Weekly Devotional

October 11, 2017

by Jon Seitz


If you missed last weeks devotional or want to re-read one from the past go to the Devotional Archives page.


A few weeks ago I wore one of my Kansas City Chiefs jerseys to work on a Friday before a game. At a new-ish job, I find that besides showing off my team’s colors, sporting that Chiefs red is also a good conversation starter. While standing in line at the cafeteria or waiting for the elevator, people I don’t even know will often strike up some chit-chat about either the game plan for the opposing team, or how much we despise losing to them, or what impediments the weather might bring. But this particular week a co-worker stopped by early of a morning to chat not about what my thoughts were about what we might see on the field of play … but on the sideline … before the opening kickoff.

I knew this conversation was going to make me uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because I tend to back away from confrontation with people I know. Uncomfortable because we weren’t the only two people in this conversation so I felt as though I was going to be tested on display and it made me bristle. Uncomfortable because I’m very self critical and I have a hard time identifying and dealing with my own white privilege. And here we were, two middle aged, white guys, about to wade into waters swirling around racism and white privilege. Did I mention I was uncomfortable?

(Paraphrasing some of the conversation's main points)

He said, “I wish Marcus Peters wouldn’t do what he’s doing. It’s disrespectful. Those players should find another place and time to protest and not disrespect the flag. Don’t you think?”

I responded, “I don’t believe they’re trying to be disrespectful. They’re using their platform to express themselves and get their message across.”

“But if they really wanted to make a difference they should go out on their own time. An NFL game is a place of business.”

“Most of those guys DO go out on their own time and make a HUGE difference. They lead foundations. They perform community service. They feed the homeless. That stuff doesn’t get front page headlines so we don’t see a lot of it. This protest IS getting front page headlines, but that’s kind of the idea.”

And then he started to get emotional. “I have uncles and grandfathers who fought and some who died for this country.” His eyes started to get misty. “My uncles take great offense at what these guys are doing.”

“I have family and friends who have fought for this country, too. If I wrote all their names down on a piece of paper, half of those names would feel the same way you do. Half of them would say that what these players are doing is what they fought for and they’re proud of them.”

“For those players, those millionaires who are disrespecting the service and the flag, to be protesting the national anthem, it’s extremely offensive.”

“They’re not protesting the national anthem and they’re not protesting the flag. They…”

“... Do they even KNOW what they’re protesting?”

I wasn’t changing any minds in that moment. I knew that. It was the wrong forum and it was apparent I wasn’t the one who was going to be able to give him the words he was looking for.

“I think if you asked one of them … I bet they’d tell you,” I said.

Sometimes, I think people need to search for that information themselves and come to their own conclusion. Though I was uncomfortably happy to have this conversation, I knew this guy needed to continue it with someone else.

My nature is to second guess myself at every turn. So I’ll second guess the way I handled this conversation for a long, long time. I'm sure I could have handled that better. But one thing I’m certain of: In this country we need to be having more of these difficult, uncomfortable conversations. We are defined by our experiences and if we sit in our own bubble and never have the difficult, uncomfortable conversation, we’ll never understand where the other guy’s convictions come from and what experiences got him to that place. That has to be the first step, doesn’t it?

For me, this experience reinforced my understanding that the bond between patriot, flag, and anthem runs deep and is fused with family and hallowed ground. For him, I hope the experience was one that will lead him to search out more meaning. For the bystander to this conversation (remember I said the two of us weren’t the only ones there) …

A few hours later, sometime after lunch, someone who had observed that earlier conversation (at close range) sought me out. For a while, I had forgotten anyone else was there.

He said to me, “Jon, that conversation you had earlier about the protesters? I just wanted you to know, that conversation made me really uncomfortable.”

“Good,” I said. “Me, too.”

“Thank you for that,” he said.

Dear Lord, Please help us find the courage to have the uncomfortable conversations. Remind us that as we do, we also set an example for others, and that those examples will be experiences that can help form the bedrock of someone’s beliefs system. Whether our kids, our friends, our co-workers … help us reach out and start the long process of trying to fix what we see broken all around us. Amen.