It’s the Sunday before Memorial Day, 2022.
I’m thinking about Church, America, honoring valiant soldiers, children dying from senseless gun violence, and ways that all of us who love our country can help mend the parts of it that are broken.
Many don’t know this, but before becoming a brewer, I sang opera and spent most every Sunday before Memorial Day--in my 20s and 30s--singing patriotic songs in church as congregations honored fallen heroes.
To me this day is about singing, reading Bible verses, and listening to a preacher weave together the themes of Christianity, country, and service.
To me, this day, even more than tomorrow, is about stirring our spirits, filling our hearts, and rededicating ourselves to the concept of “Agape,” a Greek term that symbolizes the highest form of love—the love of our neighbors and mankind.
So instead of my normal Sunday “week-in-review,” I’m going to try to replicate what this day means to me by sharing some songs, verses, and quotes.
Let’s start with the universally beloved God Bless America. This rendition from Retired Naval Petty Officer, 1st Class, Generald Wilson, choked me up this morning.
God bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with the light from above
From the mountains to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam
God bless America, my home sweet home
Of course this song, by asking God for guidance during our darkest moments, made me think about Matthew 5:9.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the Sons of God.”
Our courageous troops and police officers--the peacemakers--who sacrificed their lives for our country, could arguably be considered that “light from above” mentioned in those famous lyrics. I’m sure that if they could pass along a message from heaven, it would be that weapons of war should be limited to those fighting in wars.
Next, our Memorial Day playlist wouldn’t be complete without including this stirring rendition of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Before listening, however, I would suggest reading this quote by Oliver Wendell Homes, the famous Supreme Court Justice whose experience fighting in the Civil war was so profound that his gravestone lists his military career with the Massachusetts infantry first ahead of his service on the Supreme Court of the United States.
“But, nevertheless, the generation that carried on the war has been set apart by its experience. Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing. While we are permitted to scorn nothing but indifference, and do not pretend to undervalue the worldly rewards of ambition, we have seen with our own eyes, beyond and above the gold fields, the snowy heights of honor, and it is for us to bear the report to those who come after us. But, above all, we have learned that whether a man accepts from Fortune her spade, and will look downward and dig, or from Aspiration her axe and cord, and will scale the ice, the one and only success which it is his to command is to bring to his work a mighty heart.”
May the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” remind us to work with MIGHTY HEARTS to repair our country.
What must this work entail? Martin Luther King had the answer with this quote:
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”
In theory, after our troops bring peace in war or our police bring peace after a mass shooting, it is up to our government to update our laws to root that peace in justice.
And after justice, what is next? Forgiveness.
The natural epilogue to any Memorial Day remembrance done within a Christian setting is to invoke forgiveness.
In theory, after our courageous soldiers and police fight valiantly to end chaos and rediscover peace, we must find a way to forgive those who thought arming America with more guns was the answer—because they were misled by (mostly) men corrupted by power.
In theory, after our government finally finds the courage, borne from tragedy, to reduce gun violence by simply replicating laws from other civilized countries where they have been proven to work, we must forgive those on the right for not having had the courage to find their consciences sooner.
And in theory, after we strengthen laws that bring us back to a time when those who seek to manipulate Americans through fear and lies are held accountable, we must forgive those on the left who had the power to bring about progress but weren’t strong enough to do it before further violence ensued.
I can’t think of a better song of forgiveness than the Christian chestnut “How Great Thou Art,” and my favorite version of it is from an amateur recording made in a stairwell by four talented men from the group “Kings Return.”
And when I think of God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin.
Thanks for reading this piece that allowed me to honor our country’s rich history of courage, but also mourn its recent stretch of cowardice.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” --Matthew 5:4.
Owner, Minocqua Brewing Company
Founder, Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC