My son just joined the choir at his elementary school. He's eight years old and in second grade. I know there's a combined school concert coming next month. I was told tonight that one of their songs is "God Bless America." and I am unsettled.
Whether justified or not, I don't like the phrase or the song for its religious overtones and assumption that god hold our country in some special status. I am unsure how to proceed. I don't want to tell my son he must quit the choir or that he can't sing this song, as I value my son's right to make decisions. If I tell him to stand out and not sing it, am I denying him a cultural immersion. Or at his young age, if I allow him to continue, am I allowing him to participate in an indoctrination both religious and nationalistic.
I must find out what the theme of the concert is now, which I will do in the morning. Are there songs that venerate other deities? (I doubt it) We live in Colorado Springs, CO, a city saturated with religious conservatism and dominated by such powerful churches and the Focus on the Family Megaplex HQ.
Is it reasonable to talk to the principle to relay my concerns? I intend also to contact Freedom From Religion Foundation to see if this may violate Church/State issues.
Honestly, if this were some historical exploration of Hayden/Brahms, I wouldn't mind, since that music is studied for its beauty and complexity in a time when religion was saturated into the culture of the world and influenced nearly every aspect of art. This song certainly does not qualify and I find myself not sure how to act.
Any advice would be helpful.
It seems to me that in the first place you must talk to your son about the contents of the song, to help him think. Why would god bless one country and leave the other ones alone? Is it important to think one country is better than the rest? What does your son think of the song? and so on.
Jason, I agree with Plinius and Greg on how you should approach it.
I don't want to appear pessimistic but taking this on publicly would probably be a bad idea. As you said, you live in a highly infected area. The chances of gaining any sympathy for your cause are almost zero. The song is widely performed and complaining would only make you look like a crank.
I'm sympathetic to your situation but I don't think this is winnable. It only makes Atheists look petty. If you're raising your son to be non-theistic, maybe you should discuss it with him. He may want to sit out that particular song, but only after notifying the instructor. I think it would be necessary to give reasons as well. True, there could be negative repercussions to your son but it would be difficult for an instructor to justify any punishment without looking like an ass. If you do go this route, I would let your son know what might be coming so he would understand he has your support. I'm also concerned when parents use children to fight their battles. His time to fight the battle will/may come when he is older and able to do so for personal reasons.
A single song isn't going to damage your son. It could be this is a teaching moment for a future leader.
Ella Fitzgerald with Chick Webb Pack Up Your Sins by Irving Berlin
Thanks! I didn't know about that side of Irving Berlin's songwriting.
Sit down with your son and go over the REAL history of that song...it's NOT about any deity.
How many patriotic Americans, proudly singing "God Bless America," realize that the song they are intoning was written by a man who did not believe in God?
Or that it was intended as an anti-war anthem?
Actually, I never liked the song, myself. The way we sang it when I was in school back in the 1940s (while we were still fighting WW2), was too slow...sounded like a dirge. We all hated it. (Of course, I don't like "America the Beautiful" either. I hear it as "Oh, b'yoo-teeeeefull" Gag me!)
Mr. Berlin intended GBA to be a joyful quick-march. Kate Smith and everyone else slowed it down and turned it into something resembling an anthem or a hymn, and Dummya actually tried to have it made our official national anthem.
The "god bless" wording was just an exclamation....like "Bless your heart!" Or "Great day!" ("Sure an' begorah!") He was certainly not praying for some imaginary being to make the USA special. Or the world's police force.
We have actually become a police farce...."The Keystone Kops take Over the Planet."
I preferred "America the Beautiful". The descriptions of the continent were very moving. Just too dang much godlessness to slog though though. More proof that religion ruins everything.
Each revision was an improvement. Only one more and it's good to go.
Whoops, typo. I meant "godliness", not "godlessness". My fingers are betraying my brain.
Felaine, you are the epitome of the perfectly imperfect skeptic. I love you!
I forgot to add that only one person that I ever heard could sing "America the Beautiful" without sounding like an ignoramus....Brother Ray Charles.
ROTFL. The Keystone cops have taken over the planet!
I never liked God Bless America. Did you know any child who didn't dread singing this horrible song?
I always got the feeling the school was trying to shove militant patriotism down my throat.
Every child I knew sang the song without any feeling at all as if they couldn't wait until the damn song was over. Children aren't normally thinking about god or country during God Bless America. When is recess, is more like it.