To kneel or not to kneel — Isak Burger

Proteas captain Temba Bavuma takes a knee before Tuesday’s T20 World Cup match between SA and West Indies in Dubai (PHOTO Francois Nel/Getty Images/Daily Maverick)

Dr Isak Burger, former president of the AFM Church of SA, sent his thoughts on this hot issue to Gateway News. Below is a translation of his article which is written in Afrikaans. You can read the Afrifkaans version here

The kneeling and clenched fists at the T20 World Cup are currently big news. It is noteworthy that both of these symbolic gestures also have strong biblical connotations.

Raising your hands in the Bible has the meaning of honour and praise brought to God. However, it was never done with a clenched fist, but with open hands – symbolic of bringing glory to God or receiving mercy from Him. A clenched fist speaks of aggression, belligerence, rebellion and resistance.

Kneeling is one of the most powerful symbols out there. One does not kneel before any person or cause. It’s a very exclusive gesture. A man kneels in front of the girl he loves and asks to marry him, but he does not kneel in front of other girls.

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Kneeling in front of someone has traditionally had one of two meanings. There was kneeling before someone for whom there is the utmost respect, esteem, love, adoration and gratitude. It is always a voluntary and spontaneous symbolic gesture.

The second reason for kneeling was as a sign of forced submission in front of an enemy who has defeated you. In traditional warfare and when you wanted to prove your dominance and mastery over someone, the person was forced to kneel. Unlike the first reason, it is not voluntary but forced and it is done reluctantly. This is no longer worship, but humiliation.

This second meaning of kneeling is evident in an expression we use when someone has lost. So, for example, we talk about a cricket team that “had to bend the knee” before its opponents.

The first, voluntary gesture to kneel has, over the centuries (and still has for many people today), primarily a religious significance — for all religions.

In the Bible it is mentioned countless times that people bowed or knelt before God. As mentioned, it is one of the most powerful symbols and our kneeling in prayer and worship to God has a deeper meaning than we realise.

In the Bible, this gesture is reserved for worship exclusively to God. In cases where people in the Bible knelt before another heavenly being like an angel, the angel immediately stopped them and said that that worship belongs only to God.

In light of this, I regard Cricket South Africa’s instruction that our entire T20 cricket team must bend their knees and clench their fists for the BLM movement is contemptible political coercion and a blatant violation of the personal and constitutional rights of the players.

Let me say this unequivocally — as far as I am concerned, God is the only One before whom I will bow my knees!

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  1. Agreed

  2. Thank you, Dr Burger. Your forthright exposition has confirmed my own conviction in the matter. This has clarified the issue of kneeling as a religious issue rather than purely an ideological one. We abhor racism, but we bow only to Jesus!

  3. What is so sad to me is that our sportsman have to make these moral choices, knowing that they will be criticized by some and praised by others. Why should they have to carry this burden? All they want to do is play cricket. Thanks to Dr Burger for his biblical explanation. I fully agree with him.