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2.16.2005    |    Battle Hymn
The Battle Hymn of the Republic is likely not a favorite for folks with long memories in the South. Julia Ward Howe's (May 27, 1819 - October 17, 1910) famous hymn also seems to have fallen into some disfavor in the mainline Protestant Churches of the Fluffy Bunny; too military, don't you know.

Perhaps that's why I've always loved it. Regardless, it is a strong hymn, a song of the Church Militant, of God's army (us) and His Son come to save us when our merely human efforts fail. I was just now listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's version, and, as usual, it's a great rendition. Until they got to the fourth stanza, in which the good Mrs. Howe penned these lyrics:
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
In the Tabernacle's version, not to mention at least two others I've heard, the Civil War era "let us die to make men free", a literal truth, became, "let us live to make men free."

One can understand that dying to preserve the freedom of men is such an old-fashioned and dead white male notion. Very unpleasant and declasse. A small point, a trivial change in the lyric, you say? Perhaps. Yet to me it reflects the entire fluffy bunny syndrome, the dumbing down of Christianity, sanding off the rough edges. God is love, don't you see; He couldn't possibly be about dying to bring about freedom.

Yes, He could, and Mrs. Howe, actually a lapsed Calvinist become Unitarian liberal (for the 19th century), penned those words precisely because she believed that once talking about freedom was done, men had to be ready to die for the cause. As He died for our freedom at Calvary.

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Blogger jpe said...

I believe earlier versions were about John Brown, another reason Southerners with long memories (is there another kind) may not like it.

4:10 PM, February 16, 2005  

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.