Wednesday, 16 September 2015

National Anthem - like/dislike

On Tuesday Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour Party, caused scandal for many when he didn't join in with the singing of the National Anthem at a service to commemorate the Battle of Britain in St Paul's Cathedral.  He was criticised by Admiral Lord West, former Labour Minister, on Radio 4's Today programme on Wednesday.  But the Admiral didn't defend the anthem line by line, but by saying rather vaguely that it was a symbol of loyalty to the UK and the British people. The words, he said, do not mean today what they once meant.  Hmm that sounds like most of us have our fingers crossed behind our backs at some point during singing it.

In other news Facebook have announced that they plan to introduce a 'dislike' button to join the 'like button'.  Time then to join the two up and play National Anthem Facebook like or dislike over each line of the National Anthem - to find out where we might have our fingers crossed behind our backs.

God save our gracious Queen

God - I believe in God, so I have no problem there; an atheist would have and so probably has difficulty getting beyond the first word!

save - I believe in salvation - from sin, from all that separates us from God and neighbour, from the futility which comes from not believing life has a purpose which comes from God. I believe that in Jesus Christ we see everything we need to know about what it means to follow God and grow to be all that God would have us be.

our gracious Queen - graciousness means displaying gift and thankfulness for the gift; someone who is giving, generous and hospitable. There is much in this for a nation to celebrate in its openness.

Long live our noble Queen

long live - I don't wish her a short life, so a life in which to flourish is to be desired. Length of days, though, are not the only criteria to judge a life by - is it one of blessing and faithfulness?  How that life is spent matters.

our noble Queen - see above for gracious...

God save the Queen - as above

Send her victorious

Send her victorious - over whom, over what? ISIS are an evil in the world and so I don't wish them to dominate and become the rulers of the world. There are oppressive regimes and evils of organised crime, people trafficking and violence. But Britain has a mixed record over the centuries; we've not always been the noble power we like to think we are, and there are questions about some of the things we get up to now behind the scenes. So victorious cannot be given unequivocal assent.

Happy and glorious

Happy and glorious - I don't wish her to be miserable, and someone who carries the dignity of office to command respect is to be desired.

Long to reign over us

over us - I don't believe in reigning 'over'. I believe in democracy where we elect our political representatives who act on our behalf. We can remove them! We have, it has to be said, removed a few monarchs too over the centuries, so reigning is not as clear as it might seem. I don't believe in the 'divine right of kings'. So this is a dislike for me. That said, when I think of some of the likely alternatives - President Thatcher, President Blair, President Cameron or Corbyn... Long may she reign! There is a value in having the head of state separate from the executive, so that there is someone above them in precedence, but birth is no basis for choosing this person.

God save the Queen - see above.

Verse 2?

There have been a number of different verses over the years, one praying that God will confound the Scotts politics and navish tricks! That would be a definite 'dislike'. The second verse often used today is more positive.

Thy choicest gifts in store
on her be pleased to pour

God's choicest gifts are presumably the gifts or fruits of the Spirit. These are listed by St Paul as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22-26). Can't argue with those. We may add wisdom and an understanding of justice which make good rulers.

Long may she reign - see above.

May she defend our laws

Absolutely! The purpose of government is to pursue justice. Laws need to be set for the flourishing of all people. So the laws to be defended must be just, honourable, true.

And ever give us cause
to sing with heart and voice

If she defends laws that are just, honourable, true, enabling all to flourish, defending the weak and protecting the vulnerable, then we will sing with heart and voice.

God save the Queen.

Nor on this land alone

Some hymn books give a third verse which expands our horizons to embrace all nations and peoples as brothers and sisters in humanity. This is the basis of peace, fairness in trading and cohesion. It's a good aim and makes our national song outward looking and loving. This is the politics of hope rather than hatred or fear.

On balance I seem to be more thumbs up than down, though some of the caveats are significant ones. With all of this in mind, I shall continue singing it - though it's not the most inspiring song we could have as our national anthem and the tune is remarkably dull. It also has no official status, beyond customary use, according the the British monarchy website!

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