With God on Our Side, Some Thoughts on Memorial Day

Tomorrow is Memorial Day in the United States. It is a day set aside to remember those who have died fighting for this country. This is a great cause, indeed. I have a great respect for the military, having a brother and 2 grandfathers who served in the military and almost joining myself. However, what disturbs me about Memorial Day, and it’s cousin the 4th of July, in this country is how these state holidays are celebrated by the church. To be sure, it is not that I do not think those who are part of the church should celebrate these holidays, but should the (American) church, as a whole, celebrate them? I think not, for it serves to further ingrain the idea in the minds of many in the pews that God is America’s God (and no one else’s).

Bob Dylan, being the great lyricist that he is, wrote a song called “With God on Our Side.” Below are the last three verses of the song:

But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we’re forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God’s on your side.

In a many dark hour
I’ve been thinkin’ about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can’t think for you
You’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

So now as I’m leavin’
I’m weary as Hell
The confusion I’m feelin’
Ain’t no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God’s on our side
He’ll stop the next war.

I think the sentiment is evident. Everyone seems to think God is on their side, but if God is on my side, then, according to how “being on one’s side works,” God cannot be on your side. We are often quite comfortable with this idea and with the idea that Christianity is most rightly adhered to as it is in America. Displaying the American flag in our sanctuaries and singing patriotic songs as hymns are not bad, in and of themselves, but they often subconsciously lead to a nationalistic Christianity. That is, when we view God as wholly American we forget that God is much bigger than we are, much bigger than America, and that God does actually care about blessing all the people(s) and nations of the earth. Let us not lose sight of this truth.

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2 thoughts on “With God on Our Side, Some Thoughts on Memorial Day

  1. I thought this was great! I asked some family members what they thought about this yesterday at a lunch we had and I was attacked for thinking that we should support them but not celebrate this is church. It really bothers me as well! I have really enjoyed reading your blog.

  2. My experiences have taught me that many people jump immediately to calling you unpatriotic or even unchristian when you suggest that these two do not need to be done in conjunction with each other. It is a similar response, though often not as strong of one, as I get when I affirm the separation of church and state. Christians are some of the worst when it comes to this; they don’t want any other religion even hinted at, but they expect that theirs should be held above everyone else’s and their prayers should be allowed and their Ten Commandments, etc. It’s a double standard. I see these two issues related because many American Christians have forgotten that being Christian and being American need not necessarily go together.

    Glad you’ve enjoyed reading the blog.

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