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With God on Our Side, Some Thoughts on Memorial Day

Thomas Whitley

Tomorrow is Memorial Day in the United States. It is a day set aside to remember those who have died fighting for this country. This is a great cause, indeed. I have a great respect for the military, having a brother and 2 grandfathers who served in the military and almost joining myself. However, what disturbs me about Memorial Day, and it's cousin the 4th of July, in this country is how these state holidays are celebrated by the church. To be sure, it is not that I do not think those who are part of the church should celebrate these holidays, but should the (American) church, as a whole, celebrate them? I think not, for it serves to further ingrain the idea in the minds of many in the pews that God is America's God (and no one else's). Bob Dylan, being the great lyricist that he is, wrote a song called "With God on Our Side." Below are the last three verses of the song:

But now we got weapons Of the chemical dust If fire them we're forced to Then fire them we must One push of the button And a shot the world wide And you never ask questions When God's on your side.

In a many dark hour I've been thinkin' about this That Jesus Christ Was betrayed by a kiss But I can't think for you You'll have to decide Whether Judas Iscariot Had God on his side.

So now as I'm leavin' I'm weary as Hell The confusion I'm feelin' Ain't no tongue can tell The words fill my head And fall to the floor If God's on our side He'll stop the next war.

I think the sentiment is evident. Everyone seems to think God is on their side, but if God is on my side, then, according to how "being on one's side works," God cannot be on your side. We are often quite comfortable with this idea and with the idea that Christianity is most rightly adhered to as it is in America. Displaying the American flag in our sanctuaries and singing patriotic songs as hymns are not bad, in and of themselves, but they often subconsciously lead to a nationalistic Christianity. That is, when we view God as wholly American we forget that God is much bigger than we are, much bigger than America, and that God does actually care about blessing all the people(s) and nations of the earth. Let us not lose sight of this truth.