“Genuflection”

25 Sep

It is September 24, 2017, and many people online today are taking various sides on the “take the knee” controversy. Alternatively known as “tebowing,” the action seems to take on its own flavor palette in the National Football League. Growing up in the Roman Catholic faith, taking a knee genuflecting has its own traditional and deeper meaning of submissive respect:

“In the old days, when you came in front of your social superiors, you were expected to genuflect: that is, bend your knee and bow submissively. You did it before kings and nobles, and everyone did it in church before God. [emphasis added] In our more egalitarian age, genuflecting has taken on a rather insincere and servile meaning.” –Vocabulary.com

One could add, ‘…unless you plan to make an effective marriage proposal, in which case it had better be sincere.’ –But I digress; there is more on Wikipedia if you want to look it up.

So, seeing someone ‘take a knee’ at any point has a much less controversial slant to it than much of what is out there to read today. In not fully standing for the ‘pledge’ by genuflecting, Colin Kaepernick took a ‘respectful stance’ in asserting his right to express himself. The difference between the actions of Kaepernick and Tebow is like night and day, in certain respects.

Had Kaepernick stood with a fist raised in defiance, as others have before, I could understand where his action might be misconstrued. [“Power to the people?”] In explaining why he knelt, I read his words to be just that—a personal reason for not participating in pledging allegiance to the flag. If someone feels that strongly against a pledge, prayer, or some other oath, they can find a suitable and respectful way through it.

The meaning of Kaepernick’s action in ‘taking a knee’ is being twisted throughout the media as a sign of disrespect. This is different than the reverence we saw for tebowing, and can only imagine the mixed message this sends to women whose husbands proposed marriage to them on bended knee. Do we consider genuflection a sign of respect, or does it depend on who is doing it?

People take up mantle of redefining what Kaepernick did, all in the guise of controlling the narrative to one of disrespect—for the pledge, the flag, the military and those who serve the country—rather than wade into the stated intent or the actual waters of racism and oppression which mire the lives of many people of color. Some may say there is little sport in that.

We find it expedient to support a national symbol or a pledge penned in 1892, than to deal with the real words and sentiment expressed in present-day 2017. It is this very side-stepping that fans the embers of the racism and oppression that continue to burn. To indicate a prayerful stance in the face of that oppression brings out a shared sense of indignity. The tragic disagreement is that so many of us fail to acknowledge the shadows of privilege and righteousness in which that indignation exists.

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