Friday, August 26, 2011

No anthem: Good for Goshen College

Mennonites represent:
Tiny Goshen College in Indiana has banned the "The Star Spangled Banner: at all sporting events because the Mennonite school's president considers the National Anthem's words to be too violent.

The 1,000-student school had already banned the words last year, but the band could still play the music for patriots in attendance. Now, the school has banned the song entirely, according to NBC Sports.
NBC Sports actually misses a really critical part of the story: Goshen didn't play the anthem for decades—and had only done so in recent years after pressure was brought to bear by a right-wing radio host.

Full disclosure time: I'm a lapsed Mennonite. Graduated from a Mennonite Bretheren college. I have friends associated with Goshen.

I'm no longer a complete pacifist. But, within the Christian tradition, Mennonite pacifism makes a lot of sense to me: it follows the admonishment of a Jesus who warned Peter to put away his sword. The folks at Goshen figure they owe more allegiance to the God they worship than to their country, and to their credit they don't conflate the two. Although I no longer share that pacifism—though, admittedly, I'm very dovish—I'm grateful that Goshen is returning to a stance that is in keeping with its values and traditions. Mostly, I hate to see bullying radio hosts win.

Which is why find this irritating:
NBC Sports' Rick Chandler weighed in, saying: "I suppose we could have followed the example of the Mennonites and simply fled, giving the nation back to the British. But then we’d all be playing cricket."
How smug. I'm not aware that Goshen's Mennonites have tried to press their no-anthem pacifism on anybody, or shown such scorn to the broader culture that embraces the anthem. They've simply tried to be true to who they are. Rick Chandler—and America—don't have to agree with Goshen. But the disrespect he shows to the college is, at best, unseemly. America should have room for those who pick up the sword and those who decline.


emawkc said...

Is banning a song because it contains violent imagery any worse than banning books because of their content?

I wonder if the Goshen College library has a copy of Slaughterhouse Five.

Joel said...

I realize the word "banned" was used, but you surely see a difference between an institutional decision not to play a song and an institutional decision to keep individuals from having access to a work of expression. No one is being prohibited from singing the anthem. It's just not going to be the pre-game song of choice.

KhabaLox said...

What's funny about the Chandler quote is that Indians play cricket, amd seem to enjoy it.