When I was in preschool my teacher was worried because I didn’t know any nursery rhymes. Eventually, she mentioned something to mi madre about her concern. Mi madre told her not to worry, and for her to ask me to sing The National Anthem, Take Me out To The Ballgame, or the Marine Corps Hymn. My teacher was no longer worried.
I’ve always loved our National Anthem. Growing up in an era where patriotism only seems to swell in times of crisis, it’s always amazed me how one song can evoke such a deep sense of pride. You don’t have to know the history behind the song, who wrote it, or what a ‘rampart’ is to get a chill down your spine or a tear in your eye when ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’ hits your ears. The best word I can think of to describe our Anthem is majestic. It is simply majestic.
My roommate bigorangematty is a phenomenal musician (former member of the Tennessee Pride of the Southland Marching Band), and often has great insight into pieces that we hear. On several occasions, he has made an interesting observation on the Star Spangled Banner. “Most countries are very strict on how their national anthem should be performed. In the United States, we have the freedom to choose how we arrange the National Anthem based on preference, style, and setting. The words and melody stay the same, but the style in which the performer chooses to use is ultimately their decision.”
And this is why America rules.
You see, there is an official way to play our National Anthem, and there are those who adhere to strict rules on how it is to be performed. Then there are those who take a few liberties with our National Anthem. You’ve seen them perform before sporting events, or parades etc. They give it a country feel, or add a fill here and there. Then there are those that completely reshape the song.
A significant part of the beauty of the Star Spangled Banner is that it can be delivered in so many ways and remain so powerful. Whether performed by an opera singer, a former American Idol contestant, a country band, a full orchestra, The President’s Own, or Jimi Hendrix, the National Anthem is still the National Anthem. While there may be debate on how well it is interpreted, the majesty of the song still rings true.
It reminds me of the Bible. For hundreds of years we have read the same text over and over. Millions of sermons have been preached, millions of daily devotionals read. There have been millions of lines of scripture highlighted, underlined, circled, cross-stitched into tapestries, put on bookmarks and printed in ‘extreme’ fonts on t shirts. And while I may not be a fan of every delivery of scripture, it never takes away from the power of God’s Word.
Or the beauty.
It’s so easy to get caught up in arguments over scripture. I hesitate trying to recall how many late nights, or post-Sunday school debates I’ve had with people over interpretation over scripture. What if we took a step back from right or wrong, better or best, progressive or conservative and looked at the beauty that comes from the fact that there are so many ways that scripture falls on ears and pierces the heart? What if we set aside preferences of translations, context and the like and let the majesty of God’s Word speak for itself?
There will always be new ways to view scripture. The culture that scripture speaks to will constantly change. And yet, the scripture remains the same. Therein lies the beauty.
And whether you’re a fan of Jimi Hendrix’s version of the National Anthem, or Josh Groban’s, or ‘The President’s Own’ Marine Corps Band performance, just make sure you get the words right.
One love, one heart.