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.
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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.
Another reason why religion should just be abolished all together. Sphincter says what?
the christian taliban has MANY MANY faces......
The United States has many years to come before it throws down religion and stops it in Government. unlike European Countries which are over 50% athiest.
if u r not with us u r against us.... thus is religon ALL of them.
MARGE !! I thought we weren't going to allow the kids to use the computer after 9pm. And for christ'sake, watch 'em closer. They put strawberry jam -in- the keyboard last weekend.
Mennonites- too much inbreeding
Talk about an environment rich in gene pool jokes.... I completely forgot about that. There's reasons they all look alike.
Maybe it's the beards.
Know what's really sad? Most of these militant pop-culture atheists are perfectly happy sacrificing any of their routine criticism of religion for a desire to share in their disdain for America. All of a sudden a religious order is getting hero worship...
Yeah, that's worked out really well in Marxist states up to now.
BG – Exactly! If you don't stop I'll turn this car around right now!
If your loyalty is to your fictional book over your country then perhaps moving to another country would fit your faith better.
For you to question somebody's loyalty to this nation over the SINGING OF A SONG is offensive and about as close to fascism as a person can get.
A book re-wrote over a hundred times to meet the political and business times.
Sing ! I said Sing, dammit !! Louder !
Pull that guy third from the end out of line... I can't hear him. Hey, you – that's right, the one just mouthing the words.... come over here.
I don't care if you sing or not. Just pay your damn taxes. What? It's a church? The whole damned college? The stadium too? Awful big stadium you got there... Whattya' mean "Federal Recovery Act" money?
Nice original thought.
Mighty - It not a matter of questioning, it is establishing prioities: do you appeal to a non-existant god (or personage) or the people who support you. God does not exist; the USA does. Get out if you don't like it.
I'm not questioning their loyalty to this nation over singing the anthem, I'm questioning it over THIS:
"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."
He says he loves his country and swears allegiance to Jesus. What's wrong with that? Like a previous poster, I am a former soldier. But I didn't fight for a country where everyone thinks like me. That's called fascism. I fought for freedom. That means the freedom to be different.
Thank you Brian – unlike many people on this blog you seem to have a clear understanding of what America and freedom are all about. I really appreciate the fact that you "get" the whole freedom of thought thing and expression thing. I also happen to believe that too many people spend too much time and energy wrapping the cross in the flag. It is, to me, one of the highest expressions of patriotism, to be able to reflectively examie our loyalties to each from time to time. I don't happen to be Mennonite, but as the screen name suggests, I am a protestant pastor and I think they do the rest of us a service by challenging our perceptions around these issues. I only wish more people here would get the rage out of their hearts long enough to practice all those high ideals of democracy and freedom they sing about – even when they may disagree with one group's particular practice of those ideals. Thank you again, and my appreciation for your service to this country – both past and today.
Good answer, Brian. That includes freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It is men of conscience who keep the country centered. It is not adherence or conformance to popular culture.
Whats funny is you get people posting all the time complaining that Muslims will never be loyal to the US because they put their faith first. Seems to me this guy is doing the very same thing and people are now coming out and defending this guy. I would be interested to see how many saying the latter were also saying the former.
Well said, sir.
Run into any Mennonites in the service? No? Hmm. So they don't serve, and they don't pay taxes, but they enjoy all the rights you and your brothers and sisters in the service helped secure and protect? I do see a problem with that.
Where, in the name of all that is honest and true, do you get that Mennonite don't pay taxes?? I'm Mennonite and, trust me, I pay dearly!! Get your facts straight!!
"Run into any Mennonites in the service? No? Hmm. So they don't serve, and they don't pay taxes"
We pay our income, federal and every other kind of taxes (Mark 12:17) except FICA in which we don't collect anyway at 62. Even the later is restricted to more conservative groups like mine. There are also MANY Mennonites who serve as chaplains/medical corps and died in service. Thousands of others serve in disaster relief and helping those in need. The goal is to follow Gods teachings and serve mankind. I will pray for you.
Interesting article. I too am a Mennonite, although of a denomination known as Mennonite Bretheren... also, I'm not American, but Canadian. Moreover, I do sing O Canada. I understand Mark's desire to separate Church and State, and can understand that his church may want to express this desire by not singing Star Spangled Banner in the church or the denominational school. However, I am also mindful of Christ's command (in Matthew 22 and other places) to "... give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s." While this passage talks specifically of paying taxes, I believe it also isn't a big stretch to say this passage can be applied to other reasonable demands of the state, such as participating in public life and pledging allegiance publicly. Hopefully the MCUSA allows individual members to sing the national anthem or pledge allegiance outside of church events without censure and even perhaps encourage members to work for the government and run for office. For sure we need more people that are truly moral with a servant heart in public office.
You reap the religious freedom benefit of having the fortune of being American but you lack the character to honor those who have died to provide the freedom you have to practice your faith. You are spoiled and are disrespectful of those that have the courage to defend you. Grow a sack.
Freedom in these United States also allows me the freedom to NOT SING the national anthem. And should anyone question my patriotism because of this freedom makes me want to kick the axx of whomever it is that is questioning my patriotism. Seriously!
Demands of the state? Whoa
Just curious...Did you read the post that you clicked "reply" on, or were you so blinded by your patriotism that you missed the bit about SG being Canadian (and a supporter of his/her government, at that)?
SG, thank you for an insightful and well written post.
south korea israel and america are the only true freeom fighting countrys left in the world
care to explain why you think thats rubbish friend just interested
I don't know about Gigi, but I don't think "freedom-fighting" is a good thing.
We already have too many oppressive governments running the show.
Yes, they fight freedom. They oppress their people. No, they are not good countries to live in if you are poor.
true but poor people in at least america live better then most middle class in third world countrys
-look up the parable of the country mouse and the city mouse.
Just because you have more than someone else does not justify oppression.
Touche... name a good country to live in if you're 'poor'. America is the land of opportunity... ever hear that?? You know why?? Because you have the opportunity to be rich or poor. The government doesn't make it that way for you. If you're 'poor' than save your money, live within your means, MOVE to another city. FIND opportunity and quit trying to live off someone else's dime.
I would tend to think the Palestinians would disagree with you on Israel, and I *know* I'd disagree with you on America.
define freedom fighting beause the US, like every other country, is more than happy to support a dictator if it is in their interests.
Heck in Vietnam they supported the French re-invading and taking the country back over, thus denying Vietnam its own freedom, because the US was worried it might become communist.
Every religion is one thing.. Full of bull sheet.. These liars are the masters at manipulation ! When will educated people realize this ?
i bet you are one of those people that like to burt little kids bubbles around chritmas by telling them santa isnt real
who told those kids those lies in the first place? And what will you tell those kids when they ask you if it's true that Santa doesn't exist? Whose fault is that?
Truth might be harsh, but at least it's not a lie.
What if your kid froze to death because he / she wanted to reach the North Pole?
Basing your actions on lies that someone else told you is a disgusting situation to contemplate, much less experience.
Yet religious people do just that every day. Basing their actions on lies someone else told them.
That's why we need more of a separation between church and state. This religious patriotism is fine, but keep it out of our laws and don't use it to operate dangerous machinery or when handling sharp tools. Lies can kill.
Always baffles me when I think with the brain God gave me, that there are so many who "think" with a brain (that came out of nowhere) that there is no God.
America sometimes acts like the gated community of the world. There is only one nation, his nation, her nation, our nation, MI Nation!
No, America is the opposite of that. Some Americans dream of an America that would be as you describe. They react to the real America by gating themselves in their homes and sitting on blogs like this one all day.
I can see this piece is inspiring another form of PC reaction – patriotically correct.
1 internetz fer you.
Find another country then, oh wait, you can't! Your freedom to practice whatever you want comes from these blood-soaked borders.
As if the borders of the Christian world aren't soaked with blood as well.
He could go to Canada...or France...or Spain...or Germany..or Ireland...or Sweden....or pretty much any modern democracy...all of which has freedom of religion, and luckily for their citizens, do not have "Moral Patriots" running around imposing their concept of loyalty to the nation simply by singing a song.
Mighty7... those countries sound appealing? Move.. go on get out. Don't let the door hit you in the a$$ on the way out. Religious nutjobs... it's now safe to go back to Europe.
People who toe the "Love it or leave it" line are unoriginal and thoughtless. It's a knee-jerk reaction that they learned and have been bowing to since this country began. "Love it or leave it" mentality is quite elementary and short-sighted thinking. This country wouldn't be what it is without people who disagree with the status quo, so our being here is to YOUR benefit, soldier. Although I abhor war and violence of all kinds, I understand and respect the bravery and sacrifice soldiers make. That doesn't mean I have to agree with what this country asks them to do.
The nice thing about the One True Religion is that there are so many different variations to choose from!
That, my friend, will be our down fall. 'Divide and conquer' – Julius Caesar.
Your national anthem is no longer anything that would make one want to hold their head held high and sing it. You are the worlds worst terrorists and murderers of babies and innocent civilians. America is the AXIS OF ALL EVIL. Maybe you should create a new national anthem that befits terrorists and axis of all evil. I will help you write one if need be
Idiot!....so move out, I will help you if you need.
I say we go "liberate" Gigi's country next.
Penelope, Gigi can't get out of the US. Gigi needs the protection we provide so he can continue to write venomous rants on cnn.com, which is provided freedom of information...something his backwards country could only dream of, haha. Enjoy Gigi, you bite the hand that feeds you.
We should replace the national anthem, with the mexican national anthem. yo that be best.
That's pretty sick, Brian. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Thank you Marie...glad to see it was appreciated...even though you are afraid to admit you laughed...or at least smiled.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
Religious fanatics who want to pledge allegiance to their god of bombing, torture,and brainwashing, go ahead – who cares.
you left out one nation... "under God"... indivisible... not that I care, but that's how it's written.
That's how Eisenhower wrote it.
So the 'Under God' has been repealed because the atheists whined enough? I missed it. You would think that CNN should have covered something like that...
Keep in mind the article was about the National Anthem, not the Pledge of Allegiance.
All religions are insane. Why single out this group? I can find equally crazy beliefs in any other religious group.
Yo ... everybody! Listen up! GET A LIFE!!
It's a song you idiots. Sorry if refusing to play a song gets your panties in a wad. Grow up.
I just don't want to have to make an oath to god when I make my oath to my country.
He has nothing to do with it, when it comes to politics God needs to sit on the sidelines.
Maybe you should read a little about why our country was founded instead of writing idiotic remarks online. Our country was founded on the beliefs of having one God that our for-fathers wanted to worship in peace. They did not leave God out of politics nor did they intend for us to do that either. God will not bless out nation as long as people like you continue to deny Him and His power to bless or withhold blessings.
We don' wanna sing your stinkin' anthem... but we'll be happy to take your federal grant money!
Whatev. Gotta love the Amish. (say, the wheel fell off the buggy... can I use your phone?)
Shame on you Mark. If your branch of Christianity doesn't teach you to honor something as wonderful as this country, you are either woefully selfish or in the wrong country. We're so blessed that our Founding Fathers weren't like you.
Actually, while Mennonites and Amish are both from Anabaptist roots, they are actually quite different today. I went to a small school in Indiana too, and you can tell the difference easily when you meet them. Mennonites blend in pretty well with the crowd. The Amish, not as interested in that. http://www.thirdway.com/Menno/FAQ.asp?F_ID=3
Yeah, I know, but here where I live we're filthy with both, and we refer to them generally as "The Amish." It's sort of like saying "Scott Towels." I guess we've "branded" them for the mass market.
Mennonites are from the same background but are not Amish. Amish do NOT take ANY government funds in any form from Social Security, to farm subsidies. They do not use Medicare or Medicaid. They DO pay their taxes. Mennonites are not Quakers or Mormons. I don't know how much Federal money they get for the school but Mennonites pay taxes, they just don't want to sing the song before sporting events. The strength of our nation comes not from how well we fight but how well we live. It comes from the unique view of freedom we cherish. That all this silly trash is here for us to read and argue over is a tribute to our freedom and our concern for it. Any drunk can sing the song, it takes courage to say we won't and here is our reason. It is a testimony rather than a protest. It is living the faith, not just talking about it. Living your faith is a brave and sometimes dangerous thing, especially when others disagree so strongly.
I attended Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA. I got an amazing liberal arts education. To be true, EMU has been rated as one of the best private, liberal arts colleges in the south by US News and World Report. The coolest thing about EMU is that they are tolerant of those who believe differently than they do and they make every attempt to hear all sides of the story in the academic setting. It's not just Mennonites that attend there. I am not a Mennonite, but I love them all. They are the most open, loving group of people in this country. Get off their case and practice this "religious freedom" you keep hollering about and let them believe the way they want.
I like the writing style of this author. It was very easy to read and the concepts were fairly well expressed.
Too bad it is another religious cult, in this case, an offshoot of Anabaptists.
So many Christian-type cults to keep track of these days!
What next, a Reformed Greek Orthodox Church of Latter-Day Saints Order of the Eastern Star?
Absurdities ad infinitum, for as long as humans can be delusional. Craziness without any end in sight.
What's next? A new religion has just started, fastest growing in the world at the moment. It's . . .
JimBobism! Yes, Jim Bob Dangles woke up this morning from his customary corn likker hangover and in the midst of his DTs, and as he stagger-stumbled down to the early-opening liquor store to calm his nerves a bit, he meanders into the road. A fast-moving 1963 oldsmobile swerves and barely misses him, with the driver saying "God!" as he passed inches away.
In a moment of clarity and a flash of insight, Joe Bob realized HE was indeed the Second Coming, the chosen one, the earthly avatar come to tell us that all the other religions had become corrupt, and that he alone could save us!
Having experienced this profound revelation, Joe Bob is now out to save us with his message of love – he would LOVE to get some more corn likker, and like any good religion, he needs your money. For he is the chosen one, part of the quadronity, the four parts of God that is actually one part, like the trinity, only more. The other parts are God the Father, Jim Bob the Son, The Holy Spirits (he prefers corn), and Yodellin' Cleetus the Sobreity Challenged Sidekick who will totally reinvent JoeBobism when Joe Bob gets martyred by either Christians of Muslims, or maybe his ex-wife LuLuBell (scripture is not clear on the matter).
So join us now! You must have FAITH that it is true (some disposable income don't hurt none either). Heathens, unbelievers and infidels are legion, and they seek to destroy Jim Bob's true path! Stay pure! Don't let the false religions blind you!
Join now! Don't let logic, science and reason stand between you and the ONE TRUE GOD!
Operators are standing by.
No, the ONe True Way is the HOLY POTATO!
IT's holy EYES see IN ALL DIRECTIONS!
The Humble Tuber remains humble until the DAY of HARVEST, whereupon all the "blighters" and "bugs" will be destroyed in the Holy Potato's FRYER OF JUDGEMENT.
Then shall all the hungry of soul be fed Fries of Gladness and Chips of Happiness.
Those who follow the Tuberian Script will also receive a special reward of Hash Browns.
Thus spake the Tater Tot: "When teh last one is peeled, and their skins forgiven them, a great Process shall give them the Oil of Gladness. For just so long as the One Cook sayeth. Then shall the Timer be ended and the Salt of Truth applied. And all shall see that the Holy Potato is good above all others."
Go forth and find what potato-ness you can. Or Not. All are free to partake or not. Tuber Be With You!
Tuber to you as well!
I hate corn likker. That corn likker tastes naaaastay! Give me some tater salad! Or is that blasphemy?
ALL HAIL THE HYPNO-POTATO!
Religion is the greatest business in the world.
To a great extent, I understand what the authour is saying. I really like "the strict separation of church and state." But...
What are the minimum requirements to be an "American In Good Standing"? What oaths or other professions of loyalty to the USA *must* one undertake to be an American and, for example, to legitimately get an American passport?
You said: "What are the minimum requirements to be an "American In Good Standing"? What oaths or other professions of loyalty to the USA *must* one undertake to be an American and, for example, to legitimately get an American passport?"
If you are born on its soil; none. Only if you are an immigrant are you required to pledge allegiance.
I am not an American so just read the lyrics for the Star Spangled Banner. I was surprised to see "In God is our trust." is in the last verse. I would have thought that mennonites would welcomed the Star Spangled Banner but not be in favour of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Yup. That god crap is pervasive.
You said: "I would have thought that mennonites would welcomed the Star Spangled Banner but not be in favour of the Pledge of Allegiance."
Careful now, don't go mixing religion and rational thought. 🙂
Hahaha, good one! I think we keep forgetting those little details when we come here. At least I know I do it. Too often.
If you need a passport, contact your "state department". If you want to become an American, contact your American Embassy or go to the American State Department's website @ state.gov.us
I don't want a passport and am not looking to become an American! I was wondering what the US government and individuals think is the minimum you have to do to be considered a "good" American. If, for example, not taking The Pledge, or not playing/singing/agreeing with the national anthem is OK, is there something else that ALL Americans must do, else be considers "not American"?
Considering the mish-mash of different people in America, I'd say there's not really much of anything. There is nothing we are required to do other than public education yet that can be side-stepped very easily.
We are not required to sing, dance, walk, or say or do anything in particular.
And breaking the law is certainly considered patriotic at times, as well, so that's not much to go by...hm.
It's a handy group to identify with, of course, yet so many think they can define it. I sure can't and I was born here.
Sorry, HotAirAce, my answer would have to be "nothing in particular, just citizenship" or something like that.