Since last Friday when the president of Truett-McConnell University, Dr. Emir Caner, took a stand in cutting ties with Nike due to its advertisement featuring Colin Kaepernick, several emails and calls have come my way asking me for an opinion on this matter. My response, however, comes not only as the leader of a growing Hispanic congregation in Gainesville but more important as the father of four children and spiritual mentor to other Hispanic young people in our area.
America has suffered enough due to racial tension and segregation and the last thing we should do is to make this matter once again an issue of race and discordant narratives. Our Hispanic people should understand that America offers them other democratic spaces in which theirs voices can be heard and their differences can be expressed respectfully; nonetheless, to kneel in front of the flag that represents the country that has offered to our families a land of freedom and opportunity is not only disrespectful but also ungrateful.
Like many Latinos, I came to America at age 19 as an international college student from my native Peru – a nation that was back then inflicted with high economic inflation, rampant political violence, an authoritarian government, and in the brink of an internal conflict – and it was in the U.S. where God gave me an education, a lovely wife, and four beautiful children but more important it was here where He saved my soul and called me to the ministry. Two years ago I proudly made the decision to become a naturalized U.S. citizen not only as a grateful individual but as a way to serve better our Hispanic community.
In that sense, I would like to propose three things.
First and foremost, to pray for America in order for a real spiritual healing to take place in our nation – a healing that can only begin among the people of God. Second, I call to respect the position of our African-American brothers and sisters on this issue while at the same time respecting the position taken by the Truett McConnell University as an autonomous Christian institution. The last thing we ought to do as the body of Christ is to make of this issue a discordant political discourse. Third, I would like to propose a formal and respectful dialogue (church or academic) among Georgia Baptist leadership of different races as a way to ensure our unity in the midst of our diversity and keeping with our focus of reaching mores souls for Christ.
Our Lord Jesus said “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). That should be our prayer and lifestyle.