Posted on Oct 12, 2017 by John Holt
Sports are such a big part of our culture in this country at all levels from youth leagues to professional. I have to admit I am a huge sports fan and own gear from my favorite college and professional sports teams that I proudly wear. Recently I went to an NHL game at the Sprint Center to watch my Minnesota Wild hockey team beat the St. Louis Blues. I love live sports and it was so much fun to experience in person with a few of my friends.
At the start of the game we were asked to remove our hats and stand at attention as they played our national anthem. I removed my cap and stood at attention as I have many times in the past, but couldn’t help thinking about the current debate going on regarding NFL players protesting during the national anthem. I thought about my grandfathers and grandmother who served in the Navy during WWII. I thought about the many students I have walked with over the years who have served in the military or are currently deployed. I also began to think about my friends of a different ethnicity who have experienced profound racism in their life because of the color of their skin. Or the many transgender active duty military who have bravely served our country and may be banned because they are different. The question I continue to process as a person of faith is how are we called to treat those who believe differently than we do?
I experienced two powerful God moments this past week related to the question above. The first was last Wednesday when our brothers and sisters from the Islamic Center joined us for a potluck in Luther Hall. As people began to arrive, I chose to stand outside to greet folks and give direction regarding what building we were in. I received so many kind words and gratitude for the invitation to be in community together. Although there are differences in our religions and traditions, it was clear to me that what brought us together was our mutual value of community and relationship. It was an amazing night of food and fellowship.
The second experience came in our senior high Sunday morning discussion that focused on the topic of meaningful symbols. I asked our students to go up into the sanctuary and take three photos of different symbols that have meaning to them. Most of the pictures were of the cross, baptismal font, stained glass images, altar, etc. I asked why those were meaningful and they shared various reasons from scriptural connections to personal experiences. It was clear to me that their faith and relationship with God was deeply meaningful. I then asked them if someone in the congregation chose not to participate in part of worship because they disagreed or didn’t believe, would that be OK? Or if I chose not to stand and say the Apostles' Creed because I struggled with some of its meaning or the larger churches' lack of inclusion, would that be OK? Most of the students felt it would be OK as long as I wasn't being disruptive or disrespectful of those who do believe in the Apostles' Creed and were professing their faith aloud. I then asked how that was different from the national anthem protest?
As people of faith we are called to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Each week we welcome into our Salem community those that think, look, or believe differently than us. We worship side by side with each other and some may choose not to sing, commune, speak the words of the creed, or interpret scripture in the same way. Are we also willing to extend that same welcome and understanding beyond our church walls? Is it possible to both honor our country and servicemen/women while also lifting up the deep issues of racism in this country?
As you journey in your week, take some time to engage someone who might see the world in a different way and challenge yourself to understand beyond belief.
Peace- John Holt
Director of Youth & Family Ministries and Communication