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.
As national anthems come and go it's one of the worst ever.
Really? Have you ever sat through a full rendition of the Mexican National anthem? Whenever our swim team swam against the teams from across the river they would play the Mexican national anthem and it is LOOOONG and not particularly pretty. I remember we all groaned when it began.
I thought a College was a College and a Church was a Church. Since when is a College a Church?
Nevertheless, singing the anthem is a privilege, and not a requirement.
There is no God. Religion is a fairy tale for those who fear death and the lack of meaning of our lives.
Christians and Muslims are two nuts in the same tree.
As a Vietnam War veteran (two tours, '67-'70), it saddens me to see people so callous to our national anthem. How much blood has been shed to keep this country free? Even if you don't believe in earthly politics or allegiances, those who died still died for YOU. To me, singing the anthem isn't about nationalism or any of that, it is simply a tip of the hat to those who sacrificed so much for us. They deserve at least that much, even from people like you.
AMEN... and thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!
Yeah- thanks for keeping me "free" from Viet nam peasants who were gonna land any day back then on Cape Cod and invade my cranberry bog. Who u kidding with that? Is that what helps you sleep at night? That you fought on the other side of the globe against some hapless peasants- FOR ME? How dare you?
I have a hard time believing that anyone ever died for a song or a pledge. The soldiers I know who were in combat were fighting because there were other guys with guns trying to kill them. There isn't much of the shallow anthem/ledge/flag stuff up at the front.
You had me until the "people like you" part, don't think they sacrificed for that type of closed mindedness.
I completely agree. It was honestly even simpler than that. We fought because we didn't want to let down the guy next to us. That was the kind of fear that kept me up at night, the thought that I might screw up and get my buddies killed. Those nightmares still haven't really gone away. While under fire, I know thoughts of the national anthem and whatnot were the least of my concerns – it's mainly symbolic. But it still means something nonetheless. When you look back on it all, it serves as kind of a moral justification for what you went through. It's only after you get out of the trenches that you see things that way.
Sir... this is not about patriotism. You did not fight for freedom and most boys sadly did not die for freedom. You were a bought and paid for merceniary. You wanted a paycheck so you signed up to be a killer. The US is not a Republic. It is a fascist / socialist regime spreading the empire and taking control of resources around the world. World war II was the last fight for freedom. The rest is just killing millions on mostly innocent people ignoring their sovereign nation and freedoms.
I have a Brooklyn bridge for sale if you really believe you fought for freedom. Just saying. Wake up. No one is buying your lies.
How quickly they forget 9-11 and that the terrorists are still trying to find new and devious ways to bring down our planes and come to our cities and obliterate that freedom some take for granted..
Sorry, that was definitely a poor choice of words. My apologies. As a native central Pennsylvanian, I have lived near Mennonites my entire life. Very nice people. I just don't agree with this decision being discussed.
Jesus died for us! Lets honor him by not worshipping a nation.
While I do sympathize with citizens duped into fighting wars for global business expansion that has nothing to do with freedom, I loathe the fact that I'm asked to owe someone something for "protecting my freedoms" from poor rice farmers thousands of miles away. I fail to see how a useless song helps anyone.
Please do not take my comment personally. I am not trying to diminish your service in anyway. However, I just don't buy into the idea that all the soldiers are fighting for ME. I'm not asking them to. We haven't been fighting to protect America since WW2, just American ideas and interests. And personally I don't believe fighting wars are the way to go about that. Singing the National Anthem, not singing the national anthem, if done for personal reasons should in NO WAY diminish your feelings about your service. As soon as singing the National Anthem is required, whether legally or even as a social idea (where if you don't participate you are shunned or ridiculed) then it loses any resemblance to freedom.
People who are Buddhist, Hindu, Jains, and members of many other non-Abramic religions (that means not Jews, Muslims or Christians) CANNOT SAY THE PLEDGE WITH "UNDER GOD" IN IT as these religions are non-deistic.
It used to be, like in the fabled, fabulous 50's, when women were oppressed, barefoot and pregnant with no civil rights and people of color were invisible or "honorary women" unless they were women of color, in which case it was worse, the "G" word was not included in the pledge in public schools or at public events.
Amazing how one article can bring out the insults, hate and cynicism that seems to permeates our society. Everyone's a critic. Few have a clue.
And you're both. Great. Thanks for coming out.
Yep, I don't have a clue about a lot of things, like how did you somehow find reason in my comment to insult me?
Well J.D., you criticized people who criticize. You set yourself up for something like that.
Yip.... we are all free in this "Republic." CNN just minutes ago...."social media company now recording all your interent comments for 7 years and may effect your ability to get a job. signs of freedom or just another threat by CNN to create
conformity in Amerika.
Ahhh... religious types. At what point do these nuts turn their back on history to start their own radical sects. Why are there so many religions?? Is it because there are so many Gods? Apparently not. Because if you read history (as all humans should) we KNOW that the first Christian group is Roman Catholic. So if i get this straight, the Church's leaders start doing what humans do best, and start corrupting what originally was a good idea. So man steps in and begins creating different versions of what they think religion should be. Let's not listen to the original framework to things, let's make it more appropiate for what we want. Religion is so pure in it's idea yet so flawed in it's application by humans.
Good- the fed flag is a symbol of tyranny, corruption, murder, torture, and lawlessness.
And by the way- the "Pledge" was written by a commie who wanted to do away with state governments and put all power in the Feds. That's why today's "conservatives" are just nationalistic idiots and frauds who grovel like two year olds playing with army guys in a sand box before their holy sacred fed military which is eating this country alive.
New England now and forever. I fly the flag of my ancestors- the New England Pine Tree on Crown Red.
Great comment. One more PA flag sold.
"Did I said a word about natural resources? I was talking about labor , provided by citizens of U.S. nation... I guess under your disposition we, people of U.S. nation, should serve others just because others are Christians... Something wrong with this picture. I believe if you are using ANY services of society, you should pay back: just praying for only your fellow Christians is not good enough..."
What post are you responding too? I don't see any comments about someone serving only Christians. Are you okay there? You aren't drinking are you? If so, sober up before responding.
No, I did not drink or insane: I responded to your post about everything is belong to God and given by God to man, which was respond on my original post. My offer for you to review my post and your following post before you making any offensive statement toward me... After you will read that, you will understand where is my statement on a use service of others come from... And since you are a Christian, don't you think it is very hypocritical to accusing anyone in being drunk without ground for that? Is that how you supporting your position.
I'm not sure I understand you. However, Christians are to serve. We are to help the real poor, the real homeless, etc. We are called to Love all people, including enemies. I hope that clears up any confusion.
Sorry, we are talking about absolutely different issues: I was talking only above articles author's position what they are recognizing only "one Christian nation", where they are still using a services of U.S. nation, as simple as police and infrastructure support, without giving anything (even just respect for U.S. nation) in return. Yes, Christians do service community, but I was not talking about Christians in general but author's only college and church...
Christians don't worship nations, neither are they required too. Christians don't owe the military or police anything. The military choose to die for worthless causes. Don't blame Christians for that. Christians are much braver than any military. They don't carry weapons but they are willing to die for the cause of Christ. Christians don't sing national anthems and pledge allegiance to flags. That's idolatry.
"Patriotism" is the lipstick. "Nationalism" is the pig.
"God" is just an excuse to murder anyone who disagrees with you like.
I am patriotic but singing songs has never been my thing. I have no problem with the people that do sing the anthem. I'm silently patriotic.
Pretty sure by 'not singing' they mean 'not standing, participating, nor even acknowledging it's being played'. If you stand and pay attention, then you are still participating, even if you aren't actually singing it. that's the way I've been taking it anyway.
I see his point though, some religions have restrictions just like that. My mom was a Jehovas Witness years ago. Her faith did not allow her to take the oath at the end and she remained a resident. Now she's taking the real test.
mustuffa. i have 223 reasons why a crescent moon won't be part of any flag of mine. oops make that .223.
Try a .308, and try to aim at your head a little harder this time. pos
no one ever heard of you and no one cares. can we please have the next big issue?
Obviously you care. You responded.
I always find it interesting that Americans who hate America are the same people that take advantage of its freedoms the most.
Nothing is more American than dissent for useless pledges and loyalty oaths.
Did you say "freedom"? Everything you do is governed by the regime. You say you are free. Everything you earn (your past digitized into values) is owed to the bankers in interest and the gov. in taxes. Yip. you are really free and this is a Republic.
Just wondering where it said he hated america? Singing a national anthem does not mean you love a country. Many Mennonites like this guy pray for our country every day, why, because they love it. They simply choose to show their love through prayer and not through some song that "america" deemed the patriotic song that you have to sing in order to be love America (not saying they don't stand up and take off their hats whenever the national anthem plays). They love America so much, that they pray for the families of those who's lives have been taken while fighting for this country. They pray for peace because they love this country.
I always find it fascinating that people, mainly conservatives say that other people who don't agree with them hate America?
"Nothing is more American than dissent for useless pledges and loyalty oaths."
How is the National Anthem a loyalty oath?
You are on the wrong article. Christians love everyone, including their enemies. There is no hate in this article. You are the only one hating.
Once it's gone (USA) you will wish to have it back!! Stand up!
Yes, America will COLLAPSE AND VANISH if people don't sing a dopey song from a war most of them know absolutely nothing about.
Here comes Greece.....then and only then will you see people standing up.... most likely sitting down in the streets and burning banks and gov. buildings.
We can only hope.
As a young american Muslim I will not sing the anthem until america respects Islam and its role in america we are the fastest growing religion and should be treated with more respect and recognized as a vital part of american society. Electing Obama gave us hope but no results. Adding a crescent moon to the american flag would be a good start and would show the world that america is not Islamophobic and respects its fast growing muslim population.
As a Christian, I will never sing that darn song or recite the pledge of allegiance. My Allegiance is to God, not a country.
Islam gains at best around 20,000 converts a year in the US. Compared with the total population of the US that is much less than 1%, might as well be 0%.
There is only one God Allah!!
Actually, "no religion" is three times larger than Islam and growing much faster in America.
adding a crescent moon to the american flag would be the largest breach of the separation of church in state that i could possibly fathom, and so you know, not everyone in this country is "islamaphobic" yet we are all still americans, that anthem is for all of us as a people, not the few corrupt who make political decisions, get your facts straight, quit bashing the country you live in, and try chipping in a little bit yourself
Mustafa does not live here. He's just trolling the "evil" Americans.
Sorry but I'm pretty sure you're never going to see that on the flag, unless of course every Muslim country is willing to recognize the Christians that live there and put a cross on their flag as well. Christians don't get a cross and Jews don't get a star, why do Muslims deserve a Moon on the flag?
"Adding a crescent moon to the american flag" NEVER!
That is what I'm talking about you have no respect for us. The moon added to the flag would be a respect gesture from america to the muslim world.
Ok -You're young, you're muslim – but you are NOT American! Get out you a$$wipe.
Muslims aren't the only religion in the US, you are no more special then christians, jews, hindus, buddhists, or any other religion that is practiced in the US. It's called separation of church and state, without it we become like most middle eastern countries were morality is legislated to a higher degree then it currently is and it's all based on a noninclusive few that is not shared by the entire population.
This is a good example the people that come and invade our country wake up America its happening in Europe now. If we don't stop this crap he may end up getting his wish one day.
I have zero respect for people who demand it. Respect is earned through actions and deeds. If you do not like the amount of respect you have, then it is your obligation, and yours alone, to change that through your own deeds. If you cannot, then you do not deserve an iota the respect you think you do.
Allah exists, but goes to hell in the end along with the Allah gang. Just keep hoping. Your many wives are waiting. Believe the lie. Keep the satanic system going.
Allah does exist, but Allah and the Allah gang goes down in the end not up. Spread the lies. Your virgins are waiting.
I agree with Mustafa we don't respect Muslims and minorities enough in this country I wouldn't mind a moon amongst the stars on the American flag.
MenWearPink.... just a troll folks.
That is absurd. The US flag is not a symbol of religion. Why should a religious symbol be attached to the flag? In the US we strive to have separation of church and state, although in practice it is not always perfect, it is what we strive to do. If we are going to start adding religious symbols to the flag should we just slap one of those "coexist" bumper stickers on there? And that still leaves out many religious populations in the US.
I'm not Islamaphobic, I'm religionaphobic.
You moron! Your religion is already being practiced freely in this country like any other religion. What else do you want? Respect? Do you respect anything other than Islam? Respect is earned! Why should we respect people whose only intention is to kill us if we don't convert to Islam? And you want to put a crescent moon on the American flag? Were there moslems when this country was found? What if we put stars & stripes on your flag? Think before you speak, young puppy!
Learn a little bit about the Mennonites before calling them "unpatriotic". I live along the Gulf Coast and Mennonite Disaster Service Volunteers are still rebuilding communities in LA, MS. 6 years a Hurricane Katrina! I encourage you to visit the Mennonite Disaster Service homepage to see what these "unpatriotic" citizens are doing in America.
Thank You James. That can't be said enough. I would also add mention of the Mennonite's program to go into war torn counties and defusing mines and cluster bombs. This they do on a volunteer basis. How many of the "brave patriots" posting here could muster that kind of courage?
The author also spells out the reasons that Mennonites do their best to avoid paying taxes to the country that protects their beliefs.
Where do you get the idea Mennonites don't pay taxes? I'm Mennonite and, trust me, I pay taxes!
God hates you.
Where's the love? I'm not feeling the love here...
You want love, Shane? God LOVES ot hate you!