Goshen College, a small liberal arts school in Indiana, announced that it would ban the playing of the National Anthem at sporting events, fifteen months after the school began to play an instrumental version before some games. The college, which is affiliated with the Mennonite Church, has a strong tradition of pacifism, and apparently the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner was offensive to “students, faculty members and alumni,” who complained to the Board of Directors. This is despite the fact that the church itself does not have a stance on the national anthem.
Resistance to the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner came, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, from “some who believe the hymn glorifies war and distracts from the college’s Christian values.” The decision to play the song was originally intended to be more welcoming to opposing teams, but many believed that it was out of sync with the school’s values. The Board of Directors has asked the school’s president to find an alternative.
“We recognize that some people may not be satisfied with this decision, but we believe it is the right one for Goshen College,” said the chair of the Board.
And Carlos Romero, executive director of the Mennonite Education Agency, commended the school for its thoughtfulness in making the decision. “The willingness to listen and learn from one another has indeed modeled a process to the wider church and community about how to engage difficult issues. In today’s polarized culture, that is indeed an important gift,” he said.
The whole incident raises an interesting question: what exactly does the Star-Spangled Banner symbolize? The students, alumni and faculty members who complained about its affiliation with war and a glorification of nationalism (which some Christian communities find distasteful and incompatible with their religious beliefs) have a point, but it’s also true that the national anthem can also be seen to represent our nation’s best. Pacifist Christian communities, however, stress the need to rise above nation and focus on the myriad of believers in Christ who transcend borders, so the decision is more understandable in that context. But it’s a hard choice to judge.
What do you think? Should Goshen College have banned the Star-Spangled Banner from its sporting events?
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.