Don't Shoot the Message

"Then the herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up; and whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace." (Daniel 3:4-6)

Daniel chapter three tells us the story of three Hebrew boys taken into captivity by the Babylonians, and subsequently due to their hard work and God's blessings, elevated to high positions. Daniel chapter three tells us the story of three Hebrew boys that we in Christianity hold in high regard for taking a stance for what was right, and in direct opposition to the ruler of the time, King Nebuchadnezzar.

In the story the people are gathered together, and presented with a symbol of their nation, one which they are commanded to worship and revere and out of fear, or out of some concept of unity, or out of patriotism, at the designated time the people fall down and reverence this statue.

All but three young Hebrew men.

Three young Hebrew men that did the opposite of what was commanded to do, because they took a stance for what they believed was right. Three young Hebrew men that took a stance and were willing to pay the price for that stance. Three Hebrew men that had the courage to stand.

Can you picture it? A large crowd have come together at a set place, the mood is festive and jubilant. And now the music begins to play; the period of reverence has begun. Now is the proper time for unveiling the object of reverence for the people, and as one the people stand.

All the people.

All but one brave young man.

One brave young man who chooses to kneel.

There are many parallels to be drawn between the events in Daniel chapter 3 and what is currently taking place in the United States with Colin Kaepernick, but what stands out is the bravery to go against the grain, the conviction of beliefs, and the willingness to face the consequences for doing what is right.

And yet, Colin Kaepernick is not held in universal high regard as these three Hebrew men.

"He is disrespecting the flag." "He is disrespecting the nation." "He is disrespecting the veterans.".


He is protesting injustice. He is protesting inequality. He is calling for his country to do better, be better, try harder; to do what is right.

Unlike the events of Daniel 3, Kaepernick has not been thrown into a literal furnace, but I can assure you he is feeling the heat. Unemployed. In receipt of death threats; and vilified and demonised pretty much everywhere he goes.

My question in this story is why the difference in perception within Christianity between Colin Kaepernick and these Hebrew men?

Did both not go against common traditions? Did both not take a stance for what they believed was right? Did both not do what God has called them to do?

I understand that some may query Kaepernick's stand as being what God called him (and us) to do but Exodus 23:2 says "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to turn aside after a multitude to wrest justice." Job 8:3 asks us "Doth God pervert justice? Or doth the Almighty pervert righteousness?" Then there is Isaiah 1:17 which says "learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."

The call to justice is repeated time and time again throughout the Bible, and with the constant editing and manipulation of the narrative surrounding events in the NFL, it's easy to understand why some veterans may be upset. What is not easy to understand is how anyone could be so upset at the manner of this protest and not even more upset at the fact that a 12-year-old child is shot and killed in less than two seconds of police showing up, and nobody is held accountable. What is not easy to understand is that despite running away, posing no threat to any one, Walter Scott was shot in the back. His execution was caught on video, and yet nobody has been held accountable.

This is the message that Kaepernick is sending out, that is being lost in all the noise: the biblical mandate to ensure that justice is given to all.

The people in Babylon were given the command to worship the idol that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected on that plain, and when I see the events that are taking place, when the loss of human life is not worth as much outrage and anger as perceived disrespect to a piece of cloth draped over a field, it seems to me it is necessary to ask, "Has the flag become our idol on the plain"? Have we become so motivated by fear, or some concept of unity and common identity, that we forget to do what is right? Do we allow strongman leaders in our society, in our work places, or in our very churches to persuade us to ignore the suffering and pain of others because we must remain united? Unity that is built on the exclusion, denigration, and detriment of others within the community is not unity. It is just wrong.

It's perfectly fine to disagree with Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem if you are just as upset when you see injustice. It's perfectly acceptable to disagree with kneeling during a flag ceremony if it does not prevent you from hearing the message against injustice. It is perfectly fine to dislike the messenger if you can still heed the message.

The Old Testament contains call after call, command after command, reminder after reminder to God's chosen people to be just and to give justice; and if we are his church it is just as applicable to us.

You don't have to take a knee during the anthem like Kaepernick. By all means stand. But also stand when it is time to protest injustice. Stand when it's time to demand equality. Stand and be the example of love and justice God has asked us to be.

You don't have to like Kaepernick, because that is not what this is about. You don't have to like the fact that NFL players are kneeling during the national anthem. That is our prerogative to hold differing opinions. But let's not shoot the message just because we don't like the messenger.

Tabitha Purple is currently serving as a pastor in the Netherlands Union. She also blogs on where she frequently discusses practical theology and life with a creative emphasis.

Photo Credit: Video Still

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He is doing all of these things.

For him it is about injustice, like police shooting unarmed blacks (which they don’t do hardly at all)

And protesting inequality? Hmm… These guys are making millions. I think we have been told by some we should b donating to help the poor etc. Does he do that? Has he given, or any other of these players given money to causes that would lessen injustice? (I think they have given some, but in relationship to the amount they make, it might not be much, but I could be wrong on this one.) Or is it just to hassle the more conservative folks in the stands?

Calling for the country to do better, try harder, do what is right? Name me a country that gives blacks more opportunity than this one! This country has the most black millionaires of any in the world. So just exactly what is it that it is supposed to be doing better at and trying harder at? You might check the opportunity given to blacks in black countries of Africa, or anywhere else for that matter.

I don’t watch much football, but do enjoy it when I can. I think most of us would prefer not to have politics shoved down our throats during such times. His acts were divisive. This country has enough folk like that not to bring into this sport. But then, I am not the arbiter of such things, and the whole country is divided along certain lines, and some cannot let it rest.

To Frank,

No, I do not see the parallels, because I know of no other country that gives blacks the opportunities they have here. Have you lived in other countries, like African ones? I have. Everyone, even Africans want to come to this place where there is so much “systemic injustice”. Why do they want to come? Because this is a place they can get ahead, even if from the depths of Africa. Don’t you get it? And Kaepernick has benefited more than most, especially with his history.

Here is another thing you seem to miss. Standing for the flag means standing for what it represents. And kneeling means you are disrespecting what it represents. It seems to say you world rather not be free.

Now I could see kneeling for the Confederate flag, I mean that has a meaning that would justify kneeling. But the US flag? Old Glory? You’ve got your symbols mixed up…

I am still waiting for you to name the country that has given more opportunities to blacks. You might say that these guys have privilege…

For Frank, 2

Frank, I am waiting for the country that offers more to blacks than America. Your turn.

I own two apartment buildings in Hammond which is a mixed, city, but my apartments are in the black part of town, and I have only black tenants at this time. I know of their issues first hand, and am sympathetic, and treat them accordingly. You could speak to them. As I have said before, when one of them returns to Hammond, they seek me out to see if I have a place available for them.

I don’t deny racism, but I think that if blacks want to better themselves, that it is only they that can do it. Giving racism as an excuse for failure really doesn’t fly. It is only individual effort that can make a difference (like the NFL players do). If it is always those whites that are to blame, you will get nowhere. I have black students in the little church school at NW (you would be surprised to know that on some occasions, it has been a majority black school run by a large majority white church!), and I encourage them to excel (I still teach science there), and some have. I don’t treat them any different than the whites, and they know it.

“2 Pastors” Harry:

Hmmm… I did not know that. (I did know about the Klan in Hobart, the town I lived in while pastoring, but not Crown Point) Crown Point center for the KKK, Shepherd shepherding the KKK faithful.

Then why bring it up? What do YOU know about NW SDA church? It became more racially diverse under my ministry and continues to do so today. In fact you don’t have any idea what you are talking about or insinuating. And BTW, I pastored two churches, the other was in Hammond, a multicultural church of about 60% black, 30% white, and 10% hispanic. I don’t recall any Klan members there, but of course since I am so like them i would miss that.

Oh, now I get it. If I think the black millionaires are amiss in their protests, I am a white supremacist? Can you do any better than calling your opponent a name? How about some thinking? You know there is a spectrum of thinkers between you and white supremacists. Identity politics practiced on your opponents: call someone a name and you now have them completely figured out. Wow.

To you as to Frank: Name a country that has given more opportunities to blacks than the US. When you can, then you can stand for that flag, and kneel to the US’s.

BTW, white Americans died to free black slaves while flying that flag. Hmm…


I’ll just leave this here…
NFL players’ union teamed up with Soros to fund leftist advocacy groups
Tax documents show NFLPA activism goes beyond take-a-knee protests

The stand for equality and justice should start within the NFL itself. They should have players from every race AND gender playing every position available They should all score touchdowns and or field goals equally each time their team has possession of the ball. They should all be paid equally. Where is their equality and justice?

Kapernick has donated over a million dollars of his own money to the cause he is standing/ kneeling for. He puts his money where his mouth is, Alan. He has integrity, he’s lost his job over this.

What amazes me is that you, as an SDA minister have probably preached sermons on Daniel 3, but can’t see the validity of the parallels here. Unless it applies to compulsory Sunday observance, this has no meaning or valid application? Or does your own privilege blind you to the systemic injustice by race and class that exists in American society?

Veterans gave their lives not for the symbol of the flag, but for what it represents. And the bedrock of that is freedom. Freedom to protest, freedom to call wrong for what it is, even if it makes the majority of us uncomfortable or offended. It’s what the prophets and Jesus did. They were killed for it. Is that where we want to go as Americans? Or as Christians?




So you think that economic opportunity for some cancels out the idea that systemic injustice and racism even exist in this country? Do you really think that inner city African Americans have equal access to this opportunity with the majority population of more affluent areas? Just look at the gulf in resources amongst public school systems, and tell me it’s a level playing field. Look at living in food deserts, lack of access to quality health care, and living with the constant spectre of being pulled over for driving while black, and tell me that all African Americans need to do is pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and all will be well for them.

Colonialism and slavery unleashed a trans generational set of issues that have caused poverty, and have set up obstacles to equality and justice that many African Americans continue to live with that you won’t even acknowledge, or of which you seem to have no clue.

This is what someone like Kapernick is protesting. The gulf between the ideals of the flag, and the reality of life for many blacks in this country. And, the hypocrisy of celebrating the flag while not even acknowledging that such institutional injustice even exists.



You run the same tired challenge that means nothing. Blacks having better economic opportunity here isn’t the point. The point is, inner city African Americans have far less access to that opportunity than the white majority in America. They have under funded, under staffed, and under resourced schools that slant the playing field from the get go. This type of systemic inequity can be found in every area of society and life, from access to health care, quality nutrition, and living with racial profiling as a daily reality.

Trying harder, and pulling oneself up by ones bootstraps is the typical American myth. No one denies the role of personsl choices and responsibility. But neither should you deny the reality of systemic and institutionalized racism and injustice that is still operative in our society, and that limits personal choice, freedom, and opportunity.

And if you don’t think that’s true, why did the vice president just walk out of a football game where black athletes knelt, but neither he nor the president have uttered a word about the repeat KKK performance at Charlottesville!!! It’s appalling… and it says it all!


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But you failed to mention to make certain you stand at the appropriate time and place. Many a person have gotten into trouble saying the right things at the wrong time and place as I have witnessed while doing psychiatric admissions. Certainly you have heard Reagan joke about an American who tells a Russian that the United States is so free he can stand in front of the White House and yell, ‘‘To hell with Ronald Reagan.’’ The Russian replies: ‘‘That’s nothing. I can stand in front of the Kremlin and yell, ‘To hell with Ronald Reagan,’ too.’’

I paid DirecTV to watch football, only football. NFL players can protest in their own time. Enough said.


Thank you Tabitha. I have read your post as well as the responses of those who disagree with your perspective and state “He is disrespecting the flag.” “He is disrespecting the nation.” “He is disrespecting the veterans.”. Something is missing here . . . I would like to point out that the “one” leveling these charges at the athletes who knelt in protest is himself a draft dodger and tax evader and you can get other descriptors from the infamous Access Hollywood tape! Why didn’t he release his tax records to show everyone that he has given to charity? that he has paid his fair share of taxes that would help veterans among other national needs? By his actions he has shown, in his own way, disrespect for the flag, the nation and the veterans.

I don’t pay any attention to football. I think it is a barbaric sport (although not as bad as boxing). But, hey, different strokes for different folks. However, I’m not sure how kneeling down during the national anthem can have any effect on “social justice.” All it does is make them look stupid in the eyes of many. And, they actually lose sympathy for their cause by disrespecting a symbol that many people revere. If they want to get their message out, there are other, less controversial ways of doing it.


Thank you Tabitha Purple for stimulating the conversation with your comparison with Daniel’s three friends. I can imagine that the vast majority of “upstanding” Babylonians didn’t want these irritating, disrespectful folks disturbing their worship.

Yahoo Sports reports on its survey of attitudes about Colin Kaepernick; especially differences in attitudes by race and age.

“Overall, 47 percent of Americans oppose Kaepernick’s protest, with 32 percent in support and the remaining 21 percent either neutral or declining to offer an opinion. Respondents under the age of 34 are divided, with 39 percent supporting Kaepernick and 30 percent opposing him, while 65 percent of Americans over the age of 55 oppose the protest.

From a racial perspective, only 24 percent of whites supported Kaepernick’s protest, while 63 percent of black Americans supported his action. Hispanic Americans fell short of the midpoint at 39 percent.



Dear Pastor Tabitha Purple (wonderful, biblical name, that):

Thank you for your rich, extended analogy on this lacerating topic.

What’s clear to me is that, as a non-white person, while certainly living second-by-second with the indignities of which racism is built, you have not been smothered by them. Your mind and spirit have not been quenched, but are alive and vital.

Like the great ministers of yore, you reached back into the Word’s deep well, with your God-given imagination, and fused these two narratives—one national, one scriptural—into a new story of prophecy.

I’ve never heard you preach, or been to your church. But it’s obvious that, were one to attend, each week, they would see you burst new wineskins.

Dear Pastor @ajshep:

Northwest SDA Church, where you minister, is in a town—Crown Point, IN—whose historical KKK membership, during the last century, was notable enough to be the site of scholarly study and regard. It is a place, one researcher states, that enjoyed a particularly “high level of Klan participation by county employees.” It is a municipality that, even recently, was depicted as brutally racist in a fictional, TV cop show. Today, as diversity becomes a significant cultural byword, Crown Point is still 88% white.

I don’t lay these charges at your feet. Of course, not. But I surrender this history there. In other words, it seems to me that, if this is the legacy of the site where you preach the word of God, you should do better than to offer worn, fatuous homilies about athletes and their incomes, or what it would be like for them if they’d stayed in Africa.

In other words, you should demonstrate a little humility, that being a key ingredient of ministry, as I’ve been told. @frank_merendino is correct.

Put another way, these men are, often, millionaires. Yet, despite the trappings of fame and wealth, they feel strongly enough about the degradation suffered by fellow African-Americans to court white hostility and opprobrium.

Given this, who in the world are you to tell them how they should feel, or how they should protest? Why isn’t the fact of a white person telling Black people what to do, and how to think, a root expression of white supremacy?

The American flag stands for freedom, justice, and equality. When the nation fails to deliver these essences, why should its logo be given allegiance? Because there are better ways to make one’s differences heard? Tell it to the Klan.



The analogy falls down badly because players, particularly with modern media and social media have a plethora of options to communicate their protest rather than face the furnace. How often do they raise issues via twitter, FB or even when interviewed.
We are told they want to start a conversation about racial injustice, something that is needed beyond doubt, but they choose a medium that drives the very people they wish to engage to the opposite corner.
Once the few ties that bind a country unravel, a very dangerous path ahead looms large.


Where to begin with some of the blatantly toxic, and racist sentiments that are expressed and exposed in the comments section?

Let’s address the notion that black millionaires should be silent because they have wealth first. The current sitting president of the USA has been anything but silent before he became president, in fact in his campaign he was highly critical of the state of the country. Who told him he had no right to express his voice based on the idea that he was living in a country that has more white millionaires than any other country, and that this country gave him the opportunity to become a billionaire?

Next let’s address the idea that calling for a country to do better, to be better and try harder is a bad thing? It’s funny that when the call is framed in the call to “Make America Great Again” conservatives are all for the country doing better and trying harder, but when the call to try harder and do better is in regards to the treatment of minorities it is no longer desirable. With this in mind it is necessary to ask just what does a great America look like to conservatives? Does it include the notion of equality and justice for all, or is it more of a pre amendment view of equality?

To ask “just what exactly is it that it (USA) is supposed to be doing better at and trying harder at” shows that the message has long been shot. To then base that reasoning on the idea that because a few people have managed to become wealthy that all is ok is an ignorant idea. Even more worrying is why the call to do better is ever questioned! Should we not constantly be striving to improve the community and the lives of those around us?

Next up is a statement dripping with colonial prejudice. “Why do they want to come here? Because this is a place they can get ahead, even if from the depths of Africa”. Africa is a continent. It is comprised of many different countries with many different cultures and languages, so where is this “depths of Africa” you mention? As for why do African’s wish to come to the USA? Perhaps the systemic pillaging, plundering and rape of the continents resources by western countries and corporations makes it difficult for many African nations to raise living standards to a sufficient level, that many will migrate for a better financial situation. It’s disingenuous at best to suggest that people won’t risk systemic injustice to overcome financial hardships. After all it’s better to risk the Russian roulette of police brutality that the certainty of continuous financial struggle.

“Now I could see kneeling for the confederate flag…”, somebody please explain to me why it’s acceptable for the flag of traitors to be flown and waved. And that’s before we even come to its racist connotations. It seems to me kneeling for the confederate flag should not be an option but a requirement, after all if kneeling for a flag shows opposition for what a flag represents, standing for it shows support. Thus at best those that don’t kneel when they see the confederate flag are at best showing indifference to what that flag represents.

"Frank, I am waiting for the country that offers more to blacks than America. Your turn.

I own two apartment buildings in Hammond which is a mixed, city, but my apartments are in the black part of town, and I have only black tenants at this time. I know of their issues first hand, and am sympathetic, and treat them accordingly. You could speak to them. As I have said before, when one of them returns to Hammond, they seek me out to see if I have a place available for them." Could it be possible for a sentiment to be any more condescending and patronising? This sentiment is overloaded with “white saviour” ideology. To know the issues of black people first hand a person would have had to endure it personally, and I would suggest that it is highly improbable that someone who owns at least two properties does have first hand experience. When slavery was abolished in the USA there were stories of slaves seeking out their former masters for employment and shelter, but this was not down out of desire but necessity.

I also read the idea that until a country can be named that has provided more opportunities to blacks, then people should stand for the flag of the USA. Does this mean that Native Americans have the innate right to not even kneel but to sit for the US flag? Considering the genocide of their peoples that was carried out under that banner arguably every other flag in the world has been better for them.

I could go on, but instead I will ask a question:

If kneeling for a flag can cause a person to lose sympathy for the loss of a human life, whose symbol do you value more: God’s or mans? For humanity was created in the image of God, and it was humanity Christ died for but a flag… That is a symbol created by a few privileged individuals who imposed their will upon others by the point of the sword and the butt of the gun.


“But let’s not shoot the message just because we don’t like the messenger.”

I think you may have it reversed. The flag and anthem are symbols that represent, for millions of people, the best of what America is and should be, including but not limited to the blood of its soldiers. I think most people who take issue with the “kneelers” could care less about the messenger. It is the “message” that is being sent that is so appalling. Thinking that some football player in the 21st century gets to invest the country’s flag with his individualistic meaning and then use that as the object of his protest is like spewing out a run of cuss words in one language but saying, “In my language, it’s the Lord’s prayer.”

If one wants to avoid insulting millions of his fellow Americans with a message that protests injustice, he and others are in luck. This is the information age and the resources to clearly articulate their protest is legion. Dishonoring the most cherished symbols of a people as a means of protest is the ideal way to ensure one’s message will be hindered, misunderstood, or not heard at all by the very ones you were intending it for.

I may have missed it, but does the article or any of the responding comments state this?