Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

O God of All the Nations

In response to my last post, Paul F. rightly notes that few U.S.  Christians today have the virtues to display the kind of humble, critical patriotism that I believe is compatible with faithful Christian discipleship. Lacking such virtues, they all too easily fall into the jingoistic, militaristic nationalism, hubris, national chauvenism, and triumphalism that most U. S. Christians mean by “patriotism.” (It’s a warped form of patriotism, just as co-dependency is a warped form of romantic or familial love.) So, how do churches form members in the kind of virtues that can display humble, critical patriotism and resist jingoistic nationalist distortions?  It takes more than good sermons. I would suggest that one resource is good hymns.  That which we sing regularly is what we truly believe (which is why Charles Wesley, Fannie Crosby, and Isaac Watts may be the most influential theologians in the Anglo-American world–and why parents who worry about what music their children listen to and sing are not just old curmudgeons).  Today, tomorrow, and Monday, I shall print some hymns that I think are helpful in forming the kind of virtues that display the international concern and humble patriotism appropriate for citizens of the Rule of God.

Today’s is listed in different hymnals variously as “This is My Song, ” “O God of All the Nations, ” and “A Song of Peace,” all of which are appropriate titles.  The tune is the Finlandia hymn melody composed by Jean Sebelius.  The words of the first two verses were composed in 1934 by Lloyd Stone (1912-1993) and the 3rd verse was added by the great U.S. Methodist theologian Georgia Harkness (1891-1974).

This is my song, Oh God of all the nations,

A song of peace for lands afar and mine.

This is my home, the country where my heart is;

Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.

But other hearts in other lands are beating,

With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,

And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.

But other lands have sunlight too and clover,

And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.

Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations,

A song of peace for their land and for mine.
May truth and freedom come to every nation;

may peace abound where strife has raged so long;

that each may seek to love and build together,

a world united, righting every wrong;

a world united in its love for freedom,

proclaiming peace together in one song.

People who gather to sing like that on national holidays such as Independence Day will have a far different outlook from those who are moved by Lee Greenwood’s military recruiting tool, “God Bless the U.S.A.” or Toby Keith’s poisonously oblivious “American Soldier.”

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July 3, 2010 - Posted by | hymns, nationalism, peace, theology, worship

2 Comments »

  1. I first learned “This Is My Song” while attending a Unitarian/Universalist congregation. The song is quite moving indeed when sung together in the context of worship. The music of Finlandia is glorious, matched by only a handful of other hymns. The words are just as gramd as the music, giving the worshipper a view of true universal kinship. A truly “catholic” hymn if there ever was one.

    Comment by Charles Kinnaird | July 6, 2010 | Reply

    • It was a Unitarian woman who first introduced me to the hymn, too–in the context of an interfaith worship service at the annual meeting of the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation. I have since been part of Baptist, Methodist, and Lutheran services that used the hymn.

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 7, 2010 | Reply


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