Thursday, September 1, 2016

Colin Kaepernick, Cries of the Heart, and Christ

Introduction

The name "Colin Kaepernick" has flooded my Facebook feed this week. Until the last few days, I did not even know his name. From what I could tell, he is a quarterback for the National Football League (NFL)'s team The San Francisco 49r's. The fact that I do not follow any sports means that this sudden appearance in my feed is quite out of the ordinary. So I decided to investigate. It turns out that Kaepernick caused a stir and a great deal of outrage the other day, when he refused to stand for the National Anthem before a preseason game. This is a highly disrespectful decision that he has made clear that he plans to continue. This decision has sparked much outrage on the internet and much praise in the media. While I do believe that what he did was highly disrespectful and should never be encouraged, if we look past his actions to his reasons, we see profound insights (profound for our society, anyway) highlighted by the longings of his heart. These observations and desires that he has expressed provide powerful evidence for the truth of the Christian worldview and a door wide open for him to accept the call of Christ on his life.

However, before you read on, please familiarize yourself with Kaepernick's comments on his decision here.

Two things that he said immediately caught my attention. The first was that he was protesting racial inequality and mistreatment of African-American people. The second what that he said that that "is bigger than football" and even accepted the possible fate of being removed from the NFL and losing endorsements over his decision.



Something "Bigger"

I would like to start with the second first, though. All of us look around as we go through our lives and wonder if there truly is some ultimate purpose behind what we are doing. We realize that all the money, notoriety, and influence that we have earned will come to an end (perhaps by our own undoing or our deaths); they will not last, and in fact, could be taken away from us in the blink of an eye. We desire something greater. Kaepernick has certainly expressed just this dissatisfaction with the fame and fortune of professional athletics. He realizes that it is all ultimately worth nothing and he desires to be part of something that is "bigger," that has an effect that will last longer than any fame or fortune. In such a materialistic society (I'm speaking of the "things" type of materialism, not he naturalistic type) we are told that the more things we have the more satisfied we should be. This week I have seen pictures of all the things that Kaepernick possesses. If it were true that fame and fortune would satisfy the soul, then Kaepernick truly has no reason to voice such dissatisfaction. And in this money-crazed and power-hungry culture, expressing that these do not satisfy is akin to blasphemy.

I have seen the media praise Kaepernick for his "brave" expression of dissatisfaction. In a way, I agree with them. He has expressed something very real: that fame and fortune cannot satisfy the true longings of the heart. Kaepernick has experienced the best fame and fortune that America can bring and has found it so vacuous that he does not care if he loses them in the cause of something "bigger." While this desire provides an indication that something "bigger" might actually exist (why would natural selection promote a false idea?), it cannot stand on its own to support the truth of something "bigger" than fame and fortune actually is attainable. But that has not stopped Kaepernick from searching.

Kaepernick gave the reasons for his refusing to stand for the National Anthem: racial inequality and the mistreatment (and death) of Africa-Americans. Any time that someone takes a stand for human lives, they are implying that they believe that human lives are objectively valuable and that taking such a stand to protect them is objectively good. Could it be that Kaepernick has identified not one, but two things that are "bigger" than football: objective morality and intrinsic value? It certainly seems that he has. If Kaepernick does not understand humans to be of intrinsic worth then why would he describe their protection and defense as "bigger than football"?

The Moral Law

In their book "Legislating Morality" Norman Geisler and Frank Turek make two (among many) important points in this discussion. The first is that if a society wishes to make laws, legalizing someone's morality cannot be avoided. The second is that to avoid legalizing a particular religion's morality, the society should instead legalize according to the Moral Law that is understood by all humans. However, it is often disputed that (if such a Moral Law does exist) the contents of this Moral Law cannot be known.

Fortune is tangible; fame is experienced, and power is exercised. These are real; the protection of human lives cannot be compared to fame, fortune, and power in their value and ability to satisfy the soul unless they too are real. Kaepernick has identified that an objective morality exists: specifically, that something of intrinsic worth should be protected. What's more, the media, who has praised him for identifying the emptiness of fame, fortune, and power and preferring a moral cause to obtaining more of those, has recognized too that this objective morality exists. Kaepernick's and the media's recognition have not only affirmed the reality of objective morality, they have affirmed that this morality can be and is known by all humanity (or at least, them). There is an objective morality and that morality can be known.

Intrinsic Human Value

Of course, for Kaepernick to justify his protection and defense of human life (and the media's praise of such a decision), he (and they) must also affirm the intrinsic value of human lives. In order for human lives to be worthy of protection, their value (according to the moral law already affirmed by Kaepernick) must be real and intrinsic. Since he believes that their protection is good, it follows that he affirms their value is real and intrinsic. If Kaepernick and the media recognize the intrinsic value of human lives, they affirm that objective value exists and can also be known.

So, what is so significant about objective morality and intrinsic human value? Both must be grounded. Neither objective morality nor intrinsic human value can exist in a world where only the physical is possible, for these are not physical objects. These are metaphysical realities. If someone affirms their true existence, then they affirm the reality of the metaphysical realm. But that is not all that is affirmed. Objective morality and intrinsic human value must be grounded in something. They must be grounded in something that is eternal and of the highest value.

The biblcal worldview provides the foundation: God. Objective morality is grounded in God's nature. Humanity's intrinsic worth is grounded in God via being created in God's Image. Further, it is only in the Christian worldview that racial inequality will be removed permanently for eternity:
"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."- Galations 3:20
"...and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb."- Revelation 7:9 
Any victory against racial inequality that Kaepernick gets in this world will be a hollow victory because it will only last for a time. The only hope that Kaepernick has of removing racial inequality in this world is to change the hearts of the individuals in society and government. All that has to be done to remove racial inequality again is a change in the people in the society and government. The victory that Kaepernick gets for racial inequality is short-lived and dependent completely on who is guiding the cultural ideas. Ironically, winning a football game or a Superbowl cannot be removed from him; yet winning does not fulfill him. Neither of these has the eternal value ("bigger than football") that Kaepernick is searching for. It is only when they have eternal effects that his actions truly are "bigger than football."

But Is Christianity True?

Of course, it does not matter if the Christian worldview, in theory, can fulfill the longings of Kaepernick's heart. No worldview's theories are of any value (no matter how pragmatic) unless they are true. No matter how enticing what I have spent this post saying is, if it is not true, it is useless. So, is Christianity true? Well, I have already hinted at two arguments for God's existence. The argument from objective morality and the argument from intrinsic human value. But many more arguments exist. The beginning of the universe must have a transcendent cause. The design in the universe must have a designer. Life must have a meticulously prepared environment to originate and thrive. Consciousness must have a nonphysical source. Free will (e.g. Kaepernicks choice to not stand for the National Anthem) must also have a nonphysical source. Beauty and the ability to recognize it must both have a nonphysical source. Many, many more arguments exist, but ultimately, all the historically established facts (which are accepted by critical scholars) surrounding the claimed bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth can only find reasonable and consistent explanation in the Christian worldview.

Conclusion

The evidences from all disciplines of knowledge, the arts, decisions and experiences in everyday life, and even the events happening in the world (from the mundane to the extraordinary) provide sound arguments and a compelling cumulative case for the truth of the Christian worldview. The only thing that is required Kaepernick is that he be willing to give up the fame, fortune, and power that this world has to offer (which he has already done). He must recognize his fallen state (he's recognized this in other humans; why not him?) and that only Jesus Christ can restore it. Jesus Christ promises Kaepernick not only restoration of his position before God, but a restoration that is color-blind: all people regardless of race can be restored equally to a magnificent personal relationship with their Creator and Savior. The understanding of this eternal restoration and the understanding that the worldview that promises it is true guarantees Kaepernick that the cries of his heart are heard and can be fulfilled. If he will accept this call to Christ, he can not only live knowing that his reasons for his chosen actions have grounding in reality (it is not just some unsupported opinion or fleeting emotion), but he can live to minimize racial inequality as much as he possibly can while on this earth (whether it is through his platform as a professional athlete or somewhere else) because man is created in the Image of his Creator and it is objectively good to defend that which our Savior has endowed with intrinsic value.

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