Do You Sing Patriotic Songs in Church?

fireworksThis Sunday is July 5.  As Worship Leaders, we often struggle with how to manage this holiday in our corporate worship services.

Do you sing a patriotic song?  What’s the balance between recognizing the birthday of our nation’s independence, yet at the same time, maximizing the limited amount of time we have in our corporate gatherings to sing praises to Christ?

How about you?
Do you sing patriotic songs in church – especially on the weekend around July 4?
Why or Why Not?
If you do, how do they fit into the flow of your service?  Which songs do you use?

Let the discussion begin.

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43 comments on Do You Sing Patriotic Songs in Church?

  1. Mike says:

    Nope.

    Although growing up in a Catholic church, July 4 was always good for a “God Bless America” at dismissal.

  2. We usually do a medley at the start, but the bulk of the service is always about glorifying and worshiping God. [I think the first year I led, I didn’t do any…I learned!]

    1. Dennis, so amuse us – what exactly do you mean by “I learned”?

      1. My “learning” experience:

        I started leading worship at our church in 2003 and that July 4th weekend was my fifth time leading (I was previously on the vocal team). I was still getting comfortable leading (and people with my leading!) and was so focused on heart-felt song selection that I forgot about July 4th (that Sunday also happened to be Communion.) Technically, Sunday was the 6th, so I figured that the holiday had passed and I didn’t need to worry about patriotic songs!

        I was wrong! A of number of people (mostly those who were more “mature” than me) asked why I forgot to sing July 4th/patriotic songs. It wasn’t the end of the world – in fact, maybe my “learned” comment makes it sound a little worse than it was.

        The hardest part I find about leading worship on any holiday (other than the standard, Church holidays) is balancing some people’s desire to focus on the holiday rather than worshiping God. I lean toward mentioning the holiday verbally and focusing on worshiping God.

        On another July 4th, I showed this video http://www.sermonspice.com/product/505/old-glory and someone complained that it had Nixon in it. Hey, you can’t please everyone…

        1. that’s hilarious! “it had Nixon in it”

  3. Wayne Thomas says:

    LeAnn and I are dealing with this subject hardcore this week. We have a very strong Seniors presence in our church. These people include WW1, WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans. But I, personally, am against singing patriotic songs in church. I realize we all see this our own ways, and I know that there are patriotic hymns out there, but for me, I believe we should go to church to worship God, not the U.S. of A. And to combine a service that does both seems like sacrilege to me. But that’s me, what do you guys think?

    Our Senior Choir performed a Patriotic concert on Wednesday night, and so I believe (I hope) that has fulfilled the need that our congregation has with singing those songs this 4th of July week. But I am expecting a blue card or two after the service on Sunday asking why we didn’t include any patriotic songs. 🙂

    1. Joe Day says:

      Well, certainly we should be thankful for the freedom we have in this country to worship Jesus. And certainly, Christ calls us to love and serve our country in practical ways to make His glory tangible to a lost world.

      But on Sundays our time should be devoted exclusively to worshiping our great saviour Jesus Christ. Ultimately, our citizenship is in His kingdom and no matter how much we love our country, it will one day come to an end. If we sing of any patriotism, it should be that of the Kingdom of God through Christ alone. He’s the only king, His is the only kingdom with eternal reign. His is a better “country” in all respects.

    2. Wayne (& LeAnn) – see my reply to my original post. I totally understand. It is a generational thing. While I see where they are concerned that younger generations are losing pride in America, I think expressing it as a part of worship may be the wrong place. One thing I think it turns the service into is a sing-a-long almost rather than a time of worshiping our amazing God.

      I plan on starting our service with a medley (America The Beautiful / My Country ‘tis of Thee / God Bless America) then prayer. The rest of the service will be ALL about our Everlasting God!

    3. Marcus Moore says:

      You’re not WORSHIPING the USA when you sing patriotic songs! I think it’s ridiculous when people make statements like that! It’s like saying you’re worshiping another person when you sing Happy Birthday to them! You’re just recognizing with song how great our country is (and it IS great!).

  4. Donnie Nunn says:

    Well, growing up where I did (you know), it was a must. I prefer not to, but I’m sure our illustrious pastor (and I love him to life) will want to do something along those lines. We did the chorus to Martina McBride’s Independence Day a few months back as a change to the normal “freedom” songs and it went pretty well. Maybe we will do that one. I may suggest it if he says anything. 🙂

  5. We also have a large percentage of senior adults. I’ve tried numerous things over the past 5 years on staff. I’ve found it’s best to incorporate them, so that need is met, but to make sure the bulk of the service is God centered, Not USA centered.
    Example: This Sunday we’ll open with our orchestra playing “America The Beautiful” and we’ll sing the National Anthem after a “presentation of the colors” but after that we’ll sing 3 or 4 songs focusing on the freedoms we have in Christ. I’m also playing with the possibility of closing with “God Bless America”. Which is really more of a prayer than a salute to our country.

  6. Biggest problem I have with the “no patriotic songs” mentality is that it comes across as a political statement to NOT sing patriotic songs. In other words, by refusing to connect God with America, “I” would be saying that I don’t like America having Christian roots. Making a big deal of this is usually rooted in an anti-fundamentalism concern, and makes those who believe that America needs to “turn back to God” feel like that we don’t like God in America.

  7. I weren’t done, but I clicked the wrong button 🙂

    God is part of everything that a Christian does. I’m a patriotic person, and thus I believe it’s incredibly important to be patriotic in a Christlike manner.

    I am commanded to worship God fully every day, not just on Sunday. I disagree mildly with Joe Day (not hatefully, just mildly) when he says “But on Sundays our time should be devoted exclusively to worshiping our great saviour Jesus Christ. ” EVERY day should be lived that way, not just Sunday. Lots of people do LOTS of things besides worship on Sunday, but those things are just as filled with Christ as our corporate worship.

    The purpose of patriotic music in church SHOULD be to remind Christians that God has GREATLY blessed our country and that we ACTUALLY owe HIM the praise for the fact that we CAN freely worship. Remember the true giver of freedom. Worship the God who led Christ followers to break with those who would deny them the right to worship. And spend a large portion of time in prayer for those who have not been so blessed.

    There is a connection between our loyalty to God and our loyalty to our country. We are all proud of our homes, our towns, our football teams, our state, and our country. That’s not sinful, nor is it idolatry, nor should we consider the Amish to be more Godly than us in this regard.

    I love my country. It reminds me of many great things that God has done, and I love being an American. If I were Australian, I would love that. If I were Canadian, I would love that. It’s a natural human tendency. Let’s worship God by praising Him for what He has done, including the setting up and tearing down of governments and armies.

    But let’s don’t make the mistake of a negative political statement because we misunderstand the concept of heavenly citizenship. (It’s not apples and oranges…)

    1. Deane says:

      Bernard
      This was a great comment:
      “I am commanded to worship God fully every day, not just on Sunday.”

      It goes right along with what I have been reading about Hebrew thinking and Greek thinking. Here are a few links:

      http://www.wildbranch.org/Gkhebcla/index.html (Lesson Eight is specifically about worship and spirituality.)
      http://www.disciplenations.org/uploads/8r/ze/8rzegviZXvOcQrs_LWFjtw/The-Lordship-of-Christ-Over-All-of-Life.pdf
      http://www.hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/heb_grk.pdf

  8. Hey Gang,
    Yeah – you know, we (many of us) make a lot of comments about how we should only be worshiping Christ … but what about “announcements” … those aren’t necessarily “worship” moments, but we do them every Sunday. That’s just one example.

    Could it be that taking a moment to honor our Godly heritage by singing something like “America the Beautiful” or “God Bless America” (both which lyrically are written to not worship the country, but to ask for God’s blessings or grace on the country) isn’t necessarily a departure from “worship”?

    What’s the difference in taking a moment to thank God for sparing our coast from a recent hurricane (hypothetical) and taking a moment to sing a song about our country?

    I’m not saying one is right or the other – just coming at it from a different angle for continued discussion …

  9. I think it really depends on the song. I understand the thoughts behind worshiping God vs. America, but many of the songs that would typically be used on a patriotic Sunday (America the beautiful, My Country Tis of Thee, Eternal Father Strong to Save) generally can be seen as prayers to God for our nation, not being sung about America.

    The trouble I have is more stylistically fitting the partiotic songs in without making them feel out of place. We’re a very modern sound and to throw in just any old hymn can cause a drastic contrast that’s not always good.

    If we’re not in the middle of a series that’s completely unrelated to patriotic themed music, then we’ll use one or two in with our regular songs, but we’ve also had years where we didn’t do any patriotic music. Those years we’ve used a special video at the time of our prayers, usually with some patriotic song included.

  10. Jason Durham says:

    I do patriotic songs, but am selective about which parts, and usually do a medley, for instance, this Sunday we are starting off the service with this:
    “America the Beautiful” (just 2 verses), transition into “God of Our Fathers”, then do the chorus of “America the Beautiful”.
    Then as I play the chords of the chorus in the background the congregation will be led in both the pledge to the American and Christian flags, then we finish up with the chorus of “America the Beautiful”. After that we will pray for our country, do announcements then go into worship.

  11. David Miles says:

    Patriotism to our Country really has little or nothing to do with Christianity…we, the church, have more in common with our brothers and sisters in Christ, that may be from different nationalities, than we do with our next door (American) neighbor who is unsaved. So I really don’t think that Patriotism should be celebrated in Church (I am all about 4th of July Celebrations, but I don’t think it facilitates the worship of God). I am patriotic, but to Christ, first and foremost, and then maybe secondly to America.

    1. Russ,

      Wow. I think that was recorded at Christian Renewal in Brunswick? (complete with the diagonal wooden siding)

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  13. Steve Lowe says:

    We do patriotic songs Memorial Day and Independence Day, usually at the start of the service. We’re doing “America”, and “God Bless America,” IIRC. I’m not a real fan of doing them in service because it *feels* like by doing so we’re elevating country to the same level as God. But then for weeks after 9/11, we did the Pledge of Allegiance as part of Church services, which left me sensitive to patriotic/church issues.

  14. The Oz perspective (our national day is January 26, btw). There’s not a strong heritage in any denomination to sing patriotic songs in church, mainly because there’s not a strong heritage to sing patriotic songs in Australia in general (most of us struggle to know the words to the national anthem).

    And, most of our patriotic songs are a little naff anyway, quite apart from the Christian ones (like Great Southland of the Holy Spirit…mega naffness right there, despite great thoughts in the lyric. Just not well executed)

  15. Josh Lange says:

    Looks like I may be the odd man out here, but our entire service is built around Independence Day. We are coming from the perspective of bringing people to a place of thankfulness, prayer, and thinking about others. Our thought is to use patriotic elements to help produce what God would desire in our lives.

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  18. It’s challenging. This is an important time for our people in our area, but I so much don’t want to spend an hour+ communicating and propogating the idea that God loves us because we are Americans and His chosen nation. I’d much rather use that time to again point people to Christ.

    So, we seek to be balanced in our approach. Again, because this holiday is a big deal in our community, we recognize it in giving thanks to God for His blessing and the freedom He has given us here. But we then transition into and remind people that true freedom is found in Christ.

    This year it’s kind of ironic that we are wrapping up a series we’ve been doing called “Just Passing Through” which has focused on 1 Peter and how we are pilgrims or sojourners in this land. Our pastor will draw some great parallels with the pilgrims who came to America.

    Song wise, we try to do a song that is both patriotic, but clearly God focused. This year we will be doing “God of our Fathers.”

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  21. Paul J. says:

    My personal preference is NOT to do it. My pastor has instructed us TO do it, so we’re doing it this Sunday. But very limited.
    I’ll run a patriotic 5 minute countdown, and during the countdown we’ll play Chris Tomlin’s “America” live. Then a prayer for our country, followed by the first verse of “God Of Our Fathers”.
    Then, it’s service as usual.

    Paul Joseph
    http://www.twitter.com/PAJoseph
    http://www.CriesOfTheHeart.com

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  23. Thank you for the question here – and all the comments. Like most, I find myself struggling with this subject. But what I have realized (and learned) is that singing the patriotic songs (or any other thematic songs – other than Christmas and Easter) is a way of connecting in a ‘koinonia’ style [of worship] as believers in a small portion of the service. I believe (even though I struggle with transitions / and ‘feel’ of the service) when we sing these types of songs we are still able to focus on who God is and what he has done for our nation…. that said it doesn’t make it any easier for me and our team to lead or pick the songs for the Holidays (excluding Christmas).

  24. Chris Moncus says:

    I’d prefer not to. For the same reasons I think singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in church at Christmas – other than tradition, it doesn’t make sense to. There aren’t many good reasons that it can even be justified to be included.

  25. @jonwellman says:

    I feel like worship glorifies God, but this worship occurs on the earth He created. Therefore, we acknowledge the day but point to the Creator.

    This is what I’ve programmed that day for First Baptist Church Fairview Heights (fbc-fh.com)…

    Pre-Service: God of Our Fathers
    Choir: While There’s Time (recognize military)
    Service starts
    Songs: Battle Hymn, Alive Forever Amen, Under God (choir), Made Me Glad, It Is Well with My Soul

  26. Kevin Riner says:

    I think there are some good arguments here for either/or. I’m not convinced to either side. But my personal preference is NOT to do them. They constrict flow if your concerned about flow. They are difficult to play along with the likes of some Christmas songs. Plus my main reason is I don’t really like to focus on holidays. I like to focus on our worship to God. Although it gives a Worship Leader more creative space to do something different.

    I just don’t lean to doing them. I think musically they’re irrelevant and some of the lyrics are just too cheesy. So I’ll pass.

  27. We choose not to do patriotic songs. For too long, on the services surrounding July 4, churches have worshiped the ‘ideal’ of a God blessed country instead of God.

    We do choose however to have a dedicated time of prayer divided into three parts:
    *thanksgiving for the freedoms we enjoy
    *wisdom for our elected leaders
    *our responsibility to live and share Christ with our country.

  28. Lee Rider says:

    This is a huge issue in many of our congregations. The issue must go beyond a discussion of Patriotism or tradition.I think as worship leaders we need to put each song we offer up in worship to a simple test. See who or what gets all the good verbs! When you do that, you often find that even though a patriotic song mentions God and His blessings the main focus of the lyric is expressing a deep love and devotion to our country. I think these songs are wonderful and are deeply needed in our country, but I think worship pastors have a job to guard the the Lord’s worship. We say that worship is for Him right? So why then would we worship him with talk of how much we love the amber waves of grain? I typically find verses in these songs that are speaking to God in a prayer and incorporating a prayer time/Thanksgiving time to God for the wonderful freedoms we have and allowing us to be a part of this great Nation. When we sing other songs duing worship….we may not be worshiping America, but we are not truly giving God all the attention that His worship requires.

  29. Nika says:

    Wow I had no dea this was such a huge deal or discussion. Ipersonally have never been to a worship service where patriotic songs were sang. However I beleive that you can alot time time for these songs and tie it into worship by thanking God for the country we live in and the freedoms we have. I feel that no mattter what we allow time for once we get back into worship music service will flow just fine,, God Bless

  30. Sbejcook says:

    We do, though I’m not entirely comfortable with it.  I feel that patriotism is wonderful and I am so very thankful that I enjoy the freedom afforded by our nation, but worship is for God.  I do try to make sure we sing “patriotic” songs that honor God’s roll in our blessing and providence and freedom… songs that are prayers for his provision and protection, etc.  

    1. fmckinnon says:

      I think what you mentioned is key – use songs that are prayers for His provision and protection.

  31. Mikal Caldwell says:

    I’m gonna probably open a can of worms here, but this whole “dilemma” is almost exclusively in predominately white congregations. Having led worship in both predominately white and predominately black (as well as mixed) congregations, I only had this come up with my white congregations and in discussions with worship leaders that ministered to predominately white congregations. I won’t get into the whole cultural significance, but “God and Country” isn’t nearly as big a deal in black churches. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, just pointing out the differences.

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