Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, July 3, 2020

"Lift Every Voice!"

I hate to see a song I love, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," become a subject of political controversy. The song is often described as the "national anthem" of African-Americans. I have no problem with that. It does not mean that the song doesn't belong to all who wish to embrace its wonderful message; nor does recognizing its special historical significance for those of our fellow citizens whose ancestors were brought as slaves mean that it challenges or displaces "The Star Spangled Banner" as the American national anthem.

"Lift Every Voice" is a hymn--it honors God and recognizes His sovereignty and our dependency on His grace--and it patriotically honors our nation--calling on us to be "true to our native land." There is nothing anti-American about it! Indeed, I myself, as someone who loves our country and dedicates himself to defending its ideals and institutions, embrace its sentiments with all my heart. Consider these magnificent words:

God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land

My beloved friends, there is nothing in these words not to affirm, embrace, and be inspired by--whether the color of one's skin is black or white, whether one's ancestors came from Africa, Europe, or Asia. We should enjoy listening to it when it is sung, and we should join--indeed heartily join--in the singing. But, gosh, let's not let it be politicized so that singing or not singing it is made a symbol of one's place on the ideological spectrum in our sadly and dangerously polarized society. Some things are sacred--beautiful hymns to God, for example--and should be beyond ideology and above the fray of politics.

Lift every voice!


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