sports game. Who cares if one little old man takes a knee? No one! But imagine if millions of people did this quiet form of protest. I suspect some of those team owners might care!

Are you a take-a-knee person?


Image courtesy of Keith Allison (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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