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God Bless America

November 10, 2008

Today our worship service was closed out by singing the song “God Bless America.”

When the song was announced, I got a funny feeling. I knew some people present would feel that it was inappropriate to sing a national patriotic song at church. Let’s examine the question to see what the scriptures have to say.

Paul instructed the Ephesian church to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. So, a song that fits any of those types should be fine in the assembly.

Further, Paul told the Corinthians that everything they did in the assembly must be for the purpose of building up the church. So a song that is appropriate for a church service should build up the church in the way the Holy Spirit had in mind in that passage.

Many of the Psalms are prayers sung to God, and singing of Psalms seems to be unquestionably appropriate. So, singing a prayer to God seems to be quite appropriate in the assembly, assuming the prayer itself is appropriate.

The song “God Bless America” is a prayer of supplication. It requests that God bless our country– to stand beside her, to guide her through the night with a light from above. When we sing this prayer, we are appealing to God to bless our leaders and the American people in general. That is exactly what Paul instructed Timothy to teach. And as Paul told Timothy, we can be confident that such prayers please God, who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

There are other familiar patriotic songs (“My Country ‘Tis of Thee”, “America the Beautiful”, etc) which appeal to God for blessings of one sort or another, though sometimes these parts are buried in the more obscure later verses. To me, those songs seem more focused on praising America than on appealing to God for blessings. “God Bless America,” on the other hand, puts the appeal to God right up front, even in the title itself.

Growing up, I was a Boy Scout. I remember the scouting pledge to do my duty to God and my country. As I remember my scouting days, “God and country” seemed to be on nearly equal footing. I no longer think that is appropriate. And I think that is in part why singing “God Bless America” at church gave me that funny feeling.

I don’t think it gave God a funny feeling. But I do think it felt uncomfortable to some of my brothers and sisters. In cases like this I think we need to help our brothers and sisters with a gentle and reasonable explanation, and to be considerate of their feelings as we ask them to be considerate also.

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3 comments

  1. You are correct, we want God to bless our country.We need God in our country and I hope more people come to see their need for God. My father in law just visited here from England and even he said, how come if so many people in America believe in God is their media so ungodly? And this is coming from an Agnostic. I pray for God to intervene and guide our leaders and our media. God hears us but we have to ask.


  2. I would’ve felt uncomfortable too. I wonder if they still would’ve sung that song if McCain had been elected?


  3. Hi JM,You make a valid point. But I think a prayer for God to bless America is appropriate whether you agree with the leader’s politics or not. In fact, the leader Paul and Peter specifically referred to was the one that would eventually execute both of them–yet they still called on us to submit to those in authority and to pray for them.



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