Have you stopped to listen to the words of the National Anthem lately? The song is about the flag surviving a rather brutal attack, with shells falling all around. Despite the ferocity of the combat situation, “our flag was still there.” And we can even read the last couple of lines as a question, “O, say, does the star-spangled banner yet wave […]?” Does it? Yes. Have men and women died defending it, yes. Do we as civilians need to defend the flag itself, or has it stood the test of time as Americans of all colors, sizes, and creeds have defended the ideals of what it stands for – “the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
Yes, the defense of the flag and national anthem, plus several more shootings, have sent every armchair pundit rushing for their corners for the inevitable media boxing match with each side not giving a single ear to the other side’s point of view. But, for some history, the national anthem was not really used at sporting events for the reason you think it has been used. Originally, it was not used at the beginning of the game, if it was used at all. The anthem was first introduced to a sporting event, specifically baseball, in 1918 during the seventh inning stretch as a mood booster for a small crowd suffering from the effects of WWI and several other national stresses. The effect of the military band striking up the song was immediate and dramatic, with the song becoming a regular part of sporting events after receiving so much attention. (Source here) The anthem has since become a way of promoting good will, togetherness, and spirit during modern sporting events. One could even make a very cynical argument that the anthem was kept due to its money-making ability to draw crowds by promoting a sense of patriotism. Regardless of its history of inclusion or its purpose in sporting events, we can understand that not all people view the symbol in the same way. Some have had negative experiences in dealing with that flag and may be hesitant to support what they believe it to be about. Others have positive experiences and are clearly ready to support what they believe it stands for.
Consider also the idea of God. Not everyone has experienced God in a positive environment. Some feel abandoned, scandalized, or abused by religious groups. Some feel accepted, healed, and wanted by God because of a loving group. Can we understand how these different groups of people feel when presented with the idea of God? How do we wrestle with the way that some Christians, and other religious groups, feel it is their vocation to defend God through anger, violence, shouting, and legislation? If we truly believe that God is the Creator and King of heaven and earth, what makes us think that our weak self is what God needs to defend Himself?
If we want to honor God and defend His name, let’s obey His commands: love God, love others, make disciples. If we want to honor the flag, let’s stand up for ideals of the nation for which she stands: freedom, equality, justice. American ideals do not survive through arguments and mere words. These truths that we hold to be self-evident survive through men and women of all kinds living them out in their daily lives, showing with their actions that they have chosen to build something concrete, instead of building flimsy edifices with empty words. God’s Kingdom does not hinge on our grasp of apologetics or whether or not certain laws are on the books – His Kingdom has been established already at the cross and it has no end.
May we all filter out the myriad of voices to hear the voice of our King.
How do you approach patriotism in your home? What do conversations about current events look like in your family? Do they happen? How do you instill trust in God and responsibility for actions?