It could be unpatriotic for Christians to not supply particular petitions for the nation when Independence Day coincides with the Lord’s Day.
Patriotism is a type of piety. This makes difficult terrain for spiritual varieties. When the state’s highest holy day falls on a day sometimes belonging to the Lord, because it does this 12 months, the footing turns into notably unsure. How can we permit pious expression to confess some patriotism on such an event?
Whether or not the United States is a Christian nation stays debatable. Pious Puritans butt up towards the tasteless deistic fronts of the Founding Fathers, and Christians nonetheless wrestle to dwell as devoted residents of each the secular state and the heavenly City. Those who would love a extra sanctified celebration of patriotism have gravitated to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” Debuted by Kate Smith in 1938, this temporary assortment of rhymes succeeds in bringing a little bit of devotion to 1’s patriotic obligation. The impulse is laudable, as far as it goes. It is analogous to a mealtime prayer, acknowledging that the founding father of the feast is neither the one that paid for it, nor the one that ready it. For spiritual adherents, fealty as regards to a nation is in the end owed to the facility past that nation whose will (whether or not permissive or lively) permits the nation to exist.
But “God Bless America” is religiously weak sauce. That is to say, it’s high quality for the water-ski present on the Fourth at your native lake. Where the Papists and Bible-thumpers are making a cheerful day of it alongside fellow Americans of different faiths or, extra doubtless, no well-defined religion, “God Bless America” is exactly what is required. Berlin’s track, nevertheless, is not any Sunday morning hymn. Who, in “God Bless America,” is God? It is open for anybody to outline, which is the other of the Christian confession. The theological laxity that makes “God Bless America” match a syncretistic gathering is what prevents it from having a spot in a Christian spiritual service.
Where else would possibly we go for a hymn on Sunday, the Fourth of July? There is not any scarcity of choices. “America the Beautiful” affords a petition in every stanza for divine blessing. In its humblest verses, the track asks of America,
God mend thine each flaw
Confirm thy soul in self-control
Thy liberty in legislation.
“God Bless Our Native Land” affords not solely reward and due to God for the present of nation, however asks for his ongoing safety of the state itself. “God Of Our Fathers” demonstrates that even a son of the Church of England can write a stirring hymn that contends for a spot on the hymnboard on the Fourth of July. But all of those are imprecise or indirect on precisely who God is. A Christian hymn needs to be primarily Christian: a prayer to and confession of Jesus Christ. God is. For this motive, we should additionally in all probability get rid of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” each of which include subtexts that mitigate their strengths.
To discover a hymn for the Fourth, we are able to flip to a songwriter we already know nicely. Francis Scott Key has extra credit to his title than “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Of all patriotic hymns, maybe none affords a extra clear and delightful Christian confession than Key’s “Before The Lord We Bow.” Setting the primary stanza in heaven, constructing subsequent by the institution of a political state, after which broadening the view to incorporate all of creation, Key brings singers to the peak of their prayer in stanza 4:
Earth! hear thy maker’s voice,
The nice Redeemer personal,
Believe, obey, rejoice,
And worship Him alone;
Cast down thy satisfaction,
Thy sin deplore,
And bow earlier than
Deploring our sin just isn’t one thing Americans sometimes do on the Fourth. That’s a day once we wish to deplore the sins of others, in that retro individuals and acts of historical past at the moment are reckoned sinful: George the Third, guys in wigs, taxation with out illustration, The Man. But this pleasurable job is historic and political relatively than Christian. The foremost posture of the Christian is humility; acknowledging one’s personal sins relatively than rubbing the specks in another person’s eye.
The perception of Key’s hymn is that though it’s patriotic, it isn’t about America. It could also be sung of any nation. “The nation Thou hast blest/May well thy love declare,” Key writes in stanza two. That nation could also be a republic or a monarchy. It could give everybody the vote, or nobody. It will definitely be an oligarchy. The state, in Christian theology, is a method by which the Lord each chastens and blesses for the aim of drawing individuals to himself. A Christian’s state could also be a cross to bear or a horn of lots, however both means, it’s a present. Christians supply thanks for it from their vocation, whether or not citizen or denizen, on Independence Day—no matter date that occurs to be for the political boundary inside which one has landed on this planet.
And when in energy He comes,
O could our place of birth,
From all its rending tombs,
Send forth an excellent band;
A numerous throng
Ever to sing
To heaven’s excessive King
This is globalism in its good sense. It is perverse to artificially sturdy arm all humanity right into a single order underneath the U.N., Amazon, or the righteous causes of a second in historical past. But it’s a central Christian doctrine that the Father despatched the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whether or not we dwell in a spot the place we’re free to sing it, the message of the Gospel is for each tribe and nation. The freedom God has modeled most resoundingly for us just isn’t expression, meeting, faith, or baseball and apple pie. It is the liberty to forgive: that’s, to assist others to freedom from the agony of sin. God in Christ reveals not the way to demand our rights, however the way to forgive those that have wronged us; not the way to punish the responsible, however the way to love, redeem, and restore them.
Forgiveness, nevertheless, presupposes sin. It is constructed on the premise that there’s guilt, and that guilt deserves punishment. Forgiveness can solely be a world resolution if each particular person on this globe is a sinner. Forgiveness, in Christian theology, is simply obtained by the repentant, those that acknowledge their sins as sins and switch from them in humility. In different phrases, forgiveness is antithetical to satisfaction. Key’s stanza 4 (“Cast down thy pride/Thy sin deplore”) can’t and, furthermore, is not going to be sung by anybody who rejects forgiveness on God’s phrases. This will in all probability embrace a number of individuals on the water-ski present.
But these of us who would miss the water-ski present for church accomplish that due to what the Fourth of July means for us. It could be unpatriotic for Christians to not supply particular petitions for the nation when Independence Day coincides with the Lord’s Day. To wit: God bless America, please. God save the state, we pray. God mend America’s each flaw, amen and amen. On the Lord’s day and in his home, let it not be America’s track, however salvation’s track that’s sung. A gracious reply to that prayer is the blessing our nation and each nation seeks.
Rebekah Curtis is the co-author of LadyLike (Concordia: 2015). She has written for publications similar to Public Discourse, First Things, University Bookman, Front Porch Republic, Chronicles, Touchstone, and Salvo.