Pentecost fell on Memorial Day weekend this year. The Birthday of the Church was also the eve of the day on which Americans honor their war dead. (All of their dead, in fact, but their war dead in particular.) I am guessing this made for some interesting musical choices in Episcopal churches around the country, especially involving the inclusion of patriotic songs in the liturgy.
At my church, the choir sang a “Patriotic Medley” at the offertory. The medley consisted of the verses of The Star Spangled Banner interspersed with other songs. The singers did an excellent job, but I found the inclusion of the national anthem a bit of a stumbling block. There is this verse for instance, which we all sang in unison:
O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry 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!
A day later I am still trying to sort out how I feel about having asserted musically and before God, that the United States has a right to conquer when our cause is just. On the one hand, I am not a pacifist, and don’t mind praying for the victory of combatants whose cause I believe to be just. On the other hand, I don’t believe our national interests are perfectly attuned to the divine desires, and suppose it is idolatrous to think otherwise.
I suspect this may be one of those issue, like inviting the unbaptized to Communion, on which I will hold the opinion of the last persuasive person I spoke to.
So by all means, begin speaking.