My daughter started cheerleading this year.
For years I have avoided it, because – honestly – I just don’t like it. As a parent, I’m going to have to attend practices, games, competitions, playoffs, and all sorts of at-home prep for whatever activities my children choose; is it really so wrong to push them towards things I naturally enjoy? Ah, but alas… Children are individuals, and here we find ourselves on the sidelines of peewee football games watching girls in short skirts yell and kick and shake their blessed pompoms. And yet, in the strange and beautiful way that God always grows me, I find myself loving it, inwardly cheering for my girl to call the loudest, stick that landing, and keep on smiling, because she’s the best doggone cheerleader I’ve ever seen.
Believe it or not, cheerleaders do more than just shout and turn cartwheels. They actually have to understand football at least well enough to choose cheers aligned with action on the field. You know, yell “SPEED IS WHAT WE NEED! MOVE – THAT – BALL!” when we’re on offense and “PUSH ‘EM BACK, PUSH ‘EM BACK, WAAAAAY BACK!” when we’re on defense. They must be quiet when our players need to focus and hype up the crowd when the opposing team is on 3rd down. They also need to learn a few football traditions to show respect.
Last week during my daughter’s game, both teams of 9-year-olds in pads and helmets suffered multiple injuries. Nothing too serious, thankfully, but enough for players to stay on the ground and coaches to rush the field. When this happens, the cheerleaders have learned that everyone kneels until the injured child makes it to the sideline and we know he’s going to be okay.
As the game progressed later into the evening, the cheers became less frequent as the girls grew tired, and I started scrolling through my Facebook feed during the down time. Long gone are the funny goat videos and unimpressive food pictures; instead I was inundated with articles, posts, and opinions about professional athletes and hymns of nationalism. You can imagine my surprise when I suddenly heard my own daughter’s voice yelling,
“Take a knee!”
A couple of the cheerleaders were distracted with a hand-clapping game when one of our boys got hurt. The other girls tried to get their attention: “Haylie! Ava! Take a knee! Someone is hurt, so we have to take a knee!”
Did you catch that?
Someone is hurt, so we have to take a knee.
People are all over the issue of NFL players and staff kneeling during the National Anthem. Is it peaceful? Is it disrespectful? How do veterans feel? How do people of color feel? Is this hurting the cause? Why are they protesting anyway?
Let me tell you something, friend. They are not protesting America or veterans or a piece of cloth or the free-market economy that allows them to make millions of dollars (provided they have not been blackballed, but let’s not go there). These men and women are kneeling because someone is hurt, so we have to take a knee. They recognize systems of racial injustice that still exist in our society more than 50 years after Jim Crow. They see people of color suffering needless violence from law enforcement, being incarcerated at grossly disproportionate rates, and continuing in cycles of poverty and crime due to lack of access to resources in communities of color. These things hurt black people in America, and these things hurt America. That is why we #TakeaKnee.
“But God has put the body together… so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
1 Corinthians 12:25-26
One of the first things we teach our toddlers is empathy, and it’s not an easy task. There’s plenty of science to explain why children are wired to be selfish, but parents start early because we recognize the importance of this lesson. In order for relationships to work – for society to work – we have to be able to listen to others’ perspectives and desire to actively help them. As Christians, we are poised to demonstrate God’s Kingdom on Earth by living out society as it is intended – full of grace, compassion, and justice. When we see part of our body suffering, do we share in suffering, or do we pick apart the claims and deny the validity of another’s experience? Do we seek healing, or do we get offended? Do we work for justice or whine for comfort?
“Haylie! Ava! We have to take a knee!”
“Ugh, do I have to??” moaned Haylie, rubbing her sore knees as she gazed down at the concrete sideline. A boy on the other side of the fence had his helmet removed and turned around to see her.
“Well, you don’t have to,” he said, “but you should want to. That’s our friend out there.”
The truth is, you don’t have to take a knee. You don’t have to support those who kneel, you don’t have to approve of their method of protest, and you don’t have to acknowledge that there is even anything worth protesting. You don’t have to care at all. But you should want to. Those are our friends out there.
Note from the Editorial Team: Engaged Pentecostalism is a community that values open dialogue and respectful engagement from different perspectives. The views expressed above are the author's own and do not reflect those of every part of the community.