[Caveat lector fortis: If you're a card-carrying member of the Christian Right, or if you feel your brand of patriotism is the only authorized brand, or if you have close ties to the military, or if you're otherwise annoyed by people who take unpopular opinions (why read this blog?), you might want to skip this post.]
This all began with commentary on the “Star Spangled Banner,” and it began on Facebook, not on WordPress. I was just blowing off steam, but the steam blew too high, and in too many directions. The meat analogies come today, at the end!
Again, from a FB post of mine:
I choose non-military and non-politically-involved ways to be a decent citizen and even to love our country and believe I have every logical and biblical right to do so. It wasn’t my intent to get into the nexus of war and Christianity on Facebook, but I guess I could! … Let’s put this junk aside, OK?
Ok but ALOT of people have died and maimed for their country and this song is a rally point for them…. Peace brother!
Thanks for the peace wish. I feel a little better. I would ask you now simply to remember that my comment was about the song and the immature … okay, *disrespectful* … performance of it. Although I do not value military service or sacrifice *for country* since those are not values I find in scripture, no disrespect for those who lost life was ever intended. Any anthem can, and probably will, become a rallying point, as you say, but that says more about the rallyers and their desire to rally than about the content of the song. I maintain that it was a bad idea to make that song the national anthem!
Further commentary: the expression “rally point” set me off a bit, logically. It’s not as though the fact — and I do, by the way, take military veterans’ identifying in solidarity with the national anthem as a fact — has anything to do with whether or not military service is inherently justifiable, or whether such activity is approved for the Christian. How military veterans feel is simply how they feel, and how I feel is how I feel. The a priori existence of differing feelings doesn’t make some of them correct and the others incorrect. My summary would be this: whatever “rallying” occurs in the hearts of military veterans gives a nod to human bandwagon mentality, i.e., to the group of rallyers who wanted to rally, and to their affiliative feelings in said rallies, and to their philosophies and values–rather than to the relative logic or illogic of military service.
Now, by way of contrasting the 1st stanza and this one: I find the butchery of our national anthem annoying, but I find the “butcher-y” thoughts of the third stanza (previously essentially unknown to me) of the song absolutely grotesque and repulsive:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Allow me to paraphrase, and to sermonize, by repeating my Facebook commentary on the above words:
The whole third stanza, for crying out loud and bleeding on the ground, says “You Brits got what was coming to you, and your blood washed your filthy footsteps since we beat you, you suckers.” I challenge you to defend that. And then I challenge you to praise God, in the same breath, as the next words of the song do, for His supposedly deciding to raise a human nation up above another human nation through war over a supposedly just cause (a thought from the fourth stanza … and we must ask just in whose eyes?). “Conquer we must” (also from the fourth stanza)? How far away from “Manifest Destiny” (and massacres and genocides in our land and others across the globe) is that? I am NO student of history, so I’m probably opening myself up to more verbal laceration here, but so be it.
Now, to soften things just a tad … I did backpedal a bit w/regard to the first, familiar stanza, while continuing to flow, not so sanguinely, in my general vein (artery?):
To call attention to watching over ramparts (whatever they are) to see gallantly streaming colors, I suppose, is fine. And there’s probably more to the general solidarity–suggested by the perennial, steady waving of the flag–than I have realized. I have never been inspired by the suggestion that glaring, red rockets and bombs are the events that define my country, and those lines distract me from what I now see is more the point of the first stanza—the query as to whether the flag is *still* waving over our land. For me, and this is just me, the “flag was still there” line is pretty unifying, but I wonder whether most people can even hear that line apart from the preceding warlike imagery, which is especially divisive in the current decade or three.
Another Facebook person:
Move to North Korea for a while…. maybe when you get back, you’ll have a deeper appreciation of what YOUR soldiers in YOUR country have done for YOU……
I don’t want to move to North Korea, or Libya, or Croatia, so I won’t. I might like New Zealand or Switzerland or something else (having had the blessing of traveling abroad just a bit does expand one’s horizons, just as it makes one appreciate this country), but staying in the U.S. is OK by me. It’s a messed-up country, but it’s my country, and most of what it offers is better than what I know about most other countries.
As I said earlier, I choose other ways to be a good citizen … but will never, as God gives me breath, pledge allegiance to a country over allegiance to God. Those with personal ties to the military will naturally have heartstrings that get tugged by positive, or negative, thoughts and suggestions about the military. Others without such ties may be influenced to have similar feelings. From a secular perspective, this is all fine and good. But these are preferences and choices and opinions, not absolutes. Everyone has a right to an opinion, for now, and all of our opinions will ultimately be enlightened, in the next life.
I concluded by pointing out different ways I choose to love my country — including two American concert themes this fall, and loving travel experiences and sights in 48 states.
If I’m wrong on any or all of the above. I’m simply wrong. Obviously, I don’t think I am, but if I am, it won’t be hard to accept in the light of the face of God, to be seen after this world, with all its beauties and its terrors, passes away. God’s will and His desires must continue to be the driving force for every believer. We will get things out of kilter, and we will err. Our responsibility is to be faithful to Him and His Kingship, as we have light and grace.
~ ~ ~
Now for the meat analogies promised in the slug for this lengthy mini-series!
The substance of our national anthem is questionable, at best. I speak here, primarily, both of its (entire set of) lyrics, and its vocal range. It is tainted meat to begin with, if not spoiled meat now.
The choice of butchers
Why must major events choose pop artists to sing a song they can’t sing well? As my wife and a Colorado friend have pointed out in particular about the a cappella enterprise, it is not well served by people who can’t sing a) without amplification and reverb and such, and b) without loud bands backing them. Sports events, convocations, etc., hear me: if you insist on using the national anthem without accompaniment, you ought to choose a singer, or group of singers, or players, who can do the song justice without electronic aids.
The enterprise of butchery in perpetuity
I’ll often be the voice of anti-tradition. My suspicion may not be true, but I suspect that a lot of the baseball players who line up on the base paths or sit in the dugouts during the national anthem are a) tired of it, and b) not in sympathy with some of the sentiments of the song. Why not change the tradition? Let’s hear something else, or nothing at all, for awhile. While I’m at it, “God Bless America” is overused, too. Let’s get back to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Way to go, Cardinals, by the way. A great American baseball town, and a downright-nice story, given the whole wild-card, comeback story of the season and post-season this year!