New York Tirade (4) - My Least Favorite Song

July 11, 2005 — 2 Comments

While at the Yankees game this past week I was “asked” by 50,000 others to participate in the singing of “God Bless America” – that’s a lot of peer pressure and it raises a few questions.

1. Whose God are we talking about?

In the context of 50,000 people, whose God are we calling upon to bless America – the Jewish God, the Christian God, the Muslim God, the New Age God…” The fact of the matter is, we are not really talking about any God in a real sense of the word. What we really want to do is superimpose divine blessing on our rampant nationalism.

2. What is our concept of blessing?

If we submit that the song is calling upon the God of the Bible we better be quick to note how that God “blesses” people.

blessed are the meek
blessed are the poor
blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
blessed are you when you are persecuted

I wonder how ready those 50,000 people, let alone the rest of the United States, would be to accept this kind of blessing from God – the kind of blessing that Jesus both exemplified and called for?

3. What makes us think God is uniquely concerned with America?

Some might argue that that song itself does not lead to this question and I would be willing to grant that. However, this is certainly the prevailing attitude in which the song is sung – as if America were God’s chosen instrument in the world (a la Mr. Bush). God’s mission in the world pertains to all people in all places and his chosen instrument is the Church. It is those who follow Christ, not any country, who are to be the salt of the earth and a light on a hill.

Many live under the delusion that America is a Christian nation and therefore can lay claim on God’s blessing. It is not. No nation ever can be. There was another nation long ago which shared this mentality. They collectively believed that they held a place of honor in God’s sight. The result? God raised up other nations to utterly desimate them. Those who weren’t obliterated were led into captivity and forced labor. The were all but wiped from teh face of the earth. The nation was Israel and on a cosmic scale, God was teaching them a profound lesson. When God calls a people he calles them to responsibility and not priviledge. He calls them to bear a huble and sacrificial witness. When is the last time anyone characterized the USA as either humble or sacrificial?

The degree to which nationalism and patriotism has been assimilated into the church is western culture is distressing to say the least. Once one pledges his or her allegiance to a country or an ideology other than Christ and the Church, authentic christian witness begins to be seriously compromised. I am hoping that more and more of us take this into consideration the next time we are asked to take any kind of stand for our country in the name of the one Lord of the Universe.


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