What Banner Will We March Under?

Everyone's got a standard to raise. What's yours?

brown concrete building

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

It was my sophomore year of high school. 

It was 2008. The year that Obama was first running for office. Everyone was absolutely enamored with him at my school. 

I found myself sitting on one of the blue benches that surrounded the courtyard. One of the student organizations had set up a mic and speakers for kids to do karaoke at lunchtime. I had finished my turkey and chicken with cheese sandwich. Something I had every day since elementary school, and twisted my body so I could hear the black guy in a red shirt step up to the microphone.

He belted out an off key cover of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”. A song that held some sentimental value for me because, well Space Jam. 

Somewhere in the middle of the song, he made an endorsement for Barak Obama by simply saying: 

“Obama y’all.” 

Everybody of course, cheered for him. Well, everyone who was listening to him anyway. Except me.

My mom made me sit and listen to Fox News on a regular basis when I was in high school. She wanted me to be able to hear both sides and know what each one was saying to be able to articulate why I didn’t agree with one or the other. 

From what I heard from Mr. Obama, I didn’t agree with him. Namely, his policies.

I was in my world history class, a class where we mostly did bookwork and lectures and class discussions were occasional. 

One day, when I had gone up to the teacher for some reason, it was either to ask a question or turn in homework, on my way back to my desk, I was intercepted by a black girl that I shared many other classes with. 

Now this girl had a twin sister, so I never knew who was who. When they laughed, they sounded exactly the same. Which I thought was funny and kinda creepy.

I’ll never forget what she said, or the pensive, quiet look on her face. 

“Some people are calling you racist because you don’t support Obama. Is that true?” she said.

“No!” I said back, almost shouting. Realizing my tone, I tried to speak more calmly. 

“I just don’t agree with his policies,” I replied.

She said ok and I thanked her for letting me know. 

My so-called crime, growing up in middle school, high school and some in elementary school, was not being “black enough”.  I was bullied and taunted for having a white mom (that adopted me). They thought that I had somehow betrayed the greater black social order by that, my conservative values, growing up in the burbs instead of the projects, and not believing that being black was the main identity that must championed over all.

Here at The Freeman Wire, I talk a lot about identity. Namely, identity as defined by God the Creator and identity as an American. 

I bring up identity a lot in my stories. 

I mentioned a former principal who accused her school district of replacing her with a black woman simply because she was black. I commented on this story back in July of last year. 

Recently, two stories caught my eye. One was an article that History Channel put out on the Black Nationalism movement during the civil rights era, the other was an article criticizing black athletes who “denied their blackness” because of the perceived benefits.

It brought a series of questions that I’ve been asking myself for a long, long time. Why is nationalism from one group okay but not from another group? Why is it okay for one group to define justice a certain way but not for another group to define it the same way?

Why can’t we hold everyone to the same standard? 

After reading those articles and contemplating these questions again, I asked myself “whose standard are we holding people accountable to?” 

Black people’s standards? White people’s standard’s? God’s standards? 

Or is it up to everyone to define their own standard and expect everyone else to obey it?

You know, everyone doing what’s right for himself?

Defining good and evil for himself?

Being in a sense, gods?

It’s the same fruit that Adam and Eve were tempted with and ate from.

There’s nothing new under the sun as King Solomon would say.

Now more than ever it seems like there are a million different groups in the country that insist that their way is the right way and that everyone should accept their way as truth and follow it or face the consequences.

Protests and demonstrations seemed to define the 2010s. 

Trayvon Martin, The #metoo movement, Charlottesville, Black Lives Matter, LGBT movement et cetera, et cetera.

I’m not endorsing Buzzfeed at all but here’s an article that’ll show you what I mean. 

People marching under lots of flags, banners and signs!

Oftentimes those same people are calling for unity.

But again, under what banner? What cause? Which way is right?

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Well, as a Christian, I’d like to share this bible verse with you.

And Moses built an altar and named it, “The Lord Is My Banner”- Exodus 17:15

If you remember your Sunday School class, Moses was the guy who parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites could leave slavery in Egypt and step into the Promised Land!

Something you may or may not remember, Israel had to FIGHT their way into the Promised Land.

Exodus 17 is one of those moments. 

Amalek was one of those tribes trying to prevent Israel from taking that land.

Moses, staff in hand went to stand on a hilltop overlooking the place where Joshua was leading the Israelites in battle against Amalek. 

When Moses held up his hand, Israel got the edge, when he put it down Amalek got the edge.

Eventually, Aaron and Hur had to hold up his hands because he got too tired.

When the battle was over he built an altar and named it “The Lord Is My Banner”

Jehovah Nissi. It’s one of God’s names!

God is the banner I march under. God’s standards, spelled out in the bible are the standards I follow!

When our founding fathers created this great nation, they used the bible as a guide.

These standards are correct because they come from the Creator of the universe and everything in it. Including us humans.

On that note, I don’t think that anyone should have to behave a certain way or subscribe to a certain ideology or speak a certain way because of his or her skin color.

Now, I am proud to be a black guy. I really am. 

But ultimately, my identity is in Christ. 

To me, my skin color is nothing more than a reflection of God’s creativity!

So any sort of nationalism or supremacy based on skin color is not okay to me. At ALL.

I don’t think it’s okay for someone to declare that they’re better than someone else because they were once victims of that someone else.

That is not justice.

Jesus flipped our definition of justice on its head when He said:

You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. - Matthew 5:43-44

Let me ask you this…

What banner will YOU march under?

When people look at you, what do you want them to see?

Actions speak louder than words.

I know you’ve probably heard that a million times by now.

But it's true.

Take some time and think about what you’re portraying to others and yourself.

Be observant and aware of your surroundings as well as your own train of thoughts.

It’s certainly helped me at times!

Maybe consider writing a manifesto! 

Or just flat out ask people what they think of you. Make sure it’s someone you trust. Some people might be afraid of hurting your feelings and just tell you what they think you want to hear!

One way is finding a balance between standing up for what’s right but also living in love, kindness and service to others.

There’s a great bible project video on this called the Way Of The Exile.

And it’s one of my favorites!

Regardless of what everyone else says, you don’t have to conform. But you do need to know what hill you’re standing on.

Hopefully it’s the Mountain of God!

Take care and as always...Live Free!

-Jordan Blackwood