Of Nike and Chick-fil-a

Photo taken from Chick-fil-A site.

Do you remember, in 2012, that all liberals were going to boycott Chick-fil-a? Remember how all of the conservatives went to their local restaurant in droves to support the chain? Fast forward six years and the shoe is on the other foot (see what I did there?). Now the conservatives hate Nike and the liberals can’t heap enough praise on them. Guess what? Nike isn’t going to go down either. Just like Chick-fil-a, supporters will march into those stores and buy Nike shoes like they’re going out of style.

Photo from Nike as published in USA Today.

News flash, white people don’t buy as many Air Jordans as minorities. Oh, and here’s another newsflash, conservative people love Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby. And by conservative people, I mean people like me.

Meanwhile, conservatives get riled up by Colin Kaepernick and liberals hate Trump. Here’s another newsflash…they both love the hate and the love. Both of them, and all of the other people stirring up controversy, get to keep hearing themselves talk.

If I may delve a little more into this current controversy…

Nike paid Kaepernick who knows how much money to be in their ad campaign. That ad campaign will spur shoe sales, undoubtedly buoyed by minorities (my son wears Nike running shoes for cross country, BTW). The ad suggests that Kaepernick gave up “everything” when he began taking a knee during the national anthem.

I wrote a huge post on that protest. I even walked away from football for a while. It was ugly (my brothers and father can tell stories of heated text exchanges). And Colin hasn’t had a football contract since. Now, I was mad at him since he took Alex Smith’s job away from him, so my disdain goes back a ways. Never mind that for now.

A lot of social media attention focuses on whether Nike should have gone with someone like Chris Kyle or Pat Tillman (the NFL connection). It is true that these men, and so many thousands like them, made the ultimate sacrifice. As a career Navy Chief Warrant Officer, I am the first to want to put one of our military folks above an athlete.

But could it be…just could it be…that Colin Kaepernick did actually sacrifice a lot when he started taking a knee? All of the extraneous issues aside, such as whether he started it for the purist of reasons or not, could it be that he did make a sacrifice?

And couldn’t it be that all of those who have given “the ultimate sacrifice” also…well…sacrificed?

I wouldn’t compare Colin Kaepernick to the likes of Rosa Parks and MLK, but I wouldn’t compare my “sacrifice” to that of anyone who passed in the line of duty, whether that was military, police, fire, etc.

And most of all, I hope that good-natured, intelligent folks on both sides of the arguments realize that we have to treat each other with more respect or this is all going to fall apart at some point. I do actually think that America’s future depends on this, though I am encouraged to know that the real America doesn’t exist like the America of Facebook.

I interact with people of many races each day. We have civil conversations and we keep things at a reasonable distance. Real life isn’t the anonymous firefight that Facebook is. I’m grateful for that.

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A White Guy Visits a Black Church

My visit to Bayview Baptist Church started on a whim. It came about after black football players began protesting the National Anthem in greater numbers, to include entire teams after President Trump issued his disruptive comments on September 22, 2017. My heart sank and I started thinking that maybe the American racial problem had no fix.

Furthermore, I had a sneaking suspicion that we were just as divided in the church as Americans were outside the walls of our sanctuaries. On Martin Luther King Jr day, I think it’s fitting to look at our continued racial problem from a spiritual context. I will begin with a statement: We are just as segregated in the church as we are in the rest of the country. MLK said as much in 1958: “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Sadly, this is still the case for the majority of churches.

Now, let me be clear, no one is forcing our churches to be segregated (to my knowledge). There is no great conspiracy here, like there have been in many times in our history. Instead, we are struggling with the sin of comfort and a resolute desire not to rock the boat or have ours rocked.

I had another reason for wanting to visit a black church. I wanted to know what it would be like to stick out like a sore thumb. While Bayview Baptist Church in San Diego claimed to be a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic church, I had my suspicions that they were just like the churches in which I’ve held membership. I believed I would find myself one of the only white people in the church. I’m not saying that because I want to make them out to be liars. Like white churches, the goal is multi-ethnic makeup. I don’t think anyone is trying to keep white people out of that church any more than I think that my last church tried to keep black people out.

Another thing to keep in mind when considering what “multi-ethnic” means is that our racial categories contain many ethnicities. So, while the church might be mostly black, or even all black, it may include ethnicities such as Hispanic (from the Caribbean and South America), Africa (and the ethnicities contained therein), as well as ethnicities contained in America itself. The Root website lists 46 ethnic groups in Africa alone, from which American slaves took their original ethnicity. Modern advances in DNA research have shed a lot of light on this, but I digress.

Still Segregated

Simply put, my understanding that the American church was as segregated as ever was reinforced with my visit to Bayview. Please don’t read into this statement that Bayview is doing something wrong or should be trying harder to include other races. I cannot know that answer based on one visit. What I’m trying to say is this: All of our churches are still struggling with the issue of integration. We’ve separated ourselves along race and, to at least a slightly lesser degree, ethnic lines.

I don’t know that we can expect this to change wholesale. The fact is that, regarding worship styles, everyone has a style (or range of styles) that they are comfortable with. This is something that will be very difficult to overcome, even if it should be overcome.

However, a more problematic issue revolves around the birds of a feather concept. If I go to a predominantly white church because I like that style of worship, then maybe that’s ok (although I have some doubts). However, if I only go to white churches because that’s the TYPE OF PERSON I FEEL COMFORTABLE AROUND, then I’ve got a lot of changing to do. It is up to each person to seek the answer to their situation and deal with it, because God will deal with you when judgement comes. Part of visiting Bayview was to help answer that question for myself.

The short and long of it is that I learned that I have some work to do.

Parting Thoughts

It didn’t occur to me until after I was back on Interstate 15 North headed home that I may have caused the members of Bayview Baptist Church some consternation. Here was a large white man walking into church while all around the country, race issues were reaching cataclysmic stages. Did anyone wonder if I had a gun? Should I…could I…have been more sensitive to their situation? Am I completely overthinking the entire episode? Does anyone even remember that I existed?

As you might suspect, I’ve settled nicely into a mostly white church in my mostly white neighborhood in San Diego. I feel comfortable there because the preaching style is what I enjoy and the music is what I want to sing and hear. I will happily welcome any person of any race into our church and defend them should I discover any inappropriateness, but I doubt we’ll see many of them for the same two reasons I listed for my being there. My visit to Bayview and my membership at Legacy all point to the same simple fact: We’ve got some work to do in America’s church.

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A Kansas Yankee in King Clinton’s Court

It was nearly a decade ago when I first saw it. I thought my eyes were surely deceiving me. Yet there it was, smacking me in the face. Right in the middle of a small circulation newspaper covering a suburb of Little Rock, Arkansas was the most glaring evidence that I was in a completely foreign culture…General Robert E. Lee and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the same page; both heralded for their heroic deeds! Surely I wasn’t the only person to notice the irony. Or was I?

As the years passed between me and my tour of duty in Little Rock, Arkansas, I thought surely that these wounds had come closer to healing, but recent events have proven otherwise. Perhaps in the larger cities, both in the north and the south, few people notice such things, but to the student of history, the wounds of the Civil War still cut deep.

There are undoubtedly those who don’t believe that I, a Kansas native, have any reason to speak of such sacred things as the “war between the states,” as it is called in the occupied territories. Indeed, many southerners I have spoken with in the Navy don’t know that Kansas became a state during that war, or that Bloody Kansas, the gory nickname given my home state in the early 1800s, revolved around the issue of slavery. In fact, for those who believe that the war was over slavery, I might announce proudly that John Brown was from Kansas, and he fought hard to give life to a slave revolt (of which no slaves took part). I would also draw attention back to my state’s history as “Bloody Kansas.” Raiding parties from pro-slavery Missouri attacked and slaughtered free-state farmers near Fort Scott, Kansas. To further prove my interest in the issue, I point to the fact that Kansas sent more troops to fight for the north than any other state per capita. Over 20,000 young men fought in the union army. Post-Civil War, the issue again rested in Kansas through Brown v. Kansas Board of Education. There you have it. I have surely proven my own vested interest in this discussion.

But herein lies the very reason for this essay. More than just being qualified to present my gripes in front of the nation is the fact that the nation still has gripes to lie down. The reasons for these complaints are hard to pinpoint. Some believe that the north failed to accept the south back into the union properly or that the slave issue was not completely resolved (the forty acres and a mule argument). Still others believe that there simply hasn’t been enough time between the war and the present for proper healing to take place. Personally, I believe that the relationship between the states was never on a very firm footing even before the war. How can a lasting, satisfying relationship blossom after a massive war undertaking when no such relationship existed in the first place? No other nation in the world, save perhaps for the precarious relationship England has with Wales and Scotland, has the same unsteady disposition between its individual provinces.

Barack Obama’s presidency started to heal the rift, but as his time came to an end, I fear that his became a contentious presidency as well. The issue of his presidency gets a little deeper than just the north versus the south, but in reality, his election and reelection has not provided any healing in this country.

While living in Arkansas, I noticed a great deal of cultural difference between my home state and my adopted state, though the two were practically within shouting distance. Separated only by an imaginary line, the two dominant American cultures still collide, giving weight to my argument regarding the lasting impact of the civil war. For example, let me explain my stance on the “flag issue.” I know it is a stereotype, but I did see a good number of trucks in the south with a shotgun in the window and a confederate flag bumper sticker. Who can possibly think that’s acceptable?

Freedom of speech pundits would attack my argument here, and perhaps they should take their fair shot, but the truth is this flag that I see in so many yards, plastered on so many tee shirts, and stuck to so many truck bumpers represents a lot that went wrong in America. How many more Yankees and Rebels would have had to die to preserve a country united under one flag instead of having stubborn pride in one no longer associated with anything other than a defeated temper-tantrum?

And then there is state-based pride, something that I also feel deeply within me. What I have noticed, however, is that even to this day there seems to be a more powerful pull to one’s home state in the south than in the north. For example: How many times has a Texan reminded you that they don’t have to be a part of the United States? This, of course, is the entire reason the south left the union. State by state they fell away, forming a loose trading and military relationship that lasted throughout most of the Civil War.

Had the south won, there is little reason to believe that the United States would have been around at all today. Instead, a limited number of states, however many that might have formed or expanded after the war, would have continued to exist, each forming small trading relationships when needed and rescinding them when not. America could never have been the powerful nation she is today if the south had won the war.  Despite this reality, a southerner will still argue that the state should have more powers than the federal government.

I would also quickly add that the Confederate States of America could never have held the position the United States holds today. Despite some problems with his basic plotlines, Harry Turtledove quite wonderfully depicts what would have happened to the two countries had the South won. While I believe none of the southern states would have stayed true to the original formation, he does point out one very interesting fact: Every time a major war broke out in the world, the USA and CSA would undoubtedly have landed on separate sides of the issue. In the end, the states that make up the present-day USA would have destroyed each other. Only in the post-WWII world has Europe finally managed to displace many of the cultural issues that kept them at best unwilling partners throughout much of history. How long would it have taken America to do the same, considering the enormous differences in our own state-based associations?

I’m not just writing to bash my southern friends. What the south has in prideful belief in a failed rebellion the north more than makes up for in snobbish misrepresentation and, to some degree, rewritten history. If you have indeed remained patient with me this far into our cultural study, you will now see just how arrogant the north can be. Indeed, as a Yankee, I am so convinced that nothing could have won the war for the south, not even the entrance of England onto their side, that I freely verbally attack any southerner who offers me argument. I sometimes think of myself as the Kansas Yankee in King Clinton’s Court, desperately trying to show the ignorant people of this land how to ride bicycles. While many of my northern counterparts don’t share this extreme form of arrogance, it is none-the-less present…just ask any southerner who has sojourned to the north.

And then there is the idea that the North could do no wrong. Even as recently as last week, as I read about the issue of slavery, I realized that glossing over the issue of race relations in the North would be wrong. The fact is simple: blacks and other minorities in the North during the time of the Civil War were free, but not in any way, shape, or form, equal.

These are but a few of the reasons that the Civil War continues today. Southerners announce their affiliation by driving around a defeated flag, even in a growing, prosperous city such as Little Rock, while northerners continue their attacks with a failure to truly reconcile differences or understand their own shared history of racial prejudice. Perhaps these differences would never have been resolved naturally in any case, but the fact remains, no one is really ready for the Civil War to be over yet. We will continue to fight with words what our forefathers fought with guns. How much longer the war will continue no one can tell for sure, nor can they tell what will actually end the war for good. Suffice to say; it will most likely continue for some time, at least until this Kansas Yankee starts living like an American instead of like he is teaching King Clinton’s minions how to ride bicycles.