The Christian basketball star who refused to take the knee
How one man stood against the tide
Why I Stand
By Jonathan Isaac
In 2020, US basketball star Jonathan Isaac sparked a media firestorm when he refused to kneel during the national anthem in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.
The 24-year-old gave a simple explanation for his decision: “The Gospel, and not a political movement, is the answer to prejudice, racial unrest and pain. I believe that Jesus Christ is the answer to all the world’s problems.”
“I can tell you how to be great. You have to know Jesus Christ”
Don’t let a book about American basketball put you off reading this inspiring story.
Isaac grew up with a sense of rejection, exacerbated by his parents splitting up when he was ten years old and then relocating from a predominantly black community in the Bronx to the “really white” city of Naples, Florida. Basketball brought Isaac identity, fame, girls and wealth, but didn’t deal with his inner feelings of inadequacy.
“There was a pit in my stomach as he cried out”
During 2019 and 2020 he had a lengthy period off with injury. One day a man in an elevator told him, “I can tell you how to be great. You have to know Jesus Christ.” It was the beginning of an amazing journey.
Then came the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer. Isaac writes: “The video of George Floyd’s death was awful to watch. There was a pit in my stomach as he cried out. Understandably the response to that video reached deafening levels.
“My question was, what is the right way to respond? Where does Jonathan Isaac, and all of his experiences, fit into such a tragic moment? Black Lives Matter was demanding equality and an end to racism everywhere, but how were we to do it?”
As the basketball season approached, there was only one topic everyone was talking about. Were the teams going to kneel for the national anthem as a protest against George Floyd’s death?
The night before Isaac’s team, Orlando Magic, were due to play the Brooklyn Nets, the players held a meeting. The message was
clear: “There is not a choice to make. We have to kneel. We cannot be the first team not to take the knee.”
“Then it was my turn to speak,” says Isaac.
“Y’all, I’m not going to kneel or wear that [Black Lives Matter] T-shirt.”
Bedlam broke out. It was hard to hear anything as conversations broke out and guys shouted over each other. One team mate grabbed his
belongings and left, and then another, and another. “I stood alone.”
The athlete admits that choosing to stand firm in the face of pressure has gotten him much “flack and a lot of backlash”.
“I’ve settled on the fact that I’m going to be willing to stand up and share my opinions the same way that someone else is standing up or kneeling for the national anthem to share theirs,” he said. “It hasn’t been the easiest thing to do. But I know what I’m standing for.”
THE BEST BOOK I’VE READ THIS YEAR
A definitive biography of one of the charismatic movement’s most popular yet controversial leaders
John Wimber: His Life and Ministry
By Connie Dawson
This is by far the best book I have read this year.
The author, Connie Dawson, has a PhD in Church and Renewal History, an MDiv in New Testament and an MA in Theology so she knows what she is writing about.
Several books have been written about John Wimber, who died of a massive brain haemorrhage while recuperating from open heart surgery in 1997. This volume contains much unpublished material, and I anticipate that it will become the definitive biography of one of the charismatic movement’s most popular yet controversial leaders.
The material in this book began its life as Dawson’s dissertation for her PhD at Regents University of Divinity, USA, where she became the first woman to graduate from the PhD programme.
Wimber had an alcoholic father who abandoned the family home on the day he was born. Growing up, music became his passion and for a time he was writing music for the world-famous duo, The Righteous Brothers.
After he and his wife had radical conversions and experiences of the Holy Spirit, he went on to plant a church in Ahaheim, California, which grew to 8,000 members. He began the Vineyard movement, which became a denomination with thousands of churches attached to it. Although his base was America, he gained an increasingly international ministry.
He visited the UK at least once a year and had an impact on charismatic Anglican churches such as Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), London, and St Andrew’s, Chorleywood.
After one visit to David Watson’s church in York, Wimber asked him, “How will you write up a report on my visit for your bishop?”
“The blind received sight, the lame walked”
After a pause, Watson replied: “The blind received sight, the lame walked… and the good news was preached to the poor.”
On another visit to the UK he took a series of meetings at HTB. The Holy Spirit began to move and many were overcome. One young man who had previously been sceptical of Wimber’s team was carried out. Wimber prophesied that God would give him the power to tell people about Jesus. Nicky Gumbel later became the initiator and leader of the Alpha Course, and since 2005 has been vicar of HTB.
Controversy followed Wimber’s ministry, but he was not afraid to admit his mistakes. “After all,” he used to say, “I’m just a fat man on my way to heaven.” The book deals with the issues surrounding the Kansas City Prophets, his handling of the Toronto Blessing, his ‘signs and wonders’ ministry, some of the spiritual manifestations at his meetings, and so on.
Perhaps I should give the final word to Bible teacher Andrew Wommack, who wrote a foreword and admitted that he seldom reads books – at most one a year – he prefers the Bible! He writes: “I am so glad I read this book. I knew virtually nothing about John Wimber but this book was enlightening and inspiring. I believe many will be impacted by it.”
Gordon and Lorna Pettie
Gordon, along with his wife Lorna, is part of the leadership team of Revelation TV, a 24/7 Christian television station that broadcasts in the UK on Sky 581 and Freesat TV 692, and throughout the world via the Roku Box and Apple TV. Gordon’s passion is writing and he is the author of eight books.