We Can Make America Beautiful Again

We Can Make America Beautiful Again

by Erin Weist

Yesterday at church my congregation sang the well-loved American patriotic hymn, “America the Beautiful.”  (For those not familiar with the song the words are posted below.)  A few of the lines stood out to me as incongruous with current events, both in this nation and around the world.  The lyrics were originally written by Katherine Bates as a poem in the early 1890s and rewritten a few years later to the version known throughout the United States today.  (Source)  This hymn is essentially a prayer to God about that beautiful land and wishing His blessings upon it.

The first stanza asks that “God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood.”  Recently an active shooter took the life of several policemen during a racially-charged but peaceful protest in Dallas, Texas, prompting nationwide mourning and, unfortunately, finger-pointing.  Similarly, in recent weeks a Muslim extremist in Orlando, Florida killed dozens of citizens at a local nightclub, also prompting outcries about issues such as homosexuality & Christianity, immigration, religious extremism, and gun control.  In both cases many spend time mourning and praying and extending support to victims and their families, but the “brotherhood” Ms. Bates wrote about in her poem seems to be drowning in blame, victimization, and ultimately distraction, rather than abounding in love and mercy.

The second stanza of America the Beautiful calls on God to “mend thy every flaw,” and “Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!”  The lack of self-control and recognition of individual flaws is abounding.  Celebrity worship, ideas of entitlement, and the constant need to look outward for blame all point to a selfish society far from the ideas of Enlightenment that first emboldened this country.

Bates’ poem speaks of heroes “Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life!”  It is rare today to hear news involving someone who loves their country (or even their fellow man) more than himself.  Or, rather, those items do happen, all over, but the sensationalism of media has led to more stories of shocking amoral behavior rather than the quieter stories of love and mercy.  Stories are an important part of any culture.  What sort of stories are we sharing?  Are they shocking and titillating?  Or do they teach important principles that deserve to be passed on to future generations?

Before the finger-pointing, before the victimizing, before the selfishness, even before vanity, we could work harder to put ideas of brotherhood, love, mercy, even gratitude first in our conversations, our principles, our policies.  “And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!”

America the Beautiful

 

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed His grace on thee

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

 

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,

Whose stern, impassioned stress

A thoroughfare for freedom beat

Across the wilderness!

America! America!

God mend thine every flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law!

 

O beautiful for heroes proved

In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved

And mercy more than life!

America! America!

May God thy gold refine,

Till all success be nobleness,

And every gain divine!

 

O beautiful for patriot dream

That sees beyond the years

Thine alabaster cities gleam

Undimmed by human tears!

America! America!

God shed His grace on thee

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

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