Sacrilege and the Fourth of July   1 comment


I am an American, and while I am not especially proud of that fact, I am not ashamed of it either. The good in my background came from an American context, and most of the good I hope to do, I hope to do in America. I hope to improve this country. So while I would not fall under most definitions of a patriot, I am not an anti-patriot.

That said, it was with some dismay that I entered into a flag filled church this morning and the choir started singing America the Beautiful.

I have very little use for the kind of patriotism embodied by America the Beautiful. I find it to be self-glorifying and escapist. It isn’t about how our country actually is, its about how we want it to be, with absolutely nothing useful to help us get there. Thinking America is super-duper special and blessed by God seems to be a characteristic of the people who want ignore America’s faults rather than solve them, but the tune is catchy and has some nostalgia for a Midwestern white boy like me, so I don’t mind that too terribly.

The problem is, I take church a little more seriously than that. Church is where I try to bring my own life into communion with God. It is where I try to catch some glimpse of perfect Justice and Truth and Love. It’s where I go to recharge my prayer life for the week. So when I go to Church, I find it… off-putting… to be treated to the spectacle of a proud and arrogant nation worshiping itself in a space dedicated to the worship of something a bit more important.

And the real kicker is the song itself. It is a song that mostly praises the land of America. Purple Mountain Majesties, spacious skies, sea to shining sea. That’s what we’re singing about. Most of that, of course, had been taken by force or fraud mere decades prior to the writing of the poem the current song is based from. The song sings of heroes loving mercy more than life, self-control, and brotherhood. None of these things were in evidence in our handling of the Native Americans. I don’t hate America, but I won’t lie about her either. I will not praise the beauty she stole from others. And I really won’t do that when I’m supposed to be worshiping God.

But at least America the Beautiful, for all its hypocrisy and self-aggrandizement, can be justified as a prayer to God. The inclusion of My Country Tis of Thee and the National Anthem is simply inexcusable. They are songs worshiping America. They are not prayers (it’s difficult to argue otherwise with a title like My Country Tis of Thee). They are being sung at a time reserved for the worship of God. If sacrilege is taking something sacred and making it profane then using these songs at that time was sacrilege.

I may not believe in hell, but I still don’t like sacrilege, and I’d guess it’s going to be happening a lot this week.

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One response to “Sacrilege and the Fourth of July

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  1. Pingback: The Fourth of July – Meh « Reluctant Liberal

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