There were two things that happened at church on Sunday that made me want to blog. The first of these things has to do with a baptist principle that I hold dear.
Because it was the Sunday before the fifth anniversary of 9/11, the special that the choir sang was called "Song for the Unsung Hero". During part of the song, the worship leader asked the congregation to stand and sing "America the Beautiful". I did not stand; I did not sing. I do not sing patriotic songs during worship service. It is because I discovered an historic baptist principle called Separation of Church and State.
I don't think anyone took notice of my protest. I was sitting in the back, and my son had crawled up in my lap. But it was the principle of the thing that made me remain seated and silent.
When I was in divinity school, the idea behind separation of church and state finally made sense to me. It was because I was studying baptist principles. Growing up, I would have not had a problem with singing a patriotic song during worship. Our Vacation Bible Schools always included the pledge of allegiance to the flag. However, the feeling I get singing patriotic music is similar to the feeling I get when worshiping God. It is just a little too similar.
Lo and behold, come to find out, baptists are the reason that Thomas Jefferson wrote the letter that contained the phrase "separation of church and state." Looking at the history of countries in Europe during and after the Reformation, there is a real sense why things seem so much better when church and state are in separate spheres. I believe that there is a great thing when a country is not going to require you to worship a certain way or pay a special tax if you decide to do your own thing.
I do not force my beliefs on anyone. That doesn't mean that I don't try to evangelize--it just means that I want my actions to speak louder than any display of the Ten Commandments (and I can name them all, thank you). I want my Muslim friend to not be forced to pray a prayer that she does not believe. I want my sons to grow up in a country where they can have Christian beliefs written on their hearts--beliefs that are taught by the church, my husband, and myself.
There is a lot to this issue. But for myself, I am not going to sing patriotic songs in church. Some things are just too sacred to be confused with nationalism.