Pence’s Walk-Out: Following Christ, or Following Trump?

Commentary
By Adam Ericksen 10-10-2017
Image via Shutterstock.com/Evan El-Amin

When Mike Pence accepted the nomination to run as vice president, he claimed to be “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.”

Unfortunately, Vice President Pence failed to be first and foremost a Christian while attending an NFL game on Sunday.

After Pence attended the Colts v. 49ers game in Indianapolis, President Trump boasted that he ordered Pence to leave if any players protested at the game.

Trump tweeted:

As many have stated, this was a political stunt. Pence and Trump both knew that players would protest. NFL players have protested all season, and the 49ers are on the forefront of the protests.

There was no doubt that players would protest. Pence is rightfully being criticized for wasting tax payer dollars on this political stunt. But I think there’s another issue here. Mike Pence is following President Trump, but he is utterly failing at following Jesus.

Mike Pence’s actions during the football game had nothing to do with the love and justice Jesus calls his followers to strive for.

Jesus warned his followers that, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of God in heaven.”

This warning is for all of us who claim to be followers of Christ. After all, do we follow the will of God? We might say, “Lord, Lord,” but do we act like Jesus is Lord? Or do we follow the will of a dishonest president? Do we act like the flag of the United States is our lord?

I’m afraid that Pence needs to get his Christian loyalties straightened out. And he would do well to start by following the — stop bearing false witness against his neighbors.

Pence and Trump are trying to convince us of a lie, as they bear false witness against NFL players. The specific lie they are promoting is that the NFL players who take a knee are disrespecting the flag. This accusation is false — they aren’t protesting to disrespect the flag. Quite the contrary. They are protesting because they believe in the freedom and justice that the flag represents.

Yet instead of freedom and justice, many who have political and social power are leading us toward oppression. Pence’s actions at the game were a textbook case of this: The protests are primarily about abusive and oppressive police practices and a criminal justice system that discriminates against people of color, but the Trump administration wants to change the narrative in order to demonize the protesters as anti-American.

The NFL players are not anti-American. In fact, they so fervently believe in American ideals that they are willing to take a knee for them. In taking a knee, they speak for all of those who suffer from the racist structures of injustice and oppression in the United States.

If the Trump administration really wanted the unity they so often speak about, they would listen to the protests and work for an end to racial injustice.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently stated that the Trump administration “will always be for protection and celebration of the flag and the national anthem.”

This administration has repeatedly demonstrated that it is more concerned with protecting and celebrating the flag than it is with protecting and celebrating fellow human beings.

As a devout Christian, Pence knows that the Bible has a word for that: idolatry. Pence has placed the American flag above the American people. As a Christian, Pence knows that Jesus didn’t say that you should love your flag or even your nation. He said you should love your neighbor, as yourself. That is the will of God. In order to love his black neighbors, Pence must listen to their protests and attempt honestly to work for justice on their behalf.

That would be the Christian and the American thing to do.

Adam Ericksen

Adam Ericksen blogs at the Raven Foundation where he uses mimetic theory to provide social commentary on religion, politics, and pop culture. Like his Facebook page Adam Ericksen – Public Theologian and follow him on Twitter.

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