Patriotic Songs in Church?

Light your Cigarettes with FREEDOM!!!!Fellow American Christians, what are your thoughts on the singing of patriotic hymns at worship service on significant historic holidays such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July? I always took it as given that these were improper for an event meant to be focused on God, so I was somewhat taken aback when I recently attended at a Baptist church where the Memorial Day service began with such hymns as “America the Beautiful,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” with lyrics projected onto a screen over a backdrop of waving US flags.

I tried to get into it, singing along with the congregation, but this gave me such an overwhelming sense of guilt that I had to stop, and the absurdity of it all had me giggling some, which probably wasn’t a good sight in the pews.

I don’t hate America, despite being a registered Democrat [ba-dum-tish]. Singing songs dedicated to America at a time when I would normally be singing to God strikes me as idolatry, a manner of having another god before God. Yes, American history is steeped in the mythos and imagery of our faith, but I can’t see it as “God’s country” (as some veterans say), and there’s a danger in conflating the purposes of the state with the purposes of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Still, there are some patriotic hymns I’ll let past my personal God/Caesar filter: the ones which still address God without overemphasizing how great the state is. “God Of Our Fathers” and “Eternal Father, Strong To Save” spring to mind. (In fact, “Eternal Father” is perfect for Memorial Day, being a prayer for those in military service abroad.)

More from David Opderbeck, PoMoMusings, and this Pew Forum news story from last year.


  1. kristen says:

    I don’t think it’s a good practice. Our faith is catholic, even if every single member of a particular church is a patriotic American. I think “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” and others like it would be fine.

    Last Memorial Day, we visited a local Anglican parish for the first time and they sang ALL the patriotic songs, for every song during the service EXCEPT AT COMMUNION. It seems that it was inappropriate for the Lord’s Supper. If we can’t sing them then, why anytime? (Don’t get me started on PLEDGING THE ALLEGIANCE in church, which they did and we refrained from.)

  2. Another big thumbs-down from me, especially for lyrics that directly address the state in the first person — clearly making it the object of worship.

  3. Rhett says:

    I have no problems with it when the focus is freedom and thanks for that freedom, both to God and servicemen. We tie it in with spiritual freedom in my church. America is a place of free worship. We should recognize that once in a while. We sing songs like “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America”