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My Faith: Why I don't sing the 'Star Spangled Banner'
June 26th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Faith: Why I don't sing the 'Star Spangled Banner'

Editor's Note: Mark Schloneger is pastor of Springdale Mennonite Church in Waynesboro, Virginia.

By Mark Schloneger, Special to CNN

I choose to belong to a strange tribe. Goshen College, my alma mater, made national news this month when its board of directors decided that the “Star Spangled Banner” would not be played before athletic events.

As could be expected, the decision was met with confusion and contempt. Wasn’t this just another example of our traditional values being trampled by the unrelenting march of political correctness? What sort of ingrates object to our nation’s anthem, anyway? Fluffy-headed campus philosophers? Lazy latte-sipping liberals?

The decision not to play the national anthem reversed last year’s decision to play it for the first time in Goshen College’s 116-year history. That, too, caught the media’s attention.

It also caused widespread concern and confusion among the college’s students, professors, alumni, supporters and, yes, donors - many of whom felt like playing the anthem compromised the college’s Christian values.

Goshen is a small school in northern Indiana that's owned and operated as a ministry of Mennonite Church USA. I am a Goshen graduate, a longtime member of the Mennonite Church and the pastor of a Mennonite congregation.

Mennonites live in countries all over the world. Though we speak many languages, have different ethnic origins, and express our faith in diverse ways, we all claim the Anabaptists in 16th century Europe as our spiritual ancestors.

The Anabaptists agreed with most of the ideas of the Protestant Reformation but felt that reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin didn't go far enough. Anabaptists rejected the practice of infant baptism, for instance, believing that water baptism should be reserved for believers who confess a faith in Jesus.

Because they understood the exercise of state power to be inconsistent with the church’s identity and mission, Anabaptists also advocated for the strict separation of church and state. This then-radical stance was prompted by both theology and necessity: Anabaptists had the distinct notoriety of being tortured and killed by both Catholics and Protestants wielding the power of the state against them.

Instead of compromising their core convictions about what it means to follow Jesus, thousands of Anabaptist men and women adhered to their freedom of conscience even as they were mocked by neighbors, burned at stakes and drowned in rivers.

Although there certainly are diverse viewpoints among individual Mennonites today, we continue to advocate for the strict separation of church and state. Most Mennonite churches do not have flags inside them, and many Mennonites are uncomfortable with the ritual embedded in the singing of the national anthem.

That’s because we recognize only one Christian nation, the church, the holy nation that is bound together by a living faith in Jesus rather than by man-made, blood-soaked borders.

To Mennonites, a living faith in Jesus means faithfully living the way of Jesus. Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies and he loved his enemies all the way to the cross and beyond. Following Jesus and the martyrs before us, we testify with our lives that freedom is not a right that is granted or defended with rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. True freedom is given by God, and it is indeed not free. It comes with a cost, and it looks like a cross.

It’s a strange tribe to which I belong, and sometimes it’s hard to be strange. We struggle to be inclusive in our welcome yet passionate in our identity. Our desire for acceptance, for approval, is strong, and we don’t always live up to the convictions that we set before us.

We must repent of that, for the world cannot know of its brokenness and hopelessness without a people who show a holistic way of life. The world cannot know that there is an alternative to violence and war without a people of peace making peace. The world cannot know that the weak and the vulnerable are cared for by God without a people practicing an economy centered on sharing and mutual aid.

The world cannot know the unsurpassable worth of human life without a people who consistently work to protect it - in the fetus, in the convict, in the immigrant, in the soldier, and in the enemy.

These convictions do not reflect ingratitude or hatred for our country. Rather, they reflect a deep love for the church and a passionate desire for the church to be the church.

Mennonite beliefs and practices seem bizarre to some and offensive to others. But it’s life in this strange tribe that keeps me faithful to what I believe. I love my country, but I sing my loyalty and pledge my allegiance to Jesus alone.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark Schloneger.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church and state • Mennonite

soundoff (4,381 Responses)
  1. D.A. Moran

    Its amazing how much the Egyptian reign over the earth has expanded. Rome, Britain, America ... all represent Egyptian power right before our very eyes and we live each day blinded to the true agenda behind our government leaders.

    Everything from obelisks, church steeples and the Washington Monument. Even in the media, cartoons and tv commercials many times directed at our kids. The Pharaoh's faces and Sphinxes, the bull statue on Wall Street ... Mount Rushmore. We put a flag up a pole that typically has a golden eagle atop and we pledge our allegiance to it (Daniel 3) Wake people that's idolatry!

    The pyramids, the all seeing eye, the peace sign. Many other symbols of Illuminati and Satanism. These things are everywhere in shopping centers, city streets, on building structures on clothing and all over TV and entertainment ...

    We swear oaths to people and causes and on the Bible. Matthew 5:34-35 and James 5:12 tell us not to do this. Franklin Pierce and Herbert Hoover lived by this.

    Yet we continue in the enjoyment of our everyday lives, brainwashed and happy because we don't care if we are enslaved by taxes and bills as long as we have our pretty homes, our many possessions and our nice cars.

    And they allow us to believe we are voting for presidents and state leaders. We believe that the country is filled with idiots when we get someone like Obama in office, but that is simply not so ...

    Obama was never voted in to begin with. They put in whoever they can control. Lincoln and Kennedy were assassinated because they could not be controlled any longer ...

    Our military does not fight for our freedoms. They fight for world domination! Our leaders and the worlds leaders are all war mongering buddies who are all in bed with the wealthy corporations.

    The money we work for and buy our things and our food with all goes back into the system and pays for the war machines, the mind controlling drugs and vaccinations, the falsified history books for teaching our children lies and sin ...

    This is why our economy is about to fall. Not because our leaders have utter control over our lives, but because we gave it to them and lost our way. we no longer focus our energy and hearts on what we can do for God. We focus on what God can do for us and we curse Him in our iniquities and paganism ...

    Its all in the Bible you claim to believe in. Its all in the same Scriptures you conveniently ignore. Well keep watching those television programs every night, keep celebrating those pagan holidays every winter. keep bringing the world into the church ... and watch your families go to Hell because you knew the truth and you chose to deny it!

    We are not a Christian nation. We never were. What we are is a damned people. We have turned our backs on God. We have feasted our eyes upon the world and we will burn for it ...

    My heart cries out with the anguish I feel is on God's own heart for the millions and millions of lost souls. More so for the ones who sit in a pew each week seeking Gods true face and never finding it because no one will teach the truth anymore ...

    God will neither bless nor save this country because we do not serve Him. We serve the Pharaoh's and the Caesars and Baal ... we belong to the Illuminati, Satan's own Elite.

    But who does your heart truly belong to? Where do your loyalties truly lie? My allegiance is first to God, then family, then fellow man and freedom.

    "Flags are colored pieces of cloth used first to shrink wrap people's brains and then as a ceremonial shroud to bury the dead"

    Read more: http://firebrandministries.boards.net/

    December 30, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  2. dolph watts

    Mish

    So... because your ancestors were once persecuted by a government you will not support or show any alliegence to any government? How does that make any sense? At least your ancestors had America to come to, if there was no America then where would you go to escape persecution? If Islam is successful and 'converts' all of the world, then you will convert or die – ok for you, but the worship of the one true God – by your interpretation, would be forever lost. Without at somepoint fighting to preserve your rights then you are proposing that your non-violent approach will convert Muslims. hahahaha I mean you don't serve so your contact with Islamics is probably infrequent or non-existant, but you can read so if you really, raelly believe that you can convert a Muslim or convince them to allow you to continue your 'blasphemy – in their eyes' then.....hahahaha

    November 25, 2012 at 6:26 am |
    • Jeff

      Actually Dolph, Mennonites have been talking with Muslims for quite a while: http://www.academia.edu/2516973/Peace_and_Justice_Essays_from_the_Fourth_Shii_Muslim_Mennonite_Christian_Dialogue

      I think inter religious dialogue is really important.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:55 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.