I love “The Star Spangled Banner”. Francis Scott Key wrote a truly wonderful poem! I’ve always enjoyed the story of how he was inspired to write it. The song has remained one of my favorites from the time I was young. I’ve always had something of an interest in the early history of our nation. Of course, I also memorized the Preamble to the Constitution when I was about 7 years old, simply because I found it inspiring!
I admit to being more than a little amused by the debate that periodically comes up about whether we should change our national anthem to something different. Particularly funny are the people who argue that we should keep “The Star Spangled Banner” because God is not mentioned in the song. May I present the fourth verse:
“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!”
The fourth verse is my personal favorite. I am, however, totally dismayed by the current trend I hear whenever this final verse is sung. The lyrics are changed from “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just…” to “Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just…” It may seem insignificant to change just one word. But read carefully, changing “when” to “for” dramatically alters the meaning of the phrase! The original makes it clear that we will only take up arms for a just cause. Whilst the second implies that we must continually go to war because our “cause is just”. This begs the question, “What is this cause of ours?”
I am almost a pacifist. I believe truly that any Christian should be. War is perhaps one of the greatest evils we must endure while we live in a fallen world. Still, there are occasions when wars must be fought in order to defend ourselves. They should never be entered into lightly; the debate preceding the American War for Independence was long and heated. Men had to weigh their liberty against the horrors of a war fought in their very backyards. I do not envy them the choices they were forced to make. Ultimately, they decided that the oppression and tyranny was so unbearable, that they had no other choice but to take action and declare their independence from England. They knew very well that the consequences of this would be a war. One that they would probably lose. It was a difficult decision to make, but they made it. They paid a terrible price, but their sacrifice brought the reward of liberty to themselves and their children. Their cause was just, and it’s obvious that God blessed their endeavor.
It’s likely evident to you by now that I take great pride in the founding of our nation. It’s easy to do, because it was founded on Scriptural principles. After all, our rights do come from God, and their writings make it clear that they acknowledged that.
I take NO pride in any of our modern wars. I am deeply grieved by the picture I see of what our nation has become. We are a conquering empire, reminiscent of the one we sought independence from over two hundred years ago. The “cause” we claim? Spreading democracy throughout the world. A most unjust cause to be sure. The concept of democracy has only gained popularity in the last century. We were certainly never founded as one! Consider the following excerpt written by Westbrook Pegler and published in the “New York Journal American” in January of 1951.
“Did I say ‘republic?’ By God, yes, I said ‘republic!’ Long live the glorious republic of the United States of America. Damn democracy. It is a fraudulent term used, often by ignorant persons but no less often by intellectual fakers, to describe an infamous mixture of socialism, graft, confiscation of property and denial of personal rights to individuals whose virtuous principles make them offensive.”
Strong words, but it does illustrate to us that the concept of democracy in America had taken firm root by this point in our history. It also tells us that there were still people making a stand against it. Sadly, it has now become one of the rallying cries used to incite unjust wars.
Why do we find ourselves in this current situation? Hopelessly entangled in long, bloody wars on foreign soil, while the once-great nation crumbles from the inside back at home? The answer is surprisingly simple: we’ve forgotten the next line of the song, “And this be our motto, ‘In God is our trust.'” How many generations has it been since that could honestly be said of America? It is true what the Scriptures say, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD…” Psalm 33:12. Now consider as well the words of the prophets Isaiah and Micah, “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people…” I think that perhaps we shall find ourselves among the rebuked.