Sabbatical Blog

...chronicling some of my projects and learnings during this time apart from parish ministry

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

God, Bless America

I've always loved the patriotic hymn, "God Bless America." Written quickly at the outbreak of WWII, it's not a brilliant poem, but it is a simple, heartfelt prayer for God's blessing in a frightening time.

Note, it is a request for blessing, not a statement of fact, something that is lost in the "God Bless America" bumper stickers which should read, "God, bless America" In asking for a blessing the petitioner is making a humble request for something desired, deserved, rather than demanding a boon that is one's by right. Unfortunately, the phrase is often used exactly that way, which is a theological and cultural travesty. But that's not what Irving Berlin meant it to be. He meant it to be a real prayer, addressed to God, not about God's work.

The subject of fright was a straightforwardly dangerous world in 1943, whereas today the subject of our fright is our own runaway national executive, our national disinclination to curb our lifestyle to deal with debt or climate warming, and whiffs of globalizing change. None the less, this prayer for blessing and guidance in this time in which, by the measure of any of the world's faiths, especially Christianity, we are seriously astray, is just as pertinent as it was 60 years ago. It will be my prayer on this Memorial Day weekend.



Bless America, land that I love,

(although I know that we're not living up to our ideals right now and for that I ask pardon, but this request for a blessing is not for our current messy reality, but for the ideal and promise of America.)
Stand beside her, and guide her (for we need all the guidance we can get)
through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies
to the oceans white with foam,
God Bless America, our home
(and the home of what is best in our hearts) sweet home.
May it be So

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