If you’re at all familiar with this blog, you probably noticed (with some sense of relief) that I didn’t give my usual anti-patriotic rant on the 4th of July. Well, it’s not too late. How ’bout a mini-rant?
Jenell Williams-Paris mentioned that the theme on Sunday at the local mega-church her parents attended was “America: The Country the Bible Built.” She said it was heresy. Her mom said she just likes to be negative.
My church didn’t have anything quite as obvious, but we did sing “America the Beautiful.” I couldn’t sing the song, not because I disagree with its message or think its a bad song. I simply couldn’t understand how it fit into the context of a worship service.
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea! …
God mend thine every flaw …
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine! …
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
It’s a fine song. Go America! Thanks be to God, keep watching over us, rah, rah, rah. But is it really appropriate in worship? The first verse sounds more like it’s praising America than God. Sure, God gets his mention, but America gets two (with exclamation marks). The song’s relationship to the divine is asking for a blessing, a holy handout. The purpose here doesn’t seem to be simple worship. If you do worship through the song, it seems at least secondary to me.
Maybe I’m just being anal and searching for something to rant about. Is it that bad to sing a patriotic song when the 4th of July falls on Sunday?
I just wonder how good it is. Do Christians in other countries sing patriotic songs on their nations’ holidays in church? I’m uncomfortable with the whole concept. We’re a worldwide Church, bound not by flag but by blood. It seems so incongruous to praise our nation — oh yeah, thanks to you God — in the face of such a wider world.
Maybe I’m representative of a declining nationalism and a rising globalism. Yeah, I love my country. I just love my God that much more and would rather worship God on Sunday morning.