First, I am also a veteran. I served as a Navy Hospital Corpsman for six years (1992-1998). I missed the first Gulf war by several months as I was finishing High School, but enlisted shortly after graduation. I served my country out of a sense of patriotism. I was proud to serve and to continue a history of military service from both sides of my family. My parents both served as did others on both sides of the family. My parents even met in Japan (Mom is from Pennsylvania and Dad is from Florida, both served in the Air Force and would not have met but for their service). I think the USA is a great country. I am proud to be an American. We have our problems, but I believe we are an exceptional country.
Having said that, I am dismayed at the corruption of worship in the Church. Worship of God is primary. Well, it should be primary. In fact, in our weekly gatherings (those things we call our worship service) we should worship God exclusively. Unfortunately, we often sing praise to things other than God. We often attribute worth (or to say it differently, worship) things other than God.
Some will say, "Wait Wade!! What do you mean we praise and worship things other than God? That is preposterous!" Oh really? Is it that out of line to claim that we praise things other than God, when we gather for worship? Take the Lee Greenwood song, God Bless the USA. Click here for the lyrics if you would like to read them. I like the song. I agree with the sentiment of the song.
Here is the video with the lyrics. God ahead and play it now if you want. Sing it if you want. Cry a bit if you need to. Continue reading when you are done.
I WOULD NEVER permit this song to be sung in a worship service.
I would sing it at a picnic, concert, or when it comes on the radio. But I would not allow this in a service that we have dedicated to God. The song is not about God and does not praise or attribute worth to God. This is a beautiful song about a person's love for their country and some of the attributes of the country. Asking God to bless the USA does not make the song about God and it does not make it a praise or worship song. It simply makes it a song that mentions/acknowledges God.
But since the song is about something other than God, it does not belong in a service that is supposed to be about attributing worth to God.
God is jealous. We overlook jealousy attribute of God sometimes. I think that is because we view jealousy in a negative light. We tell our kids not to be jealous of others. But when it comes to God, he is right to be jealous. The sense in which God is jealous is the sense of guarding what is rightfully his. All praise and worship are due God. God is right to guard what he is due.
Christians must be careful when we gather for worship. We need to ensure that we do not worship something other than God in a service we have dedicated to God. We would not think it appropriate to sing a song about Russia or Jamaica, would we? We would not think it appropriate to sing a song about how much love and appreciate our lunch meat? Even if our bologna has a first and last name. If we would not sing about lunch meat and other countries in our worship services (because those songs are not about God) why would we sing about our Country and not about God?
It is not just that those songs (which are not necessarily bad) are not appropriate for worship, they are taking from God that which he is due in our worship. God takes worship seriously. He brought an end to Eli's priesthood when his sons Hophni and Phinehas corrupted worship. Eli's sons stole from God and those coming to worship and the consequence was their death and punishment on Israel.
In our worship, when we take pledges to flags, sing about things other than God, and praise things other than God, we are essentially doing the same thing Hopni and Phinehas were doing. We are not giving God all that is due him. When we sing about a country we are diverting what is due God to a country. When we sing about ourselves we are diverting what is due God to us (more about that later). If we were to sing about bologna we would be diverting what is due God to lunch meat.
What about singing songs about ourselves?
A lot of songs we sing our about ourselves. Look at the subject of the sentences. They are often I or me and are about how we feel or what we are going to do. Singing something like "I will worship" is not the same as singing "I worship you, almighty God." The first is singing about what you are planning on doing. The second is actually worshiping.
When you look at the songs that are popular, many are singing about us, and are not giving praise to God. This is true of new songs and of many songs in our hymnals. "I love to tell the story" and "Oh, How I love Jesus" are old hymns but they are still about what the person "I" is doing or likes to do. Even "The Old Rugged Cross" is a song about what I am going to do (I will cling to the old rugged cross).
I am afraid that we have turned our times of corporate worship into times when we ding about ourselves and other things as much or more than when we sing about God. We should be careful not to take what is due to God and deny giving it to him. We should not sing about what I am going to do, we should sing about what God has done or is going to do.
Outside of our worship services, I have no problem with songs that sing about what I am going to do. But in our worship services, we should be careful to make sure God is the one being glorified, not ourselves.
To sum it up....
Patriotic songs are not bad. Songs about how being a Christian makes us feel are not bad. Songs about lunch meat are not bad. Have a concert and sing those songs. Have a picnic and sing those songs. But think twice before singing those songs in worship.
Singing songs about things other than God in the time we have dedicated to worship God, may very well be bad. I think it is. I also think that church leaders must be careful to make sure that does not happen. Unfortunately it is happening on a regular basis. God punished Eli because he did not protect the worship of God and many suffered because of his failure. May church leadership today take care to protect worship from anything that does not belong there.
That is my take on the issue. Feel free to comment.