The “Wrong” Kind of Christian



Last week, one of my students brought to my attention a really interesting article from the Washington Post, titled “Colin Kaepernick vs. Tim Tebow:  A tale of two Christians on their knees.”  [Find it here: Tebow and Kaepernick].  It was written in light of the current practice of NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice; a practice that Kaepernick himself started last year.  [Read about that here:  Taking a Knee]  That action has been widely criticized, not least by the president, and Kaepernick still finds himself without an NFL team, and condemned by many.

What many people don’t know–or don’t seem to care about–is that Kaepernick’s actions were motivated in no small part by his Christian faith; and what the response to his actions has revealed is “the brand of Christianity preferred by many in the church today.”

That’s the gist of the article.  Christians like Tim Tebow–and the way he often “took a knee” in prayer [remember when “Tebowing” was a thing?], publicly declared his sexual purity, wore Bible verses on his eye black, and spent summers helping at an orphanage in the Philippines.  They don’t however, like Colin Kaepernick, who has religious tattoos, raised millions for food and water in Somalia, but took his knee in support of BlackLivesMatter, and to protest violence against African-Americans.

[Also, did I say that Kaepernick has a big ol’ afro and is black, and that Tebow is a clean-cut white boy?  I wonder how much of this whole article could just be boiled down to that….]

In any case, the article asked about the two versions of Christianity the men seem to represent:  “One that values personal piety, gentleness, respect for cultural mores, and an emphasis on moral issues like abortion and homosexuality, and another that values social justice, community development, racial reconciliation, and political activism.”  The point the author makes is that this division is hurting the church and weakening its public witness and action in the world.  Each side needs to be enriched by the vision of the other, the author says.

I agree, but I would say more:  if Christianity gets reduced to one’s own personal piety, or the narrow work of “saving souls,” it will have fallen far, far short of the vision Christ gave to his disciples, and the happy task of embodying the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God to which all Christians are called.  Colin Kaepernick is exemplifying a Christian prophetic witness that is challenging, complicating and convicting.  It demands that we rethink our ways of being in the world, repent of our own sinfulness, and rededicate ourselves to the work of peace and justice for all in society. In short, it is deeply faithful to Christ’s own ministry.

However, that work is hard–you don’t make a lot of friends that way.  It would be a whole lot easier to just go quietly into a church and pray, and try to be a nice person [well, that’s not so easy, either, as we have seen from the many who have vilified Kaepernick, even sending him death threats].  And yet, the Christian faith is not a possession for oneself, something to reassure me and make me feel good about myself; instead it is a gift to be used for the sake of the world–and sometimes that gift comes with a cost, and it means going against the grain, making people angry, and demanding conversations that are difficult and painful.  No one said the gospel was meant to make life easy.

I am grateful for Kaepernick, and for his witness; for his challenge to me and to this country to take a hard look at our racism and commit to change–working together, talking together, and yes, praying together.  Only then can we stand up together–all together.  In the meantime, let’s pay attention to those protests and not write them off.  Sometimes the “wrong” kind of Christian is exactly what this world needs.


47 thoughts on “The “Wrong” Kind of Christian

  1. This article is a lie. Tebow was told he couldn’t wear his bible verses and he was made fun of for his praying and his religious beliefs. Get your facts straight before you start throwing out the race card.


    1. You are welcome to fact-check the article; as you know [and exemplify], what one group celebrates another group challenges, so you certainly are right that not everyone loved his religious beliefs. And, by the way, racism isn’t a “card,” and this isn’t a game.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. Thank you again for your wisdom, and calming thoughts. I am so very uplifted that there are Christian leaders out there that truly “get it”. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


    2. Tom didn’t become one of the most reviled people in the country, I believe, because he was just a nice, clean-cut, white boy who made the mistake of showing his love of the Lord to the public in a way that made them uncomfortable. Then Colin comes along and takes a knee about one of the biggest social issues of our time. He becomes a hated man by many. How dare he stand up for those people. I remember another man, you probably know him, who stood up for a prostitute.


  2. Tell me again how wearing a Castro t-shirt and clothes with deragatory statements about police put him in the same light as Tebow?
    Tebow and others were showing respect to God, not trying to make a statement against their country. So I guess from one Happy Lutheran to another, I am going to agree to disagree with your logic.
    Very disappointed in your views.


    1. Part of my problem in your response is your equation of God and country; such that if someone challenges a practice or policy in the United States, not only is he not a good American, but he is not a good Christian. That is a false equivalency. Being a good citizen means being fully engaged, and speaking up not only when things are going well, but also when things are going wrong, not only for myself, but especially for my neighbor. That is part of the Christ-like prophetic witness to which Christians are called.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Jesus said “render unto Ceasar********************” In other words respect your government. I really cannot be convinced that Colin has done as Jesus would do.


      2. Ron Griffee I have not heard of any IRS investigations surrounding Colin so I think he is giving to the US Government i.e “Render unto Caesar****

        Colin believes that all people in the US are being treated equally by the “government” and he has chosen not to stand during the national anthem as a non violent means of protest regarding his belief. Perhaps you would prefer he turn over the tables in the market place so he can do as Jesus would do.

        Ron let’s assume that you agree with the reason for his protest, that all American citizens are not being treated equally. What would you suggest he do to bring attention to this and to actually facilitate change? You disagree with him kneeling during the anthem as a means to call attention it What should he have done/do?


      3. I know of no better way to be respectful and protest wrongs in a more peaceful way than respectfully kneeling during the National Anthem. We are not required to stand for the National Anthem, nor cross our hearts or stand at attention. Those happen to be the rights that our strong military men and women give their lives for time and time again. To keep us FREE, regardless of our religion. Be it Christian, Muslim, Jew, or Native American or Wiccan or any other religion of choice. We are a free country.


  3. Both commenters proved your point. Unfortunately, many people do not see injustice until it lands at their door step. This is sad, because as Christians we are called to live a compassionate life, speaking out for the voiceless, housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, etc. We don’t get to cherry-pick what social or moral injustice we speak out on. There are no asterisks in the bible. And let me add this, from the founding of this country many institutions, policies, and laws have made a “statement” against people of color. The declaration of independence states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. This was written in 1776, during the height of slavery. It is not impossible that this great country of ours, could say one thing and do another. Just because it does not affect you, does not make it a lie, a falsehood or a race card. Many “Christians” are going to miss out on heaven because of their hardened hearts and their allegiance to political ideology and power over true selfless Christianity.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for your reflections. I definitely agree that as Christians we are called to lives of peace, justice and compassion–and sometimes that definitely makes people uncomfortable–and us uncomfortable! However, I continue to believe fervently and joyfully in a God that won’t allow anyone to “miss out on heaven” because of our own sinfulness and heartened hearts–if that were the case, there wouldn’t be much hope for any of us!


  4. Don’t know about that. Are we to believe in the transforming power of Christ or not? What good is it to behold and not become changed? Grace is unmerited favor, yes. But we cannot continue living in our old, hardened, stubborn, un-Christlike ways and expect heaven as a reward. That way of thinking is what keeps people stuck in the behavior and ideologies that do not reflect Christ.


    1. I definitely believe in the transformative power of Christ, so much so that it can even work in ways we cannot see or always understand. That’s why I’ll err on the side of grace every time—God is always working in people’s lives, even when all evidence points to the contrary!


  5. They told Tebow he could not kneel and pray, but they would not tell Kaepernick that he could not kneel and protest. My big question is this. Why didn’t he protest during the 8 years that Obama was President? Racial injustice supposedly started a long time ago, but now all of a sudden protesting is in style. It certainly makes me doubt the real reason he is protesting.


      1. Colin Kaepernick began his protest in august of 2016 following the death of Alton Sterling. That was during the presidency of Barack Obama. His protest is and continues to be about the way black americans are treated by the police. It has nothing to do with Donald Trump.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Linda – Kaepernick STARTED his protest WHILE Obama was still President. You may not have noticed it because it was not made into an issue until Trump deemed it necessary to do so. This is why it is important to research on your own and not believe what you are told. Check it out for yourself.


    2. You really might benefit from studying history. A) Kaelpernick began his protest before the election, while President Obama was still in office. B) Protesting racial injustice is not a “style” and has been around for a long, long time. C) There is nothing “supposedly” about racial injustice.

      And, who is “they”?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Also, Linda – what do you mean by supposedly? Racial injustice goes back to the infancy of this nation – i.e. slavery. Protesting is not “in style” all of a sudden, is there an appropriate time to protest? Can’t someone become fed up and decide to do/say something about it? Is their a statute of limitations on freedom of speech?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Reblogged this on that little voice and commented:
    I’m reblogging this post because the comparisons intrigue me.
    I’m not religious nor a student of the Bible, so some of the arguments in the exchanges are out of my realm of expertise. However, I do find the comparison and discussion about these two athletes interesting and thought provoking. And the issues raised seem to bring into focus the nature of the problem we face as a nation.
    Not being able to hear other’s voices and opinions seems to be at the heart of our hostility to one another.
    I don’t know who will or will not go to heaven or who does or doesn’t meet God’s standards. What I question is why are we making such a big deal out of kneeling?
    Kneel to pray. Kneel to protest. Kneel to tie one’s shoe. Kneel to assist a child. Kneel to fix something broken.
    I give you permission to kneel, stay seated, raise your hand, close your eyes, or whisper a message in order to express your soul. It is you speaking your truth. It is not about my beliefs, nor my values. It is about you.
    So, I say have at it. You are not infringing upon my rights to express myself. And your kneeling has not blocked my path to non violent self expression.
    What is the big deal?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I do like your comment ‘if Christianity gets reduced to one’s own personal piety, or the narrow work of “saving souls,” it will have fallen far, far short of the vision Christ gave to his disciples, and the happy task of embodying the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God to which all Christians are called.’


      1. I wonder how our God feels about your comment. “The NARROW work of saving souls.”

        Matthew 28:19-20 is pretty clear.
        “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Farher and the Son and the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe ALL that I have commanded you…..

        Jesus poured himself into 12, yes 12 disciples. And asked them to do likewise.

        The question each one of us must ask ourselves is, Are we students of Jesus and making disciples for Him?


    1. What would you recommend he do since you think suing the NFL is not the right course of action? Should he just pull himself up by his bootstraps?


  9. I’m glad you mentioned that Attila Uregen and called him out for his donation to this group and I hope you call out other Christians that do the same thing.

    Colin donated $25k to a group NAMED after a woman who is an escaped felon that was convicted of killing a police officer and is on the FBIs most wanted list. The group itself is not a terrorist organization it is just NAMED after a terrorist. Its like a Christian making a donation to a group named after Robert E Lee or Jefferson Davis. The groups themselves are not terrorist organizations they are just named after terrorist, i.e. men who took up arms against the USA, killed US soldiers, and disrespected the US flag by creating their own flag.

    I know calling these individuals out as well is right in line with your Christian values and I applaud you for doing so. Or am I mistaken and you are applying your Christian values to this one particular individual and not all the other Christians that make donations to confederate organizations that are named after terrorist as well?


  10. I find this whole threat intriguing. Having been raised a relatively strict Presbyterian, I still attend a very progressive Presbyterian church but truly feel more of an Agnostic these days. I truly don’t understand what is so “unchristian” or so “unpatriotic” about using one’s Constitutional right to kneel during the National Anthem in order to peacefully protest the racist treatment of people of color in the United States. No one is hurt, they are quiet, peaceful and not causing any riots. Simply making it know they are not in support of the horrible treatment of African Americans or any other non white Americans. We who have been born with the white privilege and get things due to nothing but the color of our skin and consider ourselves to be “Christians” or moral religious folk, cannot judge people for exercising there Constitutional rights of expression. Maybe it would be wise to remove the timber from our own eye before criticizing the splinter in another’s.


  11. “HappyLutheran” creates an interesting contrast… Kapernick to Tebow. And in doing so presents her own false narrative about each’s actions…. in order to pit one vs. the other, build up a straw-man, then tear it down. Or maybe just being an instrument that tries to get us all to THINK.

    Kepernick was making a POLITICAL statement… showing his support for a POLITICAL Action group (Black Lives Matter) and is focused on 1 issue — his personal belief that Law-enforcement persons need to give Black-Lives just treatment, especially when they do anything that brings them into potential conflict with the Law. Colin’s an interesting young man who deserves, and was given, his right to protest in whatever fashion he conceived. Good for him being a person of public conviction.

    Tebow was making a SPIRITUAL statement, showing his support for a SPIRITUAL awareness/relationship with a God who can influence individuals (from every walk of life) to make better/good/wise decisions & choices in their own life… a God who ultimately asks each individual to take responsibility for their own steps/missteps –> thus proactively keeping All-Lives who dare to attempt to walk with God, away from any conflict with our Law. Good for him being a person of faith toward God.

    Tebow & Kapernick would get along great together in life… they’re brothers-in-Christ, who are great athletes each giving God credit for their gifts, who got paid lots of $$$’s to play in the NFL, who both did AMAZING things in the NFL, and who neither can get a job back in the NFL… partially due to their “statements” made. So pick which one you prefer… both/and is my choice.

    And now “HappyLutheran” contrasts these men’s supporters/detractors as being against each other??? Could they both be onto something right/righteous & good & worthy of our attention?? Could the Big God be using both types of “God fearing people” to help the USA be better?????? Don’t All people need to take personal-responsibility before God & the Law??? And concurrently don’t all Law Enforcement need to treat each person (who’s possibly breaking/broken the Law) equally???

    BTW, are there really any Happy Lutherans???? Or are Lutherans only happy when they’re stirring up trouble??? 🙂 I better call Garrison Keillor to consult on this one…..


  12. I think you may be right about Kaepernick’s Christian motives being swept aside by the media. Most coverage frames his actions as being political (BLM) rather than spiritual. Maybe he will gain a better platform for his views after his football career, who knows?
    Can I go on a tangent?
    What I do know about BLM is that they do not have a consistent record of accepting the findings of court cases. I live in Minnesota. Philondo Castille was killed a few blocks from my house. People in my neighborhood know him. He used to work in the food service of local schools. He was well liked. (He was also stopped dozens of times by police in the year before his death which doesn’t add to his credibility as the officer approachers his car.)
    My observation after his death was that misreporting of facts of the event heightened anger and protests. The officer who shot him was reported as being white, but was Philippino. the news said he was shot without cause, but the court showed he did not comply with the officers instructions. Anyone who doesn’t comply with the police while in possession of a deadly weapon is taking a huge risk.
    All this to say I’m very empathetic to historic African American pain, but long for it also to be viewed in light of these facts too;
    -the UK and the US both stopped slavery as a matter of conscience
    -thousands of Euro Americans died in opposition to slavery
    -Tebow did not endorse a protest organization
    I would love to see BLM, NFL players, Colin attack these problems:
    -Africans are still currently enslaved in the millions, but in Africa.
    -black on black homocide rates through the roof
    -sex trafficking of Africans
    -sex trafficking of African Americans
    -glorification of pimp image in pop culture
    -glorification of gang image in pop culture
    Kaepernick could impact the world! Thanks for post!


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  14. I ddo believe all the ideas yyou havce introduced iin your post.
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