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The celebrations of July 4 often elicit feelings of pride that emphasize what people have accomplished. People get misty eyed as they sing, “proud to be an American.” They ask that “God bless America.”
God has blessed America, in spite of many missteps or actions that have not represented Him well.
I am thankful to be an American.
I am thankful to live in a beautiful country where I enjoy the many freedoms we have. But even as I give thanks, I remember those around the world who do not have those freedoms. I remember those both inside and outside our borders, who are not free.
I enjoy being wowed by fireworks celebrations. But even as I celebrate, I remember there are others around the world, who are hearing similar sounds and are being filled with terror, as they hear the heralds of what will kill and destroy.
I resist pledging allegiance to the flag, an inanimate object, even when it represents the republic. I am not a public rebel. So I participate in the pledge. But my mind and spirit go beyond a red, white and blue cloth.
When I stand and place my hand over my heart, I do so remembering that He Who created my heart also created the hearts of those who some would call our enemies.
I remember Jesus’ command to pray for our enemies and do good to those who despitefully use us. And I feel sad that we have forgotten that our Creator is Lord and Father of all, even those who do not know our Father yet.
I pledge allegiance to Jesus and resolve to continue working to fulfill His Mission that we all be one, as we were created to be.
I cringe when I listen to some of the words of our national anthem, and realize what it means. It is the antithesis of what Jesus commanded.
In this verse, Frances Scott Key, the writer of The Star Spangled Banner, revels in the blood of all who were lost in war.
“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.”
Mr. Key believed in freedom for only some of the people. Mr. Key was a slave holder and an adamant defender of slavery. He was horrified that people were even allowed to speak against slavery.
In the same year that Mr. Key wrote about freedom and pride in spilling the blood of the British, he continued to define what freedom meant to him.
Shortly after a race riot in Washington, D.C. when an angry white mob set upon a well-known free black restaurant owner, Key sought to crack down on the free speech of abolitionists he believed were riling things up in the city. Key prosecuted a New York doctor living in Georgetown for possessing abolitionist pamphlets.
In the resulting case, U.S. v. Reuben Crandall, Key made national headlines by asking whether the property rights of slaveholders outweighed the free speech rights of those arguing for slavery’s abolishment. Key hoped to silence abolitionists, who, he charged, wished to “associate and amalgamate with the negro.”
Though Crandall’s offense was nothing more than possessing abolitionist literature, Key felt that abolitionists’ free speech rights were so dangerous that he sought, unsuccessfully, to have Crandall hanged. This is the man who wrote our national anthem.
In contrast to that, a woman, Katharine Bates wrote “America The Beautiful.” In contrast to pride of spilling blood in war, “America The Beautiful” is a song of praise for the country God has created.
The first draft of “America the Beautiful” was hastily jotted down in a notebook during the summer of 1893, which Bates spent teaching English at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Later she remembered:
“One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse.”
I prefer “America The Beautiful” because it is a song of praise and reflects the attitude not of pride, but of humility and gratitude to God for what He has created.
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law…
God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.”
Yes, God has blessed the people of this great country and He Himself has promised to “mend our every flaw.” But before He acts, He calls upon us to act. He laid out His Plan in
2 Chronicles 7:14.
“If my people, who are called by my name,
will humble themselves,
search for me,
and turn from their evil ways,
then I will hear their prayer from heaven,
forgive their sins,
and heal their country.”
While God wants us to love our country, He never wants our love for what He created to eclipse our love for Him as our Creator.
So the first thing He wants us to do, is remember He is our Commander and Chief. He wants us to remember Who He is and who we are.
“If My People, Who are called by My Name.” We are His. We cannot misuse His Name by acting in any way other than the way He has taught us to act.
We cannot choose any other way and then ask Him to bless us.
We must “humble ourselves.” We must lay aside all pride. We must enter into His Presence with thanksgiving and with praise. We must settle the matter deep within ourselves that God knows The Plan, not just for ourselves, but for all of His Creation. He is God. We are not.
We must “pray.” We must connect directly with our Commander and Chief, to get our marching orders from Him. We do not give Him the orders and ask Him to endorse them. He talks. We listen. He sets the course and leads. We follow.
We cannot follow if we do not know where He is going. We must “search for Him.” He assures us He can be found, but there may be some training exercises for us to instantly recognize His Voice and immediately obey.
If we are going to walk in His Way, we must give up any other way. God does not call us evil. But some of the ways we have chosen may only lead to evil. We must give up “our evil ways.”
We must not be tempted to consider the evil ways of others and whether their evil ways are more evil than ours. This is a matter between each of us and God.
If we do these things consistently, God promises He will hear us. He will forgive us. He will remove any barrier that our sins put in the way.
When God’s People, Who are called by His Name, do these things, He will, not only heal us individually, He will also heal our country.
When we return to complete trust in God, as a people, all of whom deserve freedom, we can live out the truth of being “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
“I pray that all of these people continue to have unity in the way that You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. I pray that they may be united with Us so that the world will believe that You have sent Me.”