Thursday, September 08, 2011


Here is a post from Scott Lawson's blog For What It's Worth.  Scott is a non-Menno, non-GCer, non-Goshenite who lives and writes about things in Northern Indiana.  Scott contacted me a while back about Goshen College's decision to drop the National Anthem for other 'appropriate' tunes like America the Beautiful. I have previously written about my opinion here and here

Ah, pacifists. Sometimes, you make it so easy.

Goshen College, located somewhere in or near Goshen, Ind., has people aching for a fight.

The school was founded on Mennonite principles and had never played the national anthem before any athletic contest. Eventually, that led to a minor uproar a few years ago, so under a little pressure (OK, that's my conjecture), they began toying with the idea of starting games with songs of America -- including a non-lyrical version of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Their problem with Francis Scott Key's poem to war and America? As Mennonites, they don't believe in war or, on some levels, countries. Mennonites and related religions have the distinction of being Christians who were, centuries ago, beaten up by both Protestants and Catholics via the state churches. So they tend to be very pro-separation between church and state.

After two years of tinkering with songs, the college decided to do something stupid. They adhered to their principles. And that provoked a myriad of profound responses throughout the Internet   (and I imagine to the inboxes of Goshen College administrators).

"I think this fine institution of higher learning needs to move to Mexico or Rwanda, so they experience the diversity there and get away from hateful whitey. Not 60 years ago, our ancestors knew how to handle this b.s., the problem is, we've become a nation of sheeple. "

"Want alternatives to the national anthem? Here's one: The Star Spangled Banner. Here's another: You don't like it, get out of rotten old America and go to Europe. They don't like us, either."

"You don't like the National Anthem? Then I suggest you pull up stakes and move to another country. This country has not survived and thrived because of a bunch of pacifists, but because of people who fought and died for this America to be founded as a free country, and to remain free in subsequent wars. You want the benefits of living in a free land then put yourself out for it. It isn't about you it is about America."

Now, I don't have all that much in common with anyone at Goshen College. For instance, they are either college educated or getting a college education; they attend church dozens of times a year; they know where Goshen College is and they have a principle of avoiding confrontation.

Of those aspects, I can kind of tell you about where Goshen College is; somewhere in or near Goshen. Kinda close to South Bend. Probably closer to Elkhart.

But that's about it. My college education is lacking. My church attendance more-so. And my moments of being non-confrontational are limited.

So it's easy for us to beat up on Goshen College. I mean, what have they done for us? During wars, Mennonites have routinely been conscientious objectors -- working in health and agricultural fields in nations overseas but avoiding fights. Well, that's kinda Christ-like and all, but Christ doesn't protect our oil fields or homes. 

Alas, in an era of I'll-out-patriot-you-with-a-bigger-flag-pennant-on-my-lapel, Goshen College students and officials have decided they'll avoid patriotism. I guess they don't think Jesus Christ would put his hand on his heart for America. I hope that doesn't mean they don't believe he roots for my favorite football team to win as well when I have $50 on the game...

I tried contacting several Goshen College students from Northwest Indiana, to no avail. Maybe they just don't want to be questioned about it anymore. 

However, I did hear from one of their alums.

"I was very much chagrined by the decision to play the National Anthem at GC and am pleased that the 'trial period' has ended," Douglas Swartzendruber wrote me in an email.

I can barely spell his name. I can't imagine he's very smart or important to America. Oh, wait... upon further review........

What has he done for America? I guess he's fighting cancer while he works at Pepperdine University or doing research in Colorado.. Well, la-de-da. What's that ever done for us? It certainly hasn't helped lessen traffic on our interstates.

He was one of the original signers of the request not to use the song. And he has caught some hell for it. But, in his mind, it's not something that's going to send him on a path to Hell.

You can check out some of his thoughts at his blog.

Here's the thing: I like pacifists. I like the concept. I'd be terrible at it, but I think they are actually doing things -- in general -- the right way. I know a guy who isn't a pacifist who sits down during the national anthem. He isn't making a statement of conviction -- he is trying to piss people off. But Goshen College isn't trying to anger anyone. They are simply standing by their convictions. And if you strike them out of anger, or believe you are a better American than they are because you think our country is based on a flag and a song, you're missing out a key element.

We're a country of people and of laws. And good people who respect those laws, even if they reject some of our country's cultural traditions, should be just as respected as anyone else. If a private, religious institution decides they don't want to promote war, why strike their face? They'll probably just offer you the other cheek.

Still, I'll be honest, if I'm at a Goshen College game (which would be surprising because I don't really no where it's located), and someone starts to give them any grief ... I'd be happy to be  John Book to their Eli Lapp. Well, not with nearly a good as a right hook...

But, alas, they'd just offer you paz. And that's not a candy that causes cavities...


Bizzy Brain said...

I don't think God intended non-violence or pacifism to be carried to the lengths that it becomes suicidal.

hoosierdaddy said...

Don't know any suicidal pacifists, since that means they would be killing themselves :-) Glad that you know what God intended, but it seems to me that the teachings of Jesus seemed pretty clear about how to respond to violence.