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.
because you like many others find that the freedoms given to you by this country have no value.
Or they value the freedoms available in this country enough to actually practice them. I think it is refreshing that there are churches who do not see this as United States of Jesus Christ, and recognize it for the secular authority it is, rather than as an extension of their own private faith.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty (The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life.) and the pursuit of Happiness.
I've always thought that the best 'religion' (if you believe), is to commune with 'god' DIRECTLY. Anywhere. Anytime. One does not need man made religion, or to believe in man written books, because man is FLAWED. All religious books, tomes, and manuscripts were written by MORTAL MEN, not some 'god'. SO, the purest form of religion is belief in a 'superior being' directly, without the dogmatic nonsense of mortal created religion!
Well spoken and that is the irrefutable truth. Its nice to know that others are aware of this, for I was beginning to feel that I am a stranger in a strange land. Because you know Jesus most definitely felt that way, just goes to show nothing much has changed in 2000 years. And the message was so simple, love one another as I love you. All one needs to do is read the replies to this article to know how clueless most people are. The choose to hate, why? Its easier than love.
Spin a new record. What do you have to say about the Five Books of Moses?
Alex, my first comment was meant for you, the following is my comments regarding the other posts. My feeling is when you stand before God, he really isn't interested in what country you come from, what God wants to know is what you did with that free will he gave all of us That's all, God is not impressed with all of the things we seem to think are worth dying for, literally and figuratively. He doesn't care about the separation of church and state, think about that for a moment. I doubt that he cares about right wingers and left wingers. Our actions define who we are, when in doubt about what action we should take, ask yourself what God expects you to do, and then choose between your will and his, and for those who don't believe in God, just choose between right and wrong. Everyone knows the difference right? if not remember back to when you were a child and you actually knew happiness and freedom from fear. When you were born, that was the gift that God gave you. Freedom from fear. I try my best to remember that gift, everyday I remind myself that I have nothing to fear except hatred.
We don't need to read your article, we already know why you don't sing the “Star Spangled Banner”. Like every other dopey liberal leftist in America, you're part and parcel of the "Hate America First" crowd. You can't stand anything that has represents traditional American values and heritage. You would like us to think you're on OUR side, while doing everything you can to undermine American culture.
You could be the poster boy for the dopey liberal leftist movement in the USA.......
If that's what you really think about Mennonites then you have no idea what you're talking about.
Apparently being pyscho-right-wing also does not require much reading. Not that it's a news flash or anything.
Perhaps you should re-read the article Begala. There is nothing there to suggest he hates America. See, that's the thing with you right wing hatemongers. You jump to irrational conclusions quickly. FYI, there are just as many patriots on the left (maybe more) as on the right. Get a clue.
apparently you didn't even read the article at all, why bother posting if you already made up your mind based on your bias of those that don't do as you do. How arrogant and non-christian is that. . .
I don't believe there was any hatred in that article at all.
paul, are you a tory? of course you are, you must think it would be perfect to have someone, anyone, telling you what to believe!
If you had taken just a moment to read a few sentences, you'd probably have realized that not only is the author a conservative, but the entire college is probably even more conservative than you. These folks are far from being liberal – in fact, they follow a very strict religious tenant that essentially says that they can't serve two masters. I completely disagree with their views, but I have a lot of respect for them.
Maybe you should have read the article.
What's with all this "we" business, you don't speak for me!
Ok at first I thought this was some liberal trick. Now that I read it I understand. My aunt is a Jevoah Witness and religous freedom is guarenteed by law. Unfortantly your way of thinking is going out the window. Because this is a liberal country and I guess you will be performing gay marriage at your church or you will be hit with a law suit....later
"What a sham of a religion. No wonder they're ostracized so bad. Their belief system would kill them off if they literally if they truly followed what they believe. Religion (and Jesus) can't provide ALL things. What about affordable food, housing, safe environment, paved streets, military, etc?
I'm all for religious freedom, and I give them props for wanting a true separation of church and state, but what a weird religion, as if that's saying anything"
Sad that you don't know God. Real freedom is not about free speech, freedom to worship, freedom to own guns, etc. Real freedom is freedom from sin and hatred. Real freedom is about love and peace. God is the only one that can free us. Our military can only keep us in bondage to sin and hatred for the enemy. Our freedom of speech allows us to say hurtful and hateful things to those we hate or disagree with. The freedom's we have as Americans only opens up the door to sin more. That is not freedom. Jesus died to set us free. Our military exist to give us more freedom to indulge in greed and more sin.
To he who has faith in God, no explanation is needed. To he who has no faith, none can be given.
I don't think you necessarily know god either, or human beings, or history for that matter. I never said that religion or spirituality shouldn't be considered important, and I'm on the same page as you about our military taking offensive action overseas. I was mostly referring to national defense and protection from greedy and violent criminals. I was mostly pointing out how religious gods are not the only component to life worthy of respect.
You see life on Earth is not as simple as you make it out. If everyone was on the same page as you about love, freedom from hate, freedom from greed, etc life on earth would be great (I suppose), but you seem to have more faith in humanity than myself and frankly anybody with an honest eye. I'd love to hear you give this same lecture about how useless these freedoms are to anyone suffering genocide, political oppression, etc. Life in america, as well as in many modern countries is a very privileged life, compared to our ancestors. Do you open any history books besides the bible? Human beings are violent and greedy by nature. If it's not the government or military, it's some other greedy, violent person doing the same. Life is a constant power struggle in a world with limited resources.
I do happen to believe in some form of a creator, but I don't believe that any religion can honestly claim to be the 'true' religion. Nor do I think religion can explain how we got here, why are we here, why is there so much evil in this world, etc etc . Christianity's explanation about original sin is shaky at best. The majority of christians commit at least half of the sins on a daily basis. The list of sins may as well be for a different species cause it's quite natural to lust, and we all wouldn't be here without it. And I agree that military murder is the same as personal murder, though the former is clearly much more socially acceptable.
I believe that morals and ethics don't necessarily need to come from religion's influence, though I admit it can help. It should come out of compassion and respect for our fellow human beings, which so many people on earth don't seem to get.
Plus, nowadays and in times before, so much of the world's violence stems from religion and/or religious differences.
And did you just say that freedom of speech is a bad thing?? Oh geez
Does this man actually believe a supreme being cares which song you sing, what kind of hat you wear or whether you make your woman get in a bag before she leaves the house?
The "Star Spangled banner" is an awkard song, but I will sing it anyway. I much prefer "America the beautiful"
Mennonites are pacifists, they refuse to sing a song that they feel glorifies violence. Would you sing a song that glorifies something you are against?
Being indifferent and non-conforming is so hip. =/
GOD BLESS CHRISTIANS.............. I LOVE YOU JESUS FOREVER!
Mark Schloneger has got to be among the rarest of the rare – a Caucasian man who does not believe in singing "The Star Spangled Banner".
All the hate on here towards Christians doesn't surprise me. We live in a country that talks freedom but we really don't live by what we talk. We send troops to die in the name of freedom but it isn't really freedom they are dying for. They are dying for a lie. Yes there is a God and Jesus and for those who don't believe you'll find out you were wrong and all your hateful speech and comments like Fairy Tale, morons, ect you'll have to answer for. There are a lot of trolls and flamers on here. You don't like me because I am a Christian so what. I laugh at your comments and will pray that God has mercy on your lost souls. Have a nice day.
If you pray for me, pray that God will reveal himself to me. Or why not accept jesus's insistence that anything is possible through prayer and pray for a cancer cure. Never gonna happen because Jesus was a liar, otherwise what he said would be true. You seem to have faith bigger than a mustard seed, so go move some mountains. Just make sure you tell us when you've done it.
Im actually on your side, but you need to throttle back on the whole "hell and damnation" thing.
Vengeance will be mine says the Lord. All stand before him, and all will proclaim him to be God. Just, sadly, very few will be doing that in great joy, while the vast majority, will be realizing hell is right there, and awaits them. Each person makes their own choice as to where they go. Sadly, few choose to follow God.
Jesus cannot lie. Being part of God, he is unable to do so. The perfect human being.
sadly few choose to follow god? 83% of americans self identify as christian. You guys just keep claiming you're under attack while shoving your beliefs down the rest of our throats.
Methinks the poster doth protest too much. I see more hate in your words than in any posting from those who don't believe your Christianity is the only way.
How many say they are? The Bible openly tells us that few actually follow God. Wide is the road that leads to destruction, and vast amounts of people walk it. Narrow is the road that leads to Heaven, and few try to stay on it. I don't care what "statistics" say. People always say, I'm a Christian. Yet aren't. The President says he is one, yet mocks Israel, which God tells us not to do, and says there is more than one way to God, when there is not, there is one – through Jesus.
@david55, your statistics are worthless... "83% of the US identifies as Christians", not even 83% of the posters here identify as Christians, so where are all these Christians you speak of? Looks to me that YOU are the liar...
Why do you choose to end your comment with have a nice day, is that sarcasm? Must be, because it surely wasn't genuine considering what you posted. God loves all of his children, even the non believers. You know why? Because He is God. He isn't mortal, and I would think that he must have a great sense of humor, watching his children trying to understand his simple message, you know the one that his son, Jesus delivered to us, it was to love one another and to forgive each other for our transgressions. Then, when his son drew his last breath, he asked God to forgive us for we know not what we do. This is the part that truly amazes me, that God listened to Jesus and forgave us. That was the message of forgiveness. I don't believe God is sending his son here again, as some Christians believe, why you say? Because once was enough. I personally, can't say that I blame God, if we are too stupid and ignorant to simply love each other, after what Jesus went through? Really, its like what more can God or Jesus, for that matter, do?
We as a nation have gotten so far away from our Christian beginnings that it is refreshing to see some group who are trying to keep those basic tenets that we were founded on.
What Christian beginnings? You've been reading too much history that denies the truth of our founding fathers. The Puritans came to this new world to establish religious freedom for themselves. They tolerated no others. Just like so many Christians of today.
If it were only the Puritans that came here, who would be there to not tolerate? And, where are you getting this "just Christians today" nonsense? Sounds like you've been hating too long.
Although I do not condone or "persecute" menonites I don't truly understand why they don't just sing it! What about opposing teams that want to sing it. If anything the song binds us as a people and together as a nation. Its a song that could get the blood pumping to be proud of who and what you are. If you feel that you don't actually belong to the country then why the he** did you come to live here in the first place. Alright I agree people have the freedom to do what they want and I agree to this as it is another founding principle but what is all that crap about only menonites sticking together and giving the rest of your neighbors the cold shoulder. It is almost on the level of Muslims that only shake non-muslims hands with their left because they are not worthy of a inter-religion friendship. And on my final note Sports games and churches aren't combined in any way so why cant you sing the national anthem there, hmmm?
Nice philosophy... "What about everyone else?"... does that extend both ways? If so, your debate is null and void. Unless, of course, you mean majority rules, which in that case means mob rules, and what you said really doesn't apply to "everyone" now does it?
Actually, Mennonites came here 100-150 years before there was a United States. They are one of the oldest denominations in North America. Most Mennonites will not serve in the military and do not ask or request that anyone serve or die on their behalf.
u know bein in the military and hearing things like not allowing the national anthem to be played is very disappointing. do you think im wasting my time fighting for rights that apparently u dont care for??
Jake, first... Thank You for your service. Second, it is the very freedom to disagree that is most important; it is what separates us from the false republics that only claim real freedom, and you and your fellow service members should be honored by all of us for keeping us free.
You dont understand freedom if you think you are fighting to make everyone in america be the same. You are fighting for their right to not sing the national anthem, a right most oppressive countries do not allow their citizens. Patriotism isnt singing a song or hanging a flag up, patriotism is believing in america, paying your taxes, voting, and sacrificing for the greater good. I honor your service, but i think you should read a little history to see where the founders were coming from.
You chose to join the military. The suicide rate of soldiers from my state is among the highest in the nation. They are desperately trying to figure out why. If you regret your choice simply because some wakkos won't sing a song, maybe you better rethink that choice. Quickly.
You're not fighting for my rights. You're fighting to spread our corrupt government's influence.
You can sing the anthem all you want but that will not change the fate of this country. I won't until Sharia law is accepted here. America is decaying it needs Sharia law to prosper again. Islam is the only way to prosper. Allah will not help america until that happens. Obama was suppose to be the tolerant one till he betrayed us.
Hey, move to Deerborn MI. That city is fully sharia law compliant.
Thank you Mr. Right Wing Troll. Now go back to Free Republic.
You don't belong to this country then. You keep your sharia and don't impose it on us or the rest of the world!!
Hypocrites, the whole lot of you that have a damn word to say about any religion for the sake of the nation. Only 3% of your ancestors had the courage to fight the revolution, now you all think you fought together. You don't even fight together right now, who are you trying to kid? This nation is filled with cowards, hypocrites,and liars. Everything wrong with the United States is your fault! Not religion, not the Federal, but YOUR fault! Yes, I am talking about you, Joe Citizen.
At least these Mennonites have the courage to stand up in public for what they believe. You are all cowards hiding behind your computers, just like your ancestors cowardly hid behind their doors when the British were coming!
there he is. get him boys.
^^^ Exactly, my point.
Jesus gave his disciples several commands before his death:(1) “These things I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you."(John 15:17-19)
Thus, Jesus disciples are "no part of the world", having genuine love among themselves. The churches have dismally failed in this, having become indistinguishable from the "world", being indivisibly involved in the political and commercialistic arena. Of Goshen College, there was indecision on their part to permit the playing of the Star Spangled Banner and then rejecting it. They are not sure what being "no part of the world" means. Jesus true disciples have a deep understanding of what Jesus meant at John 15:19. Have the Anabaptists completely separated from the "world" as Jesus taught ?(John 17:16; 1 John 2:15-17)
The Anabaptists (ana meaning "again" in Greek) were ones who rejected infant baptism following the Protestant Reformation that started with Martin Luther in 1517 C.E. against the corruption of the Catholic church and its immense wealth. Yet, are these "doing the will of God" (Matt 7:21) that Jesus taught his disciples to accomplish, to (2) "go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you" ?(Matt 28:19, 20) Are they "teaching....publicly and from house to house" as the apostle Paul did (Acts 20:20), who followed closely in Jesus "footsteps" ?(1 Pet 2:21)
Let Gods Kingdom come, his will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven...The Kingdom is a real Government which will crush all man made Governments(Dan,2:44)and put an end to the question of who can rule the Earth without abuse of people and power. When this message comes to your door, listen carefully...it may just save your life.
Referring to your interpretation of what Christ said to his disciples, are these the same fellows that scattered when Jesus was arrested by the Romans, you know the same ones that ran for the hills when he was crucified, and you go on to offer your interpretation in the second paragraph..."Thus, Jesus disciples are "no part of the world", having genuine love among themselves." I don't know, it seems like abandonment to me, not 'genuine love' . Now who was present when Jesus drew his last breath, His Mother, His brother and Mary, that is what I call genuine love and a courage that I can not begin to fathom. And lets not forget, every one of his disciples ran for fear of being the next one on the cross. The first word was written 40 years after Jesus' death by Paul. Why you say, who knows, guilt, shame, religious persecution, who knows. Fortunately, Jesus asked God to forgive them as well, for the disciples as well as the rest of humanity, for all time.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day.
Teach a man to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime.
Give a man religion, he'll die praying for a fish.
Peace on Earth . . . still waiting !
Give a man Christianity, he will realize what a joke religion is. Some of Christ's most harsh words were for the religious.
The churches have no grasp of what is meant by "Peace on earth" that the angel said to the humble shepherds on the night Jesus was born. This expression by the angel is not applied toward everyone, for an accurate rendering of the angel's words are: "Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.”(Luke 2:14) There is no "peace on earth and goodwill toward men" as the King James Bible reads, as if all men are qualified to receive this, but "peace on earth" is for "men of goodwill", those whom Jesus called "meek" ones.(Matt 5:5; Ps 37:11, 29)
Jesus taught his disciples to pray for "peace on earth", when he said: "Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth."(Matt 6:9, 10) Hence, by means of God's kingdom, a heavenly government that went into operation in 1914, our Creator, Jehovah God, will bring about a restoration of the earth to a paradise as he originally had in the Garden of Eden. Jesus told the evil-doer to his side, that "Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.”(Luke 23:43) Upon the evil-doer's resurrection from the dead during Jesus "thousand year" reign (Rev 20:4b, 6), the earth will be on the way to becoming a paradise completely. At the end of this millennial reign and following the destruction of Satan and his cohorts (Rev 20:7-10), then there will be genuine "peace on the earth" or as Psalms 37:11 says, "the abundance of peace."
By reading these comments its my understanding that not singing the national anthem is freedom but it is not with in your freedom to disapprove of someone not singing the anthem? As far as separation between church and state is concerned. 1. I don't believe that the article mentions an act of congress outlawing the schools policy or the murder of the students based on their beliefs. 2. It's also interesting to note that the same man who wrote that men are given the rights to freedoms in the declaration of independence is also credited with the joining the phrase "separation of church and state". How is it that on one hand our right to exist is based on the belief that our creator gave us the right to self govern but on the other hand we dare not speak his name in a court hose/ school CNN blog or be labeled a zealot by the same people who are on one hand telling us that we are wrong for having a belief while on the other scolding us for infringing on some one else's. As a nation we are six caught up in labels..gay Mormon..African (who's never been to or had a desire to visit Africa and who's family has sacrificed more than most Americans) American. I found it funny a few months ago when I was talking to my son about a school friend and I asked him if he was the African-American in his class (in an attempt to be pc I used an acceptable label) and my 8 year old looked at me like an idiot and responded no daddy he Tommy my friend. Then I had to spend the next hour explaining what an African American was and was corrected many times by the innocence of my son that we are peach and tommy is a "boy who is you know kinda brownish". So that day I taught an innocent child that Tommy was different not just in the color of his skin but he has a label somehow indicating he should be treated differently and he taught me that tommy is a boy(person) first. now ill jump down off of my soap box my battery is dying and more importantly I forgot my point.
Maybe you should think things through before instructing your child. If he doesnt see a difference, why tell him theres one? He has the rest of his life for society to fill him with prejudices.
Not all African-Americans are black. In fact, I went to college with a white girl from South Africa. She didn't identify herself as African-American, but the label would fit.
To the guy that compared Mennonites to the Taliban there is a huge difference. Mennonites do not believe in war or violences. I would have to think the Mennonite view is extremely nieve. They don't mind peace and think Jesus gave it but forgets those that would conquer and enslave if it wasn't for those that stick their neck out to defend everyones right to believe as they do. So in my opinion it makes the Menonites selfish. They have the right to believe how they please but they need to remember they owe their right to be free and to do that to a Vet who risked and/or lost his life to save their cowardly butts. Maybe they should try to be Menonites in the Middle East then they would be singing "Oh say can you see by the Dawns early light".
You took the words right out of my mouth...
Had there not been a rocket's red glare or bombs bursting in air, you would not be able to write this. But you can, and you do. So please go visit Arlington and thank all those brave soldiers who gave their lives so that you have the freedom to write this nice editorial. Because of them, we are the land of the free, and the home of the brave; the brave like those dead soldiers.
Are these the same soldiers that bravely drop bombs on Iraqi, Afghan, and Libyan children?
If it weren't for God, none of us would be here. And pertaining to your short sighted post, God does not Bless America, God does not Bless anyone who kills, that is what that commandment means. As for writing this editorial, what are you implying that we have the freedom to write in this country? America has only been around for the past 400 years, America is a baby compared to the rest of the industrialized nations, in fact China invented paper, I am quite sure we weren't the ones who invented writing and the ability thereof.