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“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is not Christian

05 Jul

That is the thesis of Blasphemy in Song by Laurence M. Vance, which The Poet sent me yesterday. The much revered Cam Williamson, the Presbyterian Minister at Sutherland in my teenage years (before that church went crazy Calvinist), said as much fifty years ago, so this comes as no surprise to me, no matter how popular the tune, at least, has become in all sorts of places:

Glory, glory to South Sydney! Glory, glory to South Sydney! Glory, glory to South Sydney!… etc.

As Vance says:

Although the Bible likens Christians to soldiers (2 Timothy 2:3), and the Christian life to a battle (1 Timothy 1:18), the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” is not a song that should be on the lips of any Christian. It is not a Christian hymn at all. It is a disgrace that the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” even appears in a Christian hymnbook alongside of such great hymns of the faith as: “Blessed Redeemer,” “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name,” “The Way of the Cross Leads Home,” “That Beautiful Name,” and “O Worship the King.” Julia Ward Howe was a Unitarian, and wrote the song as a partisan Unionist during the beginning of the Civil War. The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” is religious war propaganda. It is no more a Christian hymn than “White Christmas.”

Like many who lived during the nineteenth century, Howe was very familiar with the Bible. Consequently, the language and imagery of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” are largely biblical. The problem, however, is that Howe applied the judgment of the “day of the Lord” to the destruction of the Southern armies by the North…

The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” ought to be parodied, satirized, and lampooned. It has nothing to do with God or Christianity. It is not a Christian hymn. It does not belong in a Christian hymnbook. It should not be sung in any Christian church – Northern or Southern. It should not be on the lips of any Christian – Yankee or Southerner. It is partisan political paean to bogus history and faulty theology…

I think we can see his viewpoint clearly enough there!


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Posted by on July 5, 2006 in Cultural and other, Faith and philosophy, poets and poetry, Religion

 

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