National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

A July 4th Complaint

Yesterday, at Mass, the closing hymn was “America the Beautiful.” This always strikes me as a bad choice. Now, I do think America is beautiful. But the third verse is also strikingly Calvinistic. “May God thy gold refine, Till all success be nobleness and every gain divine.” These are not words that would have come out of the mouth of, say, Han Urs Von Balthasar. Actually, it was Balthasar who said that “Success is not a name of God and, so, it is not a Gospel category.”

The National Anthem, with its un-singable melody and militaristic themes is scarcely better. It should not be the National Anthem.

For patriotic occasions, especially church services, the obvious choice is the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” First of all, it was written during the war that really did forge the nation. It perfectly captures, better than the verse quoted above, the sense of divine providence, acknowledging the possibility that God’s judgment upon our nation may not be so benign. And, its otherworldiness is a nice tonic to the Americanism that so dominates contemporary thought on both left and right. The relationship of the Gospel to our culture is a complicated one, but the second we forget that the Gospel stands in critique of all human cultures, we have lost something. In the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” the glory is found in “His bosom”, not ours, and it transfigures us. When we are free from the need for transfiguration, we can pat ourselves on the back for our success, but it will not be our success really. It will be His. That is something worth singing about.

screen-shot_FB-video-promo-9-12.jpgOur Sept. 12-25 edition is in the mail, on its way to subscribers. Take a look inside.

Not a subscriber? Become one today!

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

 

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

September 12-25, 2014

09-12-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.