Peace is Patriotic: Anabaptists and the National Anthem
The recent decision by Goshen (IN) College to begin playing an instrumental version of the U.S. national anthem before some sports events after never having done so has sparked a firestorm of protest. A Facebook page opposing the decision now has 1,200 members, and nearly 1,000 have signed an on-line petition. There is another Facebook page for people who support the decision, and one for those who just want to discuss it.
Take Action on This Issue
I've read the statements from the college, many of the comments on Facebook, articles in the Mennonite press, and a national AP story. Those who oppose the decision, such as my Goshen College graduate colleague on God's Politics, most often cite what they see as its relation to militarism. So it may come as a surprise that as a Mennonite who has spent four decades as a peace activist, I don't oppose the decision.
Rather, the college's decision and the reaction to it can be an opportunity to rethink the relationship between patriotism and nationalism. I've come to appreciate the difference. It is one that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deeply believed and lived.
As Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of theology and African American studies at Georgetown University, wrote:
If King's actions against war prove anything, it's that there's a huge difference between patriotism and nationalism. Patriotism is the critical affirmation of one's country in light of its best values, including the attempt to correct it when it's in error. Nationalism is the uncritical support of one's nation regardless of its moral or political bearing.