God and Country

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Mere months ago, many who called themselves, “Christian,” found themselves severely upset over the removal of monuments dedicated to individuals who fought against the American flag. These people, Robert E. Lee, etc., formed a rival government and led a Civil War against the country of the United States of America. This group of people founded their own flag and killed American Patriots dedicated to preserving the nation. Hundreds of “Conservative Christians” lined the streets of America and pontificated on social media against the removal of monuments and statues honoring these individuals who lead a revolt against the American flag.

Fast forward a month later. Suddenly, “Christian Patriots” are offended that football players are either taking a need during the National Anthem or not coming out to the field at all. My first question is, where were these offended before 2009? Why 2009? Well, let’s look at a bit of history.

Before 2009, not a single football player took the field before the National Anthem being played. Up until 2009, every single player on every single team remained in the locker room until AFTER the singing of the National Anthem. Until this point, the National Anthem would be played or sang, then the team would charge out onto the field in a grand spectacle of fireworks, fanfare, and paper displays strategically placed for that key player to burst through in a great display of domination. No one was offended, and no was in the news decrying the absence of football players on the field during the National Anthem. What changed? What made football, and every other sport, put their players out for display during the Star-Spangled Banner? Marketing. Good ole fashioned Capitalism.

The average cost of a Super Bowl ad was $5 million for thirty seconds of the 2017 game. That is $167,000 per second for an ad in the Super Bowl. Advertisers must see value in broadcasting to football fans. Consider, from 2011 to 2014, the Department of Defense paid the NFL $5.4 million to put players on the field during the National Anthem and flag ceremonies. The National Guard followed suit, paying the NFL $6.8 million from 2013 to 2015 for player representation during military presentations. Before 2009, NFL players stayed in the locker room for the National Anthem, but no one seems to remember that. So, why the change?

This subject is a much deeper topic than I can get into on this individual post. However, we cannot overlook the relationship between the effect of Super Bowl ads and the paid presentation of NFL football players during the National Anthem. The DoD and the National Guard began a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign in 2009 to the fans of sporting events. Much like Michael Jordan selling Nikes, the thought was that sports fans watching their heroes saluting the flag would become more patriotic as a result. This performance was billed in government documentation as a “recruitment expense.” Even the “surprise welcome home” events are a part of this paid marketing. Yes, the government pays the NFL, MLB, and others to do these “surprise” welcome home events during their games. John McCain himself penned a letter condemning this practice. The current outrage that players do not participate in the government-funded activity is proof their marketing dollars are worth the expense.

This attempt to gaslight the public, and us as Christians, to become enraged over a football player not coming out to the field, or taking a knee during the National Anthem, is nothing more than a successful attempt to lure us into blind, unconditional support of the government institution. This manufactured anger over a flag that we wear as bikinis or use to wipe the ketchup from our mouths as a napkin at Fourth of July BBQs takes our focus away from what is real and relevant. Jesus never swore allegiance to the Jewish State. Our Christ never got offended at someone kneeling before the Flag of Rome. Jesus respected Caesar and what belonged to the government, but His allegiance was to the Kingdom of God.

We as Christians have become easy prey in attempts to gaslight groups into outrage over things that are wholly insignificant relative to the Gospel. There is a significant difference between, “God and country,” and “Christ and Kingdom” and Christians need to understand that every issue does not require a response. Jesus spent most of His ministry ministering in silence. We as Christians have become debaters instead of demonstrators. The “Take a Knee” issue has become but one in another matter in a long line of misguided attempts to drag us into the secular culture war. Jesus never fell for this, and neither should we.

The “Take a Knee” issue is not about patriotism; it’s about racism. Racism is wrong, and we as Christians should stand against it, and we need to stop hiding it behind things like patriotism. If you are uncomfortable with diversity, you’d probably hate Heaven anyway. The issue of black football players taking a knee has nothing to do with patriotism and everything to do with racism in America. Christians should not allow patriotism to cover the sin of racism.

I fly an American flag in my front yard every day of the year. I love my country and admire patriotism. However, the National Anthem is not a hymn. Patriotism is not forcing people to stand and salute the flag. Patriotism is creating a country where people want to stand and salute the flag. Veterans fought for freedom, not a flag. We as Christians need to live lives that draw people to Jesus and taking to social media over every issue is not the way to do that. Jesus did not address every issue. In fact, most of His ministry was worked out in silence. We should be so wise as to model His behavior.

 

 

 

 

 

A Community of Tomorrow

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I lived in Orlando for almost five years. Since moving to Houston, I have made a purpose of returning to the City Beautiful as often as possible. This endeavor leads to at least two trips across the Gulf a year in attempts to stay as connected as possible to what I consider my adoptive home.

I would be a liar (as if I am not other times in my life) if I denied Walt Disney World did not play a huge part of my excursions back to Central Florida. Mickey Mouse is not my sole reason for returning, but he joins my list of friends, activities, the church I attend in Orlando, and various other sirens that call me to return.

Of all the things that go on in Walt Disney World, Epcot hands down is my favorite of the resort activities. There are many reasons for my love of the second-built theme park within the San Fransisco-sized Disney resort, and the primary one has nothing to do with Mickey Mouse.

International Diversity

I am a huge proponent of travel. Travel. Travel well. Travel often. Travel exposes people to views, opinions, cultures, and most of all people that are different than us. Too many of us never experience the world outside our own hometown. The world is so much bigger than your neighborhood. However, international travel seems much too huge an endeavor for the average joe.

Epcot follows a “two parks in one” model with Future World on one side and “World Showcase” on the other side. World Showcase consists of eleven pavilions featuring different countries from all parts of the world. One can spend all day walking the semicircle of World Showcase spending time in each country as you go.

The pavilions are staffed with Cast Members from the respective countries. Now, there is a Disneyesque manner in which each country is portrayed. However, a visit to each pavilion will put one in contact with actual people from somewhere other than Anywhere, U.S.A. Some pavilions show films educating viewers of the country, and all have restaurants featuring samples of local fare.

We are living in a time when the world is growing and shrinking at the same time. This situation provides many opportunities to pull each other together. However, there are just as many, if not more, trying to pull us apart. Diversity is a beautiful thing, but it is something one must experience to appreciate. I am fortunate in that I have eleven stamps in my passport (so far). However, most people feel they cannot accomplish a tour of the world.

The reason I love Epcot is it allows people to go on a trip to one place and meet a widely diverse range of individuals. It provides experiences in their culture, even if it is in a Mickey Mouse way. Time has taught me experience changes people. Travel changes people. Walking the pavilions of Epcot provides an opportunity for Disney guests to expand their minds and take in a plethora of new ideas, food, music, and most of all, people. I feel an exuberance wandering from “country” to “country” I cannot find in one location like I can inside Epcot. My love for this theme park actually has so little to do with Disney and so much to do with my growth as a person.

One cannot grow as an individual, thoroughly love, and fully take in life inside one’s bubble. This world and the people who live on it were beautifully created, each in their own way. Get outside your comfort zone, talk to people not like you, learn why they think the way you do. Don’t spend your life in the same bland room everyday. Life was meant to live in color. We each get to choose what kind of community we will live in tomorrow. Do what you can to make it a better one.