Pass along a news tip by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ohio Church Choir Defames Beloved U.S. Hymn: Sings God Should Not Bless America

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Irving Berlin's
"God Bless America" is one our nation's great patriotic tunes, a song that is a marvelous celebration of the small and large mysteries of our national character. It shimmers with a sacredness, a flag-waving spirit without any mention of bombs bursting in air or terrible swift swords. It stirred our souls and raised our spirits during the darkest days of World War II. And again after 9/11, when Senators stood on the Capitol steps and spontaneously sang the words, "God Bless America" to rally their shocked and stricken countrymen.

Now the Christian right has stolen that beautiful tune, the enlightened hymn that has given Americans strength to confront a restless and sometimes hostile world. The uplifting poetics have been rewritten into something darker -- the lyrics have been changed to say America lacks the qualities of blessedness, that this kind-hearted, generous, freedom-loving nation deserves only mercy as a sinful, wretched, vile land.

The new words show no reverence or joy for the homeland. They fail to see any goodness or greatness in everyday life in the United States, a basic goodness that is America's best quality, the quality of home, sweet home that looms so large and shines so brightly. No, the Christian right sees this:

"Why should God bless America?

She's forgotten He exists

And has turned her back on everything

That made her what she is.

Why should God stand beside her

Through the night with the light from his hand?

God have mercy on America

Forgive her sins and heal our land."

Plunderbund has caught the choir of the Springfield Church of God on YouTUBE singing every verse of the revised right wing version. They conjured up a sinful landscape at a Values Voters conference earlier this week in Fort Lauderdale. They knocked their country, the greatest and kindest and biggest-hearted on Earth. They sang out like fools bowing before a golden calf that America "has turned her back on everything that made her what she is."

By uttering that verse, the right shows it cannot find the heart of America with a lifetime of looking.

Yes, America has its flaws and faults. But the good things of life in America far, far outweigh her flaws and faults. This is a nation that spends billions on the sick, and invests billions more to find cures, that has even curbed the biblical scourge of leprosy. This is a nation that spends billions feeding the world -- and debates whether it should spend more. This is a nation that has spilled its own blood in distant deserts, spilled it willingly so far on a mission intended to bring stability and freedom to the Middle East. And yes, Americans have the right to question that mission, or stop it altogether.

The church choir sang of the wickedness of a nation that allows complete freedom of worship -- all denominations and sects can follow the dictates of their faith. This is the nation where millions yearn to be, where humanity has found sanctuary from dictators and despots and Inquisitors, where all seek the opportunity to live freely in the plain light of day.

God has blessed America. He stands beside her. It's the land that I love.


  1. God Bless America is a song, not a hymn. What they are doing is a song parody. There is a long tradition, in America of song parodies.

    I could almost see getting upset if they were doing a parody of a sacred text, but I can't over something written by Irving Berlin.

  2. Boy, talk about purposely and completely missing the point, as an excuse to write an anti-Christian Right screed, all the while agreeing with exactly what they are saying.

    Many in America (primarily the Left) have built this altar of moral relativism - this is what they are talking about. They are saying that God would have good reason not to Bless America, but "God have mercy on America, forgive her sins and heal our land."

    They are praising God's unconditional love despite a concerted effort by leftists to turn America against Christian teachings. Is it edgy, maybe; but hardly the anti-American ballad you were hoping for. Really, it's pretty high-brow irony - apparently lost on those that are looking for a reason demonize.

  3. Hi Chris --

    Yes, a long tradition of song parodies. They are protected by the First Amendment. And Free Speech is something intolerant zealots detest, just as they detest other constitutionally protected liberties such as the right to privacy, which the zealots say does not exist in the legal framework laid down by the founders. Why do you complain about Irving Berlin? Is he too crass for your intellectual tastes, are you too elitist for his compositions?

    And hymn is a word derived from Greek -- a language your education may not have exposed you to. It is obvious that you weren't exposed for you would know that hymn translates as in praise of the Gods, a deity, a nation etc.

  4. Hi Joe C.

    Are you saying that He, perhaps, is a Republican? That the deity is of the right, and those "leftists" you mention are lost sheep?

    I do feel it is rude or worse to take a great hymn, a tribute in verse to our nation, and use it to say some of our countryment are outside His grace because of differing political views. It prostitutes God Bless America. Yes, it is the church choir's legal right to do what they did. But it was a serious insult to our national tradition to debase a ballad that stands for national unity.

  5. No, Bill. As above, you're looking for something to complain about.

    God is apolitical, but also has a sense of humor. I find it odd that the irony of a parody of "God Bless America" by a religious choir wrangles your ire, but the daily poor-mouthing of America officially sanctioned from the cartoon figures on the Left yield ne'ery a quiver.

    Leftists are NOT lost sheep. They are more like a rogue shepherd that buys all the weakest of everyone else's sheep then professes legitimacy as a caretaker because of how many sheep he has. All the while giving his sheep just enough to live, but not enough to thrive and produce - and leave.

  6. Hi Joe C.

    You are right about this: I am complaining, complaining vigorously about the bowdlerized version of God Bless America.

    I took it personally. That song is an icon. It resonates with manners and graciousness, and speaks directly about the best things we Americans are -- all of us no matter the ideological camp or philosophy. I suppose in this day and age anything goes. I was truly surprised to see the song rewritten and performed as it was, and by the people who did it. I thought they would recognize the true value in the original, the simple worth of saying God Bless America. I suppose in this day and age somebody could pass off Britney Spears singing Flying Purple People Eater as some kind of bracing, inspiring artistic work. But it would be garbage.

  7. Wow, talk about mixed messages. On the one hand I'm ignorant of Greek. On the other hand I'm elitist for thinking that there people should show more deference to text taken from a source considered sacred by many people, and something discarded from a "Ziegfeld-style" revue called Yip, Yip, Yaphank. When the music was designed to be enjoyed with leggy dancing girls kicking in lockstep that should be a good clue that it's not a hymn. A song is not the same thing as a hymn, even if it mentions God. The key distinction is if the work was meant to be sung by an individual or a choir, and if it was written to be sung as a part of a sacred service. God Bless America is a popular song that happens to mention God.

    Truth be told, I consider myself an amateur hymnologist. I have devoted many years of my life studying and collecting hymns and working on a database driven hymnal. You can see a sample of what I've been working on @ my Online Christmas Songbook.

    Finally, it should be noted that there is already a long tradition of song parody in churches in general and God Bless America specifically.

  8. Hi Chris --

    I do apologize for any offense taken. I do not back away at all from my strongly held view that the song/hymn in question was defaced. It was painted over with graffiti.

  9. I'm sure an idea that survived the collective oppression of the Roman Empire can handle a bad song parody. You only embiggen them by complaining.