Thursday, July 1, 2010


America is once again gearing-up for celebrating its independence. I’ve recently received several notes regarding a retired Marine who spontaneously stood at a “Tea Party” to proudly sing the fourth stanza of the Star Spangled Banner. It is often pointed out that after hearing this emotion-driven verse, one can hardly refute that early America was a nation which placed its trust in God.

While I’m certainly not “anti-American,” I do want to discourage drawing uninformed conclusions regarding the implications of this song. To do so, all the lyrics must be considered.

The Star Spangled Banner
By Francis Scott Key 1814

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

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!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

• Verse one - Rockets and bombs are strongly picturesque of weapons used in the bloody warfare of this world and are hardly like that which God calls His children to use, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.” Instead, we are to depend upon “divine power” (2 Cor. 10:4).
• Verse two - Unlike the “Foe’s haughty host,” which America so proudly warred against, the enemies that God’s children confront are “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).
• Verse three – We can assume that these “foul footsteps” were washed away by blood which included countless brothers in Christ! God declares that He will contend with those who shed the blood of His people (Is. 49:25-26, Rev. 16:1-7). God is not a “Power” that seeks to slaughter hirelings and slaves. He is the fortress, stronghold, deliverer and shield for those who take refuge in Him. (Ps. 144:2). For them, the grave has no power!
• Verse four – God would never concur with the idolatrous pride and ruthless greed involved in worldly warfare as being a “just cause”! He would never receive praise for nor accept arrogant rejoicing over the spilled blood of His family members! God scoffs at such declarations of “trust” in Him (Ps. 2:4, 59:8)!

Can we rightly contend that this anthem honors the One who gave us a new command to love our brothers and our enemies? Can American Christians justify murdering “foreign” siblings so that they can enjoy “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? (John. 15:12, Luke. 6:27)

Singing praises to God for "victory and peace" obtained through merciless bloodshed is blasphemous of Jesus and what He accomplished! Jesus redeemed brothers and sisters out of every nation (Rev. 5:9). The idea that one nation is of God and another evil is idolatrous! “…all nations ... are regarded by him as worthless” (Is. 40:17)!

Since the Church is God’s only preserved nation, Christians must recognize the tremendous confusion created by mingling (and virtually equating) civil freedom and gospel freedom. Such intermingling too often results in justifying lethal force in order to accomplish a religious end.
In 1 Peter 2:21-23, we are told that Jesus left an example which we are “called” to follow, “When they abused him, he did not retaliate, when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

Mentioning God in a national anthem is certainly no evidence of a Christian foundation. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father…” (Matt. 7:21) which is demonstrated by our willingness to “lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John. 3:16).

To be honest, in light of God’s Word, I have a real hard time joining in the singing of this militaristic piece.


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