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A Methodist minister protests “God Bless America”

Jun 2, 2013, 4:30 PM EDT

ronan tynan-thumb-275x235-3600

I tend to dismiss “God Bless America” at the ballpark because it’s an Irving Berlin show tune — seriously, look it up — that admittedly meant something to people for a while in 2001, but which now has become an exercise in empty, mindless patriotism. We have no shortage of that, we have a severe shortage of god old fashioned baseball fun at the ballpark, and we really don’t need it.

But a Methodist minister writing in the Washington Post has a different reason for protesting “God Bless America.” A theological basis:

I love this country and don’t want to live anywhere else. But being pressured to stand up at a baseball game for a song that’s essentially a prayer seems, well, un-American. It feels like being pushed into the river for a baptism I didn’t choose. It’s an empty ritual, and one that I think doesn’t hold much theological water … I imagine that the God I believe in isn’t interested in dispensing special nationalistic blessings.

“Take me out the ballgame” may be some old vaudevillian-era song too, but at least it’s an inclusive one.

  1. sdelmonte - Jun 2, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    Bravo, Rev. Marsh.

    • sabatimus - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:39 PM

      I have to agree with him. I got chastised in high school for not standing up, putting my hand over my heart, and absurdly pledging allegiance to a piece of striped and starred cloth.

      • sabatimus - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:45 PM

        In retrospect, I should have stood up….and pledged “allegiance to Queen Fragg and Her mighty state of hysteria.”

      • nbjays - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:11 PM

        +100 thumbs up for the Calvin and Hobbes reference.

    • natslady - Jun 2, 2013 at 10:05 PM

      I thought after ten years they might back off on GBA (Memorial Day would be ok), but no, it seems to be an institution.With the camo uniforms, the special Fourth of July caps, etc. etc., I feel MLB is forcing patriotism down my throat. The Nats, who, after all, play in Our Nation’s Capital, already had special uniforms–but that wasn’t enough! I like those unis, I felt they represented our team’s place in America, like the President’s race or a politician (hopefully the Prez) throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day. That’s fine. When you live in the shadow of the monuments, why not express that aspect of our city in the ballpark? But now it’s MORE MORE MORE, and I would just like to see a baseball game.

      Even if they are donating the proceeds to a good cause, like the Wounded Warriors or families of those lost in action, I still don’t like it. I don’t like being told what I should feel. Don’t get me wrong. I love my country. I feel incredibly blessed that I was born here. But there are other countries, and I expect God to bless them, too.

  2. Ben - Jun 2, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    “I imagine that the God I believe in isn’t interested in dispensing special nationalistic blessings.”

    Can’t wait for everyone to react with “All animals (the rest of the world) are equal, but some animals (Americans) are more equal than others”

    • normcash - Jun 2, 2013 at 4:46 PM

      Fortunately, Ben, this site seems to attract many fewer right-wing yahoos than one often finds on the internet…

      • heyblueyoustink - Jun 2, 2013 at 4:53 PM

        Yes, the Executive Branch of the government prevents them from having a computer, or something.

      • Ben - Jun 2, 2013 at 4:55 PM

        Obama needed a computer to forge his birth certificate with, so he confiscated the Republican Party’s computers and guns. I don’t see the problem with that…

      • heyblueyoustink - Jun 2, 2013 at 4:58 PM

        Comrade Holder, is that you?

      • Ben - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:11 PM

        Nah, Holder’s in Mexico holed up with some AP reporters, and together they’re directing tornadoes at Alex Jones. Duh.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:26 PM

        I heard he invited his friends in the press to his off the record birthday party and no one showed.

        Poor guy, he had the drones all fired up and a piñata that resembled the Constitution.

      • Old Gator - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:45 PM

        That must have been Obama who took down Mike Bette’s little car full of “storm chasers,” then.

        And yeah, Obama should have the drones retrofitting to deliver subpoenas and arrest warrants to American Muslims serving with Al Queda in places like Yemen and Waziristan. That would surely keep ’em from bombing our embassies and installations, wouldn’t it? “Sorry guys, I just received a subpoena from the Department of Justice and, out of respect for our Constitution, I gotta split and go home to post bail. Watch my Kalashnikov and put my pressure cookers to good use until I’m acquitted. Have a good time placing car bombs without me.”

        Yep. Brilliant.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:52 PM

        Don’t be so serious Gator. Just having a little Sunday fun day

      • brewcrewfan54 - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:32 PM

        Wow, your version of Sunday Funday is way different than mine. I just get drunk.

      • patfic15 - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:00 PM

        Classifying one’s self any “winger” is ridiculous.

      • seahawks19081 - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:03 PM

        Why am I a yahoo if I am a conservative?

      • Old Gator - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:12 PM

        Who’s being serious? Picking off Taliban with a drone is my idea of a good time.

      • Old Gator - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:16 PM

        Seahawk: no one said you were a yahoo except yourself. There are perfectly rational, sober, level-headed conservatives out there as well as yahoos, just as there are perfectly rational leftists out there, as well as yahoos, to that side of the spectrum. Know thy yahoos by (1) where they insist Obama was born, (2) what they think is really being put in those vaccines, and (3) whether they know the difference between a centrist, a liberal, a socialist and a communist. Most don’t seem to.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:47 PM

        Or fascism, Gator. Let’s not forget about them, because though the course of history, with very little exception ( Ivan theTerrible, for instance ) , they don’t even know they’re fascists until the end.

  3. heyblueyoustink - Jun 2, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    I think, if I outlive you, I’m going to sneak God Bless America into your funeral service 😉

    • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:16 PM

      Don’t worry, Calcaterra. I got your back on that.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:23 PM


        /throws tomatoes and popcorn

      • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:35 PM

        Keep it up, bub, and I’ll make sure a mysterious woman in white shows up at your passing to leave a Braves pennant and cheap scotch at your headstone.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:39 PM

        Cheap scotch, now that just hurts.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:39 PM

        I play dirty.

  4. Stiller43 - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    Im not exactly religious (actually, pretty much not at all), but ive always just kinda sang the song as a “hey good thoughts for us” kinda thing, not really “god, please bless US as americans!!!” Kinda like singing along to “rock and roll all night” doesnt *actually* mean you want to rock and roll quite every nignt, or even party every day…but its fun to sing, and the message is just about having fun.

    I like the song, despite of my beliefs (or lack thereof)…i would have no problem if they canned it though…

    • rufuscornpone - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:17 PM

      Kinda like singing along to “rock and roll all night” doesnt *actually* mean you want to rock and roll quite every nignt, or even party every day…

      You’re such a pussy.

    • DJ MC - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:27 PM

      Imagine if at every concert you attended halfway through they brought out someone to sing an a cappella, dirge-like version of “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night”.

      • Old Gator - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:18 PM

        I’d be OK with that, but if they bring out someone to sing “Sweet Caroline” I’m going to stand up and yell “shark,” crowded theater or not.

  5. proudlycanadian - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    I always found it funny that Isreal Isadore Beilin (May 11, 1888 to Sep 22 1989) wrote “Easter Parade”, “White Christmas” as well as “God Bless America”. He seems to have much more interested in making money from his songs than in religion and patriotism. In the 1960’s, Robert Zimmerman wrote a song called “With God On Our Side”. Some right wing types missed the sarcasm in Dylan’s lyrics, and played the music sans lyrics when they were trying to show their patriotism.

    • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:19 PM

      I always enjoy it when Christians get into George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord.

      • Old Gator - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:26 PM

        Yeah, Krishna is really adorable, what with all those extra hands to nail up – prolly be the first deity crucified on an asterisk.

      • tfbuckfutter - Jun 2, 2013 at 6:43 PM

        Barry Bonds was the first one to be nailed to an asterisk.

        But that wasn’t because of the steroid allegations….it’s because a cross would just tip over because of his head.

        The asterisk spins mesmerizingly….like those birds that drink water.

        This kind. Right here. In the video.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:38 PM


        A) George Harrison was a very inclusive guy, and regardless what the song meant to him, I think he would perfectly fine with anyone taking it to heart in their own way
        B) If you can’t hear the universal longing everyone of any faith feels in their efforts to find God (whomever/whatever that means to the individual), then you aren’t listening to the lyrics
        C) Harrison has said many times he wanted to write a song reminiscent of an old style Gospel song, so why wouldn’t Christians like it?

      • historiophiliac - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:18 AM

        I wasn’t hating on Harrison or the song. I like inclusive. But, it makes me laugh when oblivious Christians coopt it blindly (much like the political songs mentioned here).

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:32 AM

        But that is my point – I don’t think they are obliviously co-opting it. It is true that plenty of people like it without realizing what exactly the words mean (as with every song ever written). But that song has a very universal theme of a longing to be a better member of your faith that would apply to anyone – and as such, I could see anyone feeling it applies to themself

      • Old Gator - Jun 3, 2013 at 10:18 AM

        Delaware: therein lies the problem. The song has little or nothing to say about being “a better member of your faith.” It’s about a very personal, private longing for a unity with the divine our separation from which is just an awful illusion, in a manner theologically at odds with the premises of Christianity, which posits God as a radically separate entity from the created human soul. It’s not the same thing as the community-oriented notion of being a “better member of your faith.” To view the song in that light, yes, a Christian would necessarily have to co-opt it.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:02 PM

        @Old Gator – I am not disputing what the message was that Harrison was singing – his personal journey. I said that the theme and the struggle he talks about is universal and felt by many in their own journey. So for someone of any other faith to identify with that makes perfect sense. And don’t be so sure people Christians who like it have the words wrong – I go to church every week, I am well aware what he is singing about, and I identify with the song.

        I am not much for holding hands, but that does not mean I can’t identify with the theme of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset” is a splendid song. I have been to that part of London – I think it is a dump, and I certainly do not consider it “paradise” as Ray Davies does. And I certainly cannot condone painting everything Black – as much as I love the song.

    • DJ MC - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:28 PM

      Four words: “Born in the USA”

      • proudlycanadian - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:32 PM

        Give your parents credit for that. The USA is a great place to visit.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:36 PM

        I prefer ” Born in East L.A.”

      • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:37 PM

        PC, that was hilariously subtle snark!

      • proudlycanadian - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:46 PM

        Regarding “Born In The USA” by Bruce Springsteen. Have you ever read the lyrics?

      • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 6:06 PM

        Yes, but fyi, your comment could be read as a most excellent “anchor baby” slam too. lol

      • proudlycanadian - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:35 PM

        Are you an “Anchor Baby” DJMC? Just asking?

      • indaburg - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:13 PM

        PC’s right. It is a decidedly unpatriotic song. And yes, nice snark.

      • DJ MC - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:12 AM

        Correct. “Born in the USA” is a song about the problems of the post-Vietnam era in the United States. But people still treat it as a patriotic tune due to the screamed eponymous lyrics.

        Or my personal favorite, when radio stations play Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” on the Fourth of July, even though the lyrics describe an abused wife committing murder-suicide.

      • mazblast - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:31 AM

        Which are the only words in the whole song that anyone can understand. Even those four words sound like, “borintheooeehhayy”.

  6. tfbuckfutter - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    Nice to see a Reverend say something I can actually agree with for a change.

    Wish more of them understood that trying to force people to believe in/honor/love/worship/whatever their specific god is a losing proposition and will only become more so as the years go by.

  7. rufuscornpone - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    There’s a fine line between loving America and stalking it. “God Bless America” steps all over that line. We already sing the National Anthem to start the game. And seeing as it’s a *baseball game* and not a Presidential inauguration, one patriot song is plenty.

    Secondly, the song blows. Can we just sing “Search and Destroy” or “Rise Above” during the 7th inning instead?

  8. historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:27 PM



    (Followed by fireworks and the 1812 Overture blasting, without any intentional irony.)

    • DJ MC - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:29 PM

      Jobu would be more appropriate anyway, since Jesus Christ can’t hit a curveball.

    • nbjays - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:18 PM

      ‘philiac, you forgot (followed by scratching crotch and spitting, a la Roseanne Barr). Just sayin’…

      • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:21 PM

        Are you kidding? I am never ever ever grabbing my crotch on here. I would never hear the end of it.

  9. rcali - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    How about when the users stand at the top of the stairs to the sections and try and block you from taking a leak or getting some grub before they close down the concessions during the song like it’s Russia or China.

  10. phillyphannn83 - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:52 PM

    While I’m completely against anything religious being used in the public domain, GBA is hardly new. Maybe its use in ballparks has increased since 9/11, maybe it hasn’t. Maybe I missed your post where you stated the facts surrounding this view of yours, Craig, or maybe you’re just new to its use. I don’t know. But what I DO know is that GBA has been sung at every single home game for the Flyers since the team’s inception. It was sung routinely at my Elementary school(which I’m completely against since it was a public school) and I’m sure there are many other instances where it is used frequently. It just seems weird that you’re complaining about a song that is hardly new and has been used in the sporting world for decades. Maybe I just have a problem with you equating it with 9/11. Maybe its because I’m a firefighter and 9/11 has special meaning to me. Whatever it is, although, as an atheist, I’m against it too, your incessant ranting about it week after week makes me uneasy. They sing GBA at baseball games now and you dont like it. We get it. Now, stop b*tching about it. You’re sounding like a 5th grade girl.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 2, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      Maybe its use in ballparks has increased since 9/11, maybe it hasn’t

      Maybe some of our older commentors can chime in, but I never remember it being played prior to 9/11. Then after 9/11, it was played at Yankee Stadium during the 7th inning stretch. In fact, I can remember many complaints from players, fans and media that the GBA during the stretch was used as a stall tactic for the Yankees. Then a few years later a lot more teams started singing it.

      As the reverend mentioned in his article, it’s essentially a prayer (as we raise our voices, in a solemn prayer is in the first verse that is rarely mentioned).

      • sophiethegreatdane - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:47 PM

        Nope, never heard it once.

      • kalinedrive - Jun 3, 2013 at 9:58 AM

        I will very soon be 50, so I suppose that makes me “older” than most here. I never heard God Bless America at a baseball game before September 11, 2001. It was never sung in any of my schools. I don’t remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance after about 3rd grade. It is incorrect to say that it has always been a part of the sporting world, and it’s completely reasonable to request that it be stopped. Baseball is not about any of this nonsense. Especially when the league is trying to embrace internationalism.

    • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:03 PM

      1) Craig doesn’t sound anything like a 5th grade girl.
      2) There’s nothing wrong with being a 5th grade girl. It’s not an insult, so I don’t know why you have to make it one.

      • tfbuckfutter - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:29 PM

        He was going to write an article in the voice of a 5th grade boy but couldn’t find a reverend who has pontificated on whether or not God could make a booger so big even he couldn’t pick it.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:31 PM

        Gross! You’re so mature.

      • tfbuckfutter - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:51 PM

        You should see my work in the field of farts.

        Wait. I didn’t mean to say “see”.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:09 PM

        I had brothers. You may not know what you’re in for there.

      • patfic15 - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:04 PM

        Narrow is the way.

      • paperlions - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:10 PM

        You are right. There isn’t anything wrong with being a 5th grade girl. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with sounding like a 5th grade girl if you are a 5th grade girl. H o w e v e r…..if you are not a 5th grade girl, chances are that sounding like a 5th grade girl is not a compliment or desirable…especially if you are a 40 something year old father of kids.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:14 PM

        See #1.

      • paperlions - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:14 PM

        This feels like work…how do I find #1?

      • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:15 PM

        Well, you can look above…or just picture my finger.

      • paperlions - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:16 PM

        The second one sounds quicker, I go with that….so, single, huh?

      • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:19 PM

        Shocking, eh? lol

      • tfbuckfutter - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:17 PM

        After watching Jack (with Robin Williams…if you saw it you will follow this story better), I farted in a glass, covered it, sniffed it and said “Gross” and my wife was like “No way that worked” and I offered it up and she smelled it….and almost puked.

        Another time she was complaining about wanting new furniture at which point I farted in a pillow (which she didn’t see) and said “Eww, this furniture does stink”, threw her the pillow and she proceeded to take a huge whiff.

        I also once walked by her while she was doing reps on a machine, farted and then criticized her breathing technique.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:20 PM

        OMG, it’s wrong that I laughed at that.

        PS Get a dog if you don’t have one. It’s a great cover for torturing someone. I mean, I *think* it would be.

      • tfbuckfutter - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:57 PM

        Pff….what would I need a dog for?

        My typical response to ripping ass is “Tell your nose I said ‘you’re welcome'”

  11. onbucky96 - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    Amen. I can’t stand Sunday baseball in the 7th, end this already. Also, at Miller Park they close concessions during the National Anthem, do other parks do this as well?

  12. anybodyinhere - Jun 2, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    In B-More, they play God Bless the USA before every Ravens home game when they are setting up for the National Anthem. The place gets quiet, the hats come off. At the tailgate party I regularly attend at the local firefighters union hall, there’s a dude with a guitar who plays the National Anthem really really loud. I love this country the same as the next guy and way more than PC, but it gets to be a little much…

  13. bobwheel - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    At each game in the Bronx, the Yankees recognize couple of current or former members of our armed forces prior to playing “God Bless America.” Is that an exercise in empty, mindless patriotism? I think not.

    • DJ MC - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:29 AM

      It’s an exercise in validating empty, mindless patriotism. There are other ways of and opportunities for recognizing members of the military: before “The Star-Spangled Banner”, for example, or announcing them to applause at any other break during the game. The song isn’t necessary.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:52 AM

        Or, better yet, give them jobs instead of trotting them out for the PR. The unemployment rate for vets remains higher than for the civilian population.

  14. sophiethegreatdane - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:52 PM

    My family and friends have no clue why GBA bothers me, and I’ve had a hell of a time explaining it. Calcaterra, you did a good job of starting what I was trying to say, and — ironically — the minister did a good job finalizing it.

    We don’t need a secondary national anthem, and we don’t need more forced and hollow patriotism.

    I can’t stand that redneck “proud to be an American” bullshit song either.

    • realgone2 - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:01 PM

      agree 100%

  15. realgone2 - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    I nominate this one instead.

  16. bigmeechy74 - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    I never in my wildest dreams thought I would agree with a methodist minister this much. He articulated my thoughts on this perfectly. I hate the stupid god bless america 7th inning stretch crap. It should be “take me out to the ballgame.” The only reason it’s still going on is because no one has the balls to end it because they are afraid to be criticized.

    • chip56 - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:55 PM

      Lots of teams do both. I would far rather hear God Bless America than see a dumbass mascot race or “kiss cam”

      • bigmeechy74 - Jun 2, 2013 at 9:07 PM

        Yeah…. Screw all that “fun” stuff at a baseball game. I hear ya

      • historiophiliac - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:23 AM

        I seriously hate the kiss cam, but if it would get us out of GBA, there’s a lot of people I would tolerate kissing.

  17. nbjays - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    The seventh inning stretch belongs to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, and nothing else. At least at Rogers Centre, that’s what is played… no GBA, no “Sweet Caroline” (much to the delight of Gator, I would suspect), just “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. Oh, and they also play “Okay (Okay)… Blue Jays (Blue Jays)… Let’s… Play… BALL!”, which is the Beavz version of GBA.

  18. chip56 - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:53 PM

    “we have a severe shortage of god old fashioned baseball fun at the ballpark,”

    Interesting take from someone who tells us to ignore what we see happening on the field and focus on the stats instead.

  19. yahmule - Jun 2, 2013 at 10:32 PM

  20. eagles512 - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:29 AM

    Lost some respect for Craig here

  21. sportsdrenched - Jun 3, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    I agree with the Methodist Minister. Not from an empty patriotism stand point, but from a theological stand point. If God truly is the Universal God we Christians proclaim him to be, then why would the people of the United States be deserving of any special blessings in comparison to people in other nations?

  22. multiplemiggs - Jun 3, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    God doesn’t give a crap about your stupid baseball games and dumb songs. He is too busy punishing those who accept homosexuals in their society. It is against his will.

  23. northstarsmitty - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    What a tool. This guy is a major chump. Look, everyone is going to have a reason NOT to do something, always an excuse to justify why you do or do not want to do something. NO ONE ever complained about singing this decades ago. Now and days everyone thinks they are entitled in this country or should excersize their freedom of opinion and lawful actions. If you don’t want to sing it, don’t sing it and keep your mouth shut. I dont want radical middle easterns in this country, but I keep to myself and move on with my life. Why can’t yall do the same? Besides, this guy is a clown. This is a song that happens to mention God, seems radical to imply he is force-praying a hymn in song for 5 mintues at a game. If it is an empty ritual, why has it lasted for decades? Those against it, you just simply have no rooted morals or deep beliefs, gratitude, respect, or praise. If you did, you would arguably be able to put yourself in the shoes of those who enjoy it, just as you passionately accept other traditions or simple things in life that is public knowledge as this is. I had a ball player ask me to take off my hat at a twins game when I was a kid. I will never forget that. I didn’t have to, but it was a sign of respect. For those who do like it sung, think it should stay, or just don’t get bent out of shape over it, would show the same care for others (not just for yourself) for something else I imagine if it was publically accepted.

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