Battle Hymn of the Republic

Okay, I said I was going to write about depression, but the service at the White House this morning welcoming the Pope sparked my spiritual and patriotic fervor. The US Military Choir sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and I made a smirky comment to my husband about how ironic that was.

“Could they have chosen a more Protestant, patriotic and unpeaceful song?” I asked him.

The rousing song lyrics, as we know them, were written during the Civil War by Julia Ward Howe, a Union, anti-slavery sympathizer. It reminds me of the call of Romans 12. “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” Paul tells us not to allow evil to win. Instead, good must be victorious. Evil must be stamped out, annihilated by goodness. It is war talk. Jesus tells his disciples at Caesarea Philippi that His church is to “storm the gates of hell.” This isn’t a defensive stance Christ asks us to take, it is offensive, on the move, attacking. It is so energetic and powerful, hell cannot hold it’s position against it, and will fall. Battle language we have forgotten in our efforts to disassociate with the Crusades, an unholy enterprise.

And that is where many of us, myself included, are confused. We must battle against evil, yes. But how? With good. Sincere devotion to serving others in love. Placing other people’s needs before our own. Thinking less of “me” and more of “you.” Zealously rejoicing with thanksgiving, instead of bitterly wanting more. Continuing to help and be kind to a difficult boss or co-worker. Spending time in the “projects” tutoring kids. Inviting your neighbors over to eat. Saying, “I hope you have a great day” to your cranky wife. Refusing to payback a mean person in kind, instead giving  him another chance to act kindly; not burning bridges on our tough relationships.

But, I go off topic. The Battle Hymn was sung this morning. And the choir slowed the final verse for emphasis:

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,While God is marching on.

It was beautiful.

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