Give them credit, the NFL owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell have me thinking of the great Protestant reformer John Calvin. Calvin sought to establish Geneva as the model Christian city in the mid-1500s. So far, so good. However, Calvin's reputation is stained by a terrible incident in 1553. Michael Servetus was a brilliant physician, polymath, and theologian who had an unorthodox view of the incarnation of Christ and the trinity, preferring to say "the Son of the eternal God" rather than "the eternal Son of God." (I know...arguing over words is such a good idea.) Calvin tried to convince Servetus to recant, to no avail. When Servetus was judged guilty and sentenced to death by being burned at the stake, Calvin argued that a more humane sentence would be beheading. He lost that argument as well, and, as the "expert witness" for the prosecution, consented to Servetus being burned alive. One might say Calvin was just a man of his times, but the fate of Servetus does still carry weight in any assessment of the reformer's moral impact.
Is it not obvious from our perspective that forced faith isn't faith at all? One would think.
Now, the NFL is not killing anybody over the flag issue. But the flag issue is about people being killed by police. It would serve us well to remember that. The players who have knelt (a non-violent gesture of prayer, by the way) before games have done so to call attention to the ongoing phenomenon of police violence against unarmed people or people who have only committed minor infractions. Yet, the players are now being mandated to stand for the national anthem or to stay in the locker room before the games, as if their patriotism is at issue. Maybe a bit of inconsistency there? Forced patriotism isn't patriotism. And true patriots should want to strive for "a more perfect union."
I love those words in the anthem "O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave." If we are to sing them well, we must practice what we preach. There is a favorite saying, especially among veterans groups, that "Freedom isn't Free." I get what they are saying, and I bet a lot of civil rights leaders would say the same. Yet, the flip side is true as well. Freedom must be free.