The Star Spangled Banner Ban

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Goshen College’s decision to ban “The Star Spangled Banner” from on-campus sporting events has generated all kinds of attention for the tiny Mennonite school in rural Indiana. The Sacramento Bee, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and NBC are among the media outlets that picked up the story of how Goshen, with its pacifist roots, decided to replace the National Anthem with “America the Beautiful” because the National Anthem, in the school’s view, promotes war and is thus “inconsistent” with the school’s values. A statement from the school explains that the board wanted an alternative that “resonates with Goshen College’s core values and respects the views of diverse constituencies.” “Mennonites,” adds one Goshen student, “appreciate America but also don’t want to have that violence.”

As a matter of fact, “The Star Spangled Banner” is not about violence or promoting war. It’s actually about freedom and peace. All you have to do is read Francis Scott Key’s poem to understand that our National Anthem’s true meaning is nothing for a Christian or any person of faith to be embarrassed by—and certainly nothing that deserves to be banned.

“Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?”

Key is asking if the flag is still flying—and more specifically, if his country is still free. After all, America, his homeland, was under attack. He saw Washington set ablaze. He saw “the bombs bursting in air.” And when he learns that “our flag” is “still there,” he is overjoyed, as the stanzas that follow reveal.

“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!”

Then, as Key—described by the National Park Service as “a deeply religious man” who was active in the Episcopal Church—grasps the full scope of what has transpired at Ft. McHenry, he turns the poem into a prayer of thanksgiving.

“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 is just. And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’”

Although we don’t usually sing these parts of the poem, that’s what our National Anthem is about. To be sure, Key penned it after a battle. And we can gather from context that, unlike many pacifists, he didn’t view war as the enemy. But neither was he glorifying war or violence. In fact, he was celebrating his freedom and his country’s independence from an enemy that brought “the havoc of war” to America’s shores.

In other words, it may not mean much to those who confuse moral relativism for wisdom, but freedom isn’t preserved by protest marches and teach-ins. It’s preserved by warriors. And as Francis Scott Key knew firsthand, America’s warriors are not enemies of peace.

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  • crackerjack

    Chanting slogans and flying flags should not distract from the fact that most US Americans reject solidarity and unity with their old, sick or needy countrymen.

    Flying flags and chanting slogans is cheap. But when it comes to those with enough supporting those in want, US America leaves its veterans in a cardboard box behind the railstation, millions of its sick unattended and millions of its pensioners in poverty.

    US America's preoccupation with its flag has become a symbol of the great fake US society has become.

    • StephenD

      Imagine how much worse it is in any other country. You agree that even with its foibles and flaws this still is the BEST COUNTRY ON EARTH do you not? If not, I'm sure there are enough of us that are willing to escort you to the border and invite you to a one way trip to your chosen destination.

      • guest

        Actually, if the right wing zealots all left, it would be a pretty good country. It is actually not any worse in any other country, and in many it is better. So if you want to improve this country, leave.

        • StephenD

          I guess before we could discuss your conclusions we'd have to agree on terms. Define if you can "right wing zealots," "pretty good country," "not any worse" (what are you measuring, pencils?) "in many much better."
          You have some splainin to do there Castro boy.

    • sedoanman

      Re: "But when it comes to those with enough supporting those in want, US America leaves its veterans in a cardboard box behind the railstation, millions of its sick unattended and millions of its pensioners in poverty. "

      So what are you PERSONALLY doing to alleviate this poverty?

      • jasonz

        agreed most of the people demanding greater intervention by the govt and more taxes under the guise of 'helping' have NO interest in vets or the poor. they really do not do anything about the 'downtrodden' but will still slam conservs for trying to 'teach a man to fish' vs just giving them a fish. libs cannot distinguish btw 'poor' and 'in need' because their is a difference as is the methods used to get there and get out.

        • crackerjack

          In Germany, Britian, France, Scandinavia, etc, there is a national consensus that a percentage of national revenue must be secured to cover healthcare, old age pensions and basic welfare for all countrymen. This is patriotism and national solidarity in action.

          In the US it is national consensus to view fellow countrymen as a burden and national welfare as a defraud. US patriotism is a fake, reduced to chanting slogans and waving flags.

          • sedoanman

            You didn't answer my question.

        • Crackerjack

          Teaching a man to Fish is of no avail with no fish in the Lake or when all the fish belong to Stanley Morgan.

      • Crackerjack

        I live in a Country with sensible welfare and happily contribute

  • Jayson Rex

    Sooner or later, there will be a violent backlash against the so-called "pacifists" that support extremists of all stripes and colors, including Islamists.

    It is true that we, Americans, and the rest of the Free World, are hostages to the Islamic countries because of our dependence on Arab oil. It is also true that what is left of the Left is trying hard to avoid our becoming energy independent.

    In the end, we rip what we sowed: our external enemies can use our internal enemies to strike at the American people, like they did on 9/11, and get away with it under the guise of "free speech" and all that.

  • Larry

    America wasn't under attack, it was under counter attack. The USA attacked Great Britain whilst GB was busy elsewhere and still got its head handed to it, including the very clinical job done on Washington.

    • intrcptr2

      So I suppose all those merchantmen pessed into the Royal navy were actually volunteers?

      In point of fact, the US Army got its head handed to it, the US Navy won each engagement with the Royal Navy. And let us not forget New Orleans, hmm? Except for the proto-neo-cons who wanted to conquer Canada, I'd say we got what we wanted; the British have left us and this hemisphere alone ever since.

  • intrcptr2

    Alan, you've missed the real point of this whole debacle. And your final comment explains why; it is Jesus who unites us and flags that divide us.
    The school only started playing an instrumental version of the National Anthem last year. They are simply reverting back to their historical practice of not playing it after alumni expressed their wishes for their school. There is absolutely no reason for anyone who has not attended to voice any sort of opinion about it. You dislike the policy, don't go.
    Honestly I think Pres Brennemann is just covering his tracks with his explanation. I should like to hear why they started playing it in the first place.

  • Mike

    American history should be taught thoroughly and in depth in schools. Im tired of people being ignorant to history and making stupid decisions because of it. I love America but I absolutely hate the society that the minorities have created within its borders. Turn off your tv, open a book, exercise your rights by buying weapons and ammunition, stay prepared, and get involved with your community. Solidarity under one flag and nation is a must.

  • wingwiper

    > Goshen College has every possible right to sing or not sing anything they wish, at anytime they please, under the full protection of our Constitution. Though their institutional Pacifism is ridiculed, those who do so are mistaken. Genuine Pacifism, as contrasted with selective pacifism at the convenience of the Democrat political party and at the service of worldwide Socialism, is a time-honored belief to be respected; one for which the names on military graves across our earth gave sacrifice.

  • Riley Case

    But of course from this discussion we go to thea question as to whether or not to display the American flag in the church sanctuary. I get to visit a lot of Brethren, Mennonite and Quaker churches and I always check to see if they display the flag (some do but many don't). I do not consider it unpatriotic not to display the flag. After all, we want to make it known our first allegiance is to God. We have other allegiances also (our college, our club, etc.) but we don't display their flags. Furthermore, too much stuff clutters up and distracts from the altar area. How about if we start singing the other verses of the national anthem? There is nothing proscribed about singing only verse one. And how about we actually sing it instead of letting some performer (who tends to want to draw attention to himself or herself) sing it for us?

  • Flipside

    Why is it ok for Jews to persecute Mennonites?

    • Ghostwriter

      Flipside,what does that have to do with the subject at hand? Would you stop with your anti-Jewish drivel?

  • WilliamJamesWard

    I guess the "Battle Hymn of the Republic is out also"? Pacifism is a reality of life
    for those who truly believe in peace at any price but these are Christians who
    see life as meant to be peaceful and blessed by the Almighty. I just wonder
    how they get by the fact that there is war in the heavens and it is not over yet.
    As long as they are not disparaging those buried under the the Cross and Star
    of David covering America and the World, I could care less, let them whistle Dixie.

  • guest

    Send ths case to the ACLU. Looks like a fit

  • Moshe Pupick

    Th., 09/01/11 common era

    The U.S.A. wasn't formed as a result of "flower power." War is called "hell" for very good reason; but it does have its time and place in the world, as King Solomon so wisely said in Ecclesiastes.
    Pacifism sounds pretty, but it assumes that the foe is reasonabley humane. If Ghandi had practiced passive resistance with the Nazis, as he urged the European Jews to practice, he and his followers would very quickly have been very dead.

  • LindaF

    I can speak about ONE of those veterans. My brother, a VietNam vet, is homeless. He's been taken off the street, and provided with shelter – but he doesn't want to live by their rules. He's been admitted to VA hospitals, but, as soon as he gets physically better, hits the streets again to drink himself into the ground. We've all tried to help him get back on track, but, so far, we've not been successful.

    Now, for many vets, this is what is going on with the homelessness. MANY homeless vets have substance abuse issues (not all). They end up returning to the streets, over and over again. I'd like to see them in homes, but I'm not willing to destroy my own home to keep them there. Drunks and druggies can devastate their families; for some, it's a tough decision, but better they screw up their lives than destroy their families as well.

    • Walt

      As a retired member of the USN, and a Vietnam veteran (100% Combat related disabled), I can only imagine the pain that you and your family are going through because of your brother. I only hope that you do not accept any blame nor responsibility for his problem, it is clearly his and his alone!

      Most people don't seem to realize that the military (before our all-volunteer force) was a cross section of Americana; good/bad; rich/poor; illiterate/learned; etc. etc.

      I would suggest that your brother's problems started before he ever went into the military if the truth be known, and not as a result of it. He would not be the first that got caught up with the culture of the '60s and was never able to shake the 'if it feels good, do it' mentality. Many G.I.s of that time brought their alcohol and drug problems into the military with them and never shook them. They and their counterparts of today that take that road can only be pitied and seldom helped. Tough love is some times the only option.

      I sincerely pray for both your brother and your family – I know you're going through hell!

  • Ghostwriter

    Unbelievable! The utter stupidity of this is worthy of inclusion in "The Onion" or "MAD Magazine." Hopefully,they'll reconsider this. Goshen College may have the right to do this,but they're not going to make it without criticism.

  • jasonz

    i have little use for pacifists. they are glad to accept the rights and priviges of living here but then do nothing to give nor secure thoes rights and dare to comment and critisize how they were achieved. a good argument is like the one in a few good men. pacifists and anti-war protestors are little more than cowards and traitors pretending to be noble and wise. as far as im concerned pacifists are cannon fodder and darwin awards waiting to happen

    • WilliamJamesWard

      Excelent points jasonz, pacifism is a luxury available only where free men
      have fought and died to keep evil out. I often wonder why we allow the
      insult to our sacrafices, ignoring them is best until leftists use it to move
      cowardice to a prefered place in the American consciousness…..William

    • Ken


      Your comments reveal that you do not understand the theology or worldview of those who genuinely practice pacifism. I, for one, am not of their persuasion, but I tremendously admire and respect their stand. Sure, some may hide under the banner of "pacifism" just to protect their own rear end, but this is not the case of genuine, sincere pacifists. Check out the movie, "The Mission." It also explores this whole issue.

  • wingwiper

    > Indeed. They go to war because they are ordered to do so after having signed up for it. And, once in theater, let's have a show of hands from those there who would prefer peace. The essence of Pacifism, when genuinely held, is a conscious decision to choose peace over violence. In my view, that is a hopeless form of excessive idealism. When more than 2% of our fellow patriots who are not self-identified Pacifists start showing up in uniform to defend freedom, then I will take the opposing side more seriously. I certainly served my volunteer time under the oath and know whereof we speak. Goshen College's freedom to sing any song they please is a protected right anyone in uniform would defend as well.

  • mrbean

    Pacifistic tendencies are interpreted by thugs and degenerates as irresistible invitations to use violence for their own material ends. Black thug teens in Chicago were asked recently why they attack and rob nice white people in nice neighbohoods and they replied; "Dey don't fights back – dems easy pickins!"