By Heather O.
I get it. It’s almost the 4th of July, and this year, the 4th of the July falls on a Fast Sunday, so your ward has 3 options:
1) Do a patriotic themed Sacrament meeting today
2) Do a patriotic themed Sacrament meeting on July 11th (which feels kinda lame, kinda like singing Christmas Carols at New Year’s)
3) Do an patriotic opening and closing hymn, and call it good.
The ward I attended today (in Utah, as I’ve been in town for the Segullah Writer’s Conference, which was fantabulous except for the tiny part about not knowing how to turn on the a/c in the building, which caused some extreme sleepiness and perhaps some mild grumpiness around 3pm, but we’re hoping the free cinnamon rolls from Rhodes sort of made up for it) chose option 1. The speakers didn’t follow a patriotic theme (which can go either way. I’ve heard patriotic talks that were stellar, and others that were um, not so much), and then the choir had a little show. They sang 2 songs: Give me your tired and your poor, and Battle Hymn of the Republic, which was ambitious, to be sure, but decently done. Kinda fun, really. They had a little poetic reading thingie in-between songs, which was sort of odd, but hey, it’s the 4th of July, so it was easy to just go with it.
My problem, however, came with the closing hymn. Now, I’m not unpatriotic. Really. I recognize that America is a cool place to live, and I’m fine singing something from the hymn book that says “Yay! America!”. But the closing hymn was “God Bless America.” Sung by the choir.
That’s not in the hymn book, folks.
And coming off the heels of four really nice talks about the cleansing power of the Atonement, it was jarring. And I wondered if it was appropriate.
Now again, I’m not unpatriotic, and one could argue that God Bless America SHOULD be in the hymn book. But the fact is, it’s not. And while I’m probably one who is willing to give a choir a little more leeway than some (I sang with a woman once who was utterly appalled that our ward choir sang something beside hymns. When she complained, she was promptly called to be the ward choir director. hee hee.), I kinda feel that a worship service, a service that was definitely conducive to the spirit and focused on an eternal principle, should end with a hymn.
I’m also uncomfortable with the line we walk that sometimes gets blurry when we inject patriotic messages into our sacred spaces. Like I said, I get it, it’s the 4th of July, what did I expect? But I like it when we worship Christ, not the United States of America. And last I checked, the Constitution hasn’t ACTUALLY been canonized into our scriptures.
So weigh in, fellow Saints. God Bless America–appropriate or not? Discuss.
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