This Sunday, November 16, 2014, we’ll be singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic because it goes with my text from 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18 and in observance of Veterans Day. The song first appeared in The Atlantic during the Civil War. The Atlantic has an article titled “The Battle Hymn of the Republic: America’s Song of Itself” that traces the song’s history and cultural resonance while also touching on the concerns some devout Christians have about it.*
The concern that I’ve felt most keenly is the conflict between the hymn’s martial tone and the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. I found great comfort in learning that Martin Luther King, Jr. had quoted it. If a peacemaker like MLK can quote it, than surely there’s enough room for someone like me to sing it. The article is well worth the read.
*The Atlantic’s article isn’t the only one out there. But, it’s the one I’m sharing because I think that the magazine that first published the song might provide the best insight into its nature and history.