July 4, 2017

The 4th Verse

On July 4, 1992, my husband and I boarded a train in East Berlin, heading for Warsaw, Poland. We struck up a conversation with a young Polish woman passenger, who, immediately upon learning we were Americans solemnly said, "Today is the anniversary of your freedom." It was the sweetest declaration of our independence I could have heard, full of yearning and understanding.

How we take it for granted. And not just the politics of it, but the faith of it. Many American Revolutionary leaders held a deep faith in God. They boldly believed they were acting in accordance with their faith, guided by God to fight for freedom. They prayed for America to be guided by God too.

This concept was powerfully captured by Francis Scott Key in the fourth verse of what became our national anthem.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History writes that Key made the American flag "a symbol that Americans could connect with and claim as their own. The flag was no longer just an emblem of the nation; it became a representation of the country’s values and the ideals for which it stands."

Sometimes I am not always sure about what America values. I am saddened that many public schools have a policy against daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Is it the “under God” part that bothers them or the very act of pledging allegiance to flag and country? Thanks to the strong religious beliefs of American leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the values and ideals of America have grown to include true freedom for all people in their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. May it ever be so. Let us continue to sing the National Anthem and other patriotic songs in our churches. It reminds us to thank God for America, for our freedom to worship as we choose, to “praise the Power” that created and preserves our nation, and to ask God to bless it forever.