Democracy and God:
Songs to sing in the War on Terrorism

"These are the times that try men's souls." Thomas Paine, "Common Sense"

"Not long after Sept. 11, somebody scribbled these chillingly profound words on a wall in Washington: 'Dear God, save us from the people who believe in you.'" - Maureen Dowd -"Sacred Cruelties" The Washington Post, April 7, 2002

"...many good people practice no faith at all....Yet in this season, we are assured that history is of moral design....We feel our reliance on the Creator who made us....Justice and cruelty have always been at war, and God is not neutral between them.  His purposes are often defied, but never defeated." - President George W. Bush, "Easter/Passover message" March 30, 2002
...and on April 1st, 2002, George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States and US Armed Forces Commander in Chief, abolished  the armed forces, taxes, and the entire government of the United States, citing more of his own words in his Easter message: "Evil may be present and it may be strong, but it will not prevail."
As his April 1st Address to the Nation continued, "It was revealed to me last night that with God taking care of things, there is no need for democratic government. Why frustrate God's will with elections? Why have a military budget if His purposes are never defeated? Why indeed, have government at all? His will WILL be done. And so, as the last President of the United States, I hand over office to Him (who rightfully had it all along), abolish all taxes and unnecessary "rule by the people", and take up my new duties as a lay preacher in Crawford, Texas. I leave you all with my closing words from my State of the Union address: May God bless."

Not the Battle Hymn of the Republic, but Common Sense
September the 14th, 2001 was a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance. At Washington's National Cathedral, leaders wept, prayed and sang, watched by the nation that is the leading democracy in the world.
And the service ended with this most stirring of songs, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, written in 1862, and a part of US history.
This was no accident.
The song was featured again as the choice for the 2002 memorial service attended by the President of the United States.
Here are the words, minus the rousing chorus after each verse of "Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on"
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
      His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
       His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
        Since God is marching on."

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
       Our God is marching on. In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me:
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
      While God is marching on.

Every time has its music, every leadership: the music chosen to stir the people. This song has a good tune, but it is not the song of America. It is a song of history, and should be consigned to such. If America chooses a version of "Onward Christian Soldiers', which the Battle Hymn of the Republic is, then we might as well say that this war is a Jihad for Jesus, which makes a mockery of the spirit of democracy.

The world has been shaken by acts of an anti-societal, evil few against the many.  And make no mistake.  This was an attack against the world, not just the United States.

In this war that has been waged against civil society, and in which people from many nations have already died, and will die, all the world needs to know what we are defending, what we are fighting for.  In citing psalms and singing hymns, we negate the basis of the founding principles of America and the free world  - freedom and dignity for all, including the right to worship as one wills, or not, as one pleases.

The religion of America is democracy.  Our sacred texts have been created by and for the people. They are the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence: the words that thrill all freedom-loving people around the world, that enshrine the highest qualities of human society.

So enough with this God stuff already. America's strength as a democracy is the clear separation of church from state.  It's the people we need to sing about, and freedom, and democracy we need to promote. His word and all different variations of Him have been used as the excuse for murder and oppression throughout the millenia, and the fundamentalists of all major religions have the common bond of oppressing women above all, but everyone who doesn't believe in their personal interpretation of "God's will". God has been invoked before many of the worst acts committed by people against each other. We haven't heard Christians who use terrorism refute their way of life in the last few days, despite the unparalleled barbarity of the acts, yet they would love the song above.

The religion of the United States of America is Democracy.

The anger is great.  The need to respond imperative.  But  "the hammer of vengeance" and "crusade"  is not the talk of a civil society that believes in due process and justice, but of a pre-democratic, non-rational society typically run by people who look up to a higher authority before they step on the people.  Whatever we do, we must do it in a way that highlights the good of what we are, and the qualities that our societies stand for.

Whatever songs we sing, let them be remembered for their glorying of what people are capable of doing together, in the spirit of mankind.

Eleanor Roosevelt helped to write these words, and they beat any psalm for their beauty to democrats everywhere.
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." - from the The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

Coming together to remember (and to learn about) what democracy is for and about is the stuff we need -  not bible-thumping vengeance cant. Or the President of the United States, no less, putting faith in "faith" and urging an increase in religion, not democratic strength. Let popes and preachers cite psalms and sing hymns, but those in goverment turn for inspiration and guidance to the Holy Books of a democratic state, and the principles they uphold. Let them act with these principles in mind, in the name of the People, who give them the mandate and the right. For in a healthy democracy,  the People are the Higher Power.

This is the song of our Democracy, only needing music.

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and
    establish this Constitution for the United States of America." - the Constitution of the United States of America

On this topic, we recommend:
Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Other Ratifiers for Democracy Commentaries:

Where nothing's impossible . . . except democracy

Democracy and Public Service

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