As Americans, I suspect I am in safe territory thinking that most, if not all, of us are familiar with the song, “God Bless America.” Irving Berlin published the song in the fall of 1938 when the world situation was looking very gloomy. Less than twelve months later, Nazi Germany would invade Poland throwing Europe into chaos. A Japanese invasion of Indo-China and bombing of Pearl Harbor would follow.
What song do you write when the world is falling apart?
Sometimes considered to be the unofficial second national anthem of the USA, Berlin said that he originally wrote “God Bless America” in 1918, in the midst of another crisis, World War 1. But he never finished the song and shelved it. About 20 years later, he dusted it off, altering it to be a peace song for that new era. It was an instant hit, and Berlin created a charity donating the proceeds of the song to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Americans, can you sing it by memory? The famous first verse is a prayer that says, “God bless America, land that I love./Stand beside her and guide her/Through the night with the light from above.”
Isn’t it a wonderful prayer? Or is it? You might think, “Joel, why are you questioning that? The song is asking God to guide our country. That’s a good thing.” True, but it begs a question. Shouldn’t there be a “God Bless _______” song for every country? Don’t we want God to be at work in every corner of the globe, just as much as he is at work in the USA?
From a Christian point of view, how are we to think about the message of this song? As I drive my community, Lancaster Pennsylvania, there are many yard signs and bumper stickers, including quite a few that read “God Bless America.” There are also “God Bless the Whole World” signs. (I even recently saw an “America Bless God” sign, though they are quite rare, in my observation.) What these battling yard signs and bumper stickers tell us is that there are some people who believe that they should display the message “God Bless America,” and there are people who believe they should display the message “God Bless the Whole World.” Is one more in line with Christianity than the other? Am I creating a false dichotomy?
As we continue our series in Ezekiel, this coming week on the blog we will study chapters 29-32, and we’ll attempt to address the question of God’s relationship with individual nations and the whole world, and how that matters to us. Though these chapters have a political dimension, we will seek, first and foremost, to understand the biblical and theological message that could apply to any country. So read the chapters in Ezekiel, see if you can discover any principles to apply to this discussion, and then check back in on Monday!
Photo by John Benitez on Unsplash