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The ‘Radical’ July 4th Message Found in Traditional Patriotic Songs

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In the church I attended on Sunday, July 1, and in honor of the July 4 holiday, the congregation sang two patriotic songs — “America,” more commonly known as My Country, Tis of Thee and America the Beautiful.“


Both songs are found in the church hymnal.

While looking at the overtly Christian lyrics, I wondered why atheist groups and the Freedom from Religion Foundation have not sued to ban public singing of these songs at events outside of church.

When was the last time you sang either of these two songs? If you are like me, it has been a while. Unfortunately, the extreme red vs. blue polarization leading our nation to an “uncivil war” means that traditional songs of American unity espousing love of God and country are at risk of political annihilation by someone or some group that find the lyrics “offensive.” 

Perhaps that is why we hear these songs less frequently now than when I was growing up in the 20th century. Therefore, as a public service in honor of our nation’s 242nd Independence Day, I present the lyrics to two great American songs. 

Just for fun (and don’t tell the atheists) count how many times there is a direct or indirect reference to God. And that is the point, because starting with the Declaration of Independence, patriotism and the national belief that God had a hand in birthing, growing and protecting this nation — used to be intertwined. Now that concept is considered “radical.” 

First, here are the lyrics to "America" written in 1832 by Samuel F. Smith.


My country, 'tis of Thee,
 Sweet Land of Liberty
 Of thee I sing;
 Land where my fathers died,
 Land of the pilgrims' pride,
 From every mountain side
 Let Freedom ring.

My native country, thee,
 Land of the noble free,
 Thy name I love;
 I love thy rocks and rills,
 Thy woods and templed hills,
 My heart with rapture thrills
 Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,
 And ring from all the trees
 Sweet Freedom's song;
 Let mortal tongues awake;
 Let all that breathe partake;
 Let rocks their silence break,
 The sound prolong.

Our fathers' God to Thee,
 Author of Liberty,
 To thee we sing,
 Long may our land be bright
 With Freedom's holy light,
 Protect us by thy might
 Great God, our King.

Second, the lyrics to America the Beautiful, were first written in 1893 by Katherine Lee Bates as a Fourth of July poem. Then, in 1911 her lyrics were revised giving us the song we know today.  

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 impassion'd stress
 A thoroughfare for freedom beat
 Across the wilderness!
 America! America! God mend thine ev'ry 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 ev'ry 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!

Finally, I wish everyone a Happy Independence Day supplemented with the final verse from America: “Protect us by thy might, Great God, our King.”  And with that, some may call me a “radical” and perhaps a “deplorable” too, but just call me a proud American.

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