Anthem wars

We're certainly getting our fill of "The Star Spangled Banner" from the Winter Games, but a private college in Indiana will soon begin playing the National Anthem before sporting events for the first time.

The most solid coverage comes from the Goshen News and Associated Press. Here's the AP take on how the college recently announced that it will begin play an instrumental version of the "Star Spangled Banner" before campus sporting events.

The decision to reverse the ban on the anthem is aimed at making students and visitors outside the faith feel more welcome, but it has roiled some at the 1,000-student college who feel the song undermines the church's pacifist message and puts love for county above love for God.

Since college President Jim Brenneman announced the decision in January, more than 900 people have joined the Facebook group "Against Goshen College Playing National Anthem," hundreds have signed an online petition protesting the move, and letters sent to administrators and the campus newspaper have overwhelmingly voiced opposition to the change.

I do wish reporters didn't feel like they have to point to a Facebook page to make you feel like there's tension involved. In a few years, it'll come across as "OMG, look at the AOL chat forums that are forming." In a column, Mark Tooley writes about a seemingly more substantial dissent from people outside of the college, including Duke University's Stanley Hauerwas.

Even without a larger controversy, the story is still compelling. Other reporters should take note how reporter Carly Everson does a nice job of fitting the God vs. country ideas in a larger context.

Mennonites, whose church is rooted in a 16th-century movement in Europe known as Anabaptism, also believe singing a "hymn of allegiance" like the national anthem implies a deeper loyalty to country rather than to God, Roth said. However, Mennonite Church USA--which represents the largest and most mainstream group of Mennonites in the U.S.--does not specifically prohibit the anthem.

Goshen College officials say discussions about whether to change the policy began in September 2008 when the athletic department asked Brenneman to reconsider the school's stance. Brenneman said the teams often bore the brunt of criticism about the policy because the anthem's absence is most visible at sporting events, where it has become part of American culture.

Of course, colleges generally don't overturn decades-old traditions for no reason. The reporter connects the decision to conservative talk show host Mike Gallagher, who featured the issue on his show. However, the reporter does not explain what was said on the show, so I suppose we're supposed to guess?

Nevertheless, I'm glad the story is being covered because it involves ideas about higher education, love of country, love of God, and then where they fit in some hierarchy. I'd love to know whether other Mennonite high schools or college play the Star Spangled Banner or how they've resolved this issue. The Chronicle of Higher Education and Insider Higher Ed merely mention the hullabaloo, but where's the substance from the higher ed pros? The top image shows the Oude Kerk, a church in Amsterdam. The second image came from Wikimedia commons.

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