American Arrogance–“God bless America” and humility.

I am often concerned about the existence of the cult of America in the church. Those who know me best would never accuse me of radically patriotic feeling. However, I was disturbed yesterday not by an influx of statements of idealistic arrogance about “how great we are,” but by the lack of all sense of proportion and timing in those who would criticize our nation.

Don’t get me wrong, we are a nation of mostly fallen human beings (salted throughout with less than perfect redeemed people), so what are we to expect but problems, failures, and evils to abound. Arguably taking that fact into account, we should not be surprised by the rampant evils in our nation and history, but the amazing record of good and beautiful things. I realize there has been corruption in our nation, but spend the amount of time I spend with international students and get a sense of proportion please. (Or, try to travel in other countries without being cheated by government officials and cab drivers.)

The real American arrogance I am seeing at present is not in those who would take time to celebrate the blessing of our nation, but those (especially in the press) who would take the day to show gratitude for that blessing as the opportunity to heap criticism upon her. It’s as ridiculous as the overly zealous religious person who tries to declare a fast for the sake of the poor at Thanksgiving dinner.

It is in response to that arrogant attitude that I present the words to my newly discovered favorite patriotic song. I say newly discovered because while I have heard it millions of times, I’ve never really listened to it until last night as it was playing while I watched the fireworks. It is beautifully humble and profoundly simple. It is not a declaration of our own greatness, but a humble request made to God in a troubled time (the lead up to WWII), complete with a recognition of what He has already given us.

While I may like to preface it with a discussion of the meaning of the word “allegiance,” I’ll not go there at present. Rather, here are those profoundly humble words by Irving Berlin. (Pay special attention to the opening lines, which I had never heard.)

God Bless America

Words and music by Irving Berlin
© Copyright 1938, 1939 by Irving Berlin
© Copyright Renewed 1965, 1966 by Irving Berlin
© Copyright Assigned to the Trustees of the God Bless America Fund
International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved.
Used by Permission

“While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. ”

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.


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