Thoughts on Patriotic Music in Worship

from Bob Kauflin

In brief, since God’s kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36), we don’t feel any obligation to draw attention to, highlight, or celebrate civil holidays as part of our Sunday gatherings. There are a number of reasons. Our country doesn’t set the agenda and priorities for the meetings of the church – God’s Word does. Also, one country’s celebration may confront another country’s values. For instance you won’t find many Christians in Britain excited about Independence Day. Finally, we gather on Sundays to remember the covenant God has made with us, celebrate the redemption He has provided through His Son, and to encourage one another to live lives worthy of the Gospel. The values celebrated by a particular public holiday may not always line up with those goals.

from Jordan Fowler

However, every year I receive complaints that we didn’t sing any “America songs” in our worship service around July 4th. I’ll take the complaints yet still won’t slot them, why?

  1. America didn’t die on the cross for my sins.
  2. Nationalism does not equal being a better Christian. Anytime nationalism and Christianity have gotten too close, it is never nationalism that suffers but always Christianity (ex. Nazi nationalism couched in Christian terms, Constantine’s Christianity, Three Self Patriotic Movement in China). We are called to value our country, serve our country, pray for our country and honor its rulers and laws, but our primary citizenship and allegiance is to a greater King and greater kingdom.
  3. We have people from many nationalities at NorthWood and while they greatly appreciate the blessings of America, many of them have no connection to a song glorifying America when they are from Vietnam, Chile, or Taiwan.
  4. In worship, the unifying principle is the centrality of Christ and the cross, making “Jew” and “Greek” one. If God is the God of the nations, would your congregation sing an Iraqi patriotic song on Iraqi independence day? The Iraqi Christian is more my brother than the non-believing American, no?

from Harry Boonstra

I’m not sure that I am willing to concede that not having patriotic songs in a hymnal is a “failure.” If one of the hallmarks of the Christian church is its inclusiveness and universality, then patriotic songs about America, Canada, or any other country do not seem particularly appropriate in public worship. Whenever we do sing “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies,” I find myself hoping there are no French or Mongolian visitors in the congregation.Secondly, patriotic songs often glorify the country or its history, gloss over its faults, and assume that one country receives special perks from God. It seems that me that one can express (national) gratitude to God in more humble ways.

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2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Patriotic Music in Worship

  1. Pingback: Thoughts on Patriotic Music in Worship « The Complete Worship Musician | Chile Today

  2. H-m-m… Well, as a pastor for 40 years (now retired) I do appreciate your focus on God and His Word. However (and I’m speaking as a Canadian here), Christians do hold dual citizenship. We are citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), but also citizens of an earthly nation. Our leaders are in their place by the appointment of a sovereign God (Rom. 13:1-7). We are to honour and obey them (I Pet. 2:13-17).

    Within that context, it seems to me there is a place to pray, as an assembly of God’s people, for our nation and its leaders–which we are told to do (I Tim. 2:1-4), and also to thank the Lord for the many blessings we enjoy in the land in which we live–and they are many. That is all our national hymns (however imperfectly) seek to do. As witness a stanza of our own national anthem, “O Canada.”

    Ruler Supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
    Hold our dominion in Thy loving care;
    Help us to find, O God, in Thee
    A lasting, rich reward,
    As, waiting for the better day,
    We ever stand on guard.

    By excluding this dimension of life, you may be preventing your congregation from fellowshiping together in appropriate praise and petition for America. Just a thought. God bless.

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