Yesterday evening, my friend and I went to see the Yankees play the Diamondbacks at Yankee Stadium. It was a good game once it got started, but there was rain for a bit and so the first pitch wasn't until about 8:10 PM. That delayed everything just enough that it was just the middle of the 7th inning when we had to leave to catch trains and whatnot back to New Jersey. The Yankees won 4-1 and my man C.M. Wang got the win. It was neat to see him play. I found myself taking far more interest in his performance than I normally would for a pitcher. In fact, normally I'd prefer a high-scoring game - much more exciting, right? Not this time. I was perfectly glad to have Wang hold them to 1 run in his 7 innings - he got an excellent ERA out of this outing.
So it's the 7th Inning Stretch and we are all asked to get up and remove our hats for "God Bless America." I was expecting "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" but not this. ("Take Me Out" came after.) I have to confess I was a bit disconcerted about it. It's a tradition at Yankee Stadium to sing this since 9-11, so reports Wikipedia. Here are the full lyrics, from ScoutSongs.com:
"While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. "
God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.
As I review these lyrics now, a day later, they aren't so bad. and I had no problem with the Star Spangled Banner, which I love to sing (mostly, I suspect, because I can actually negotiate the entire range of that almost-unsingable song). So why my angst? I kept thinking, "Well, God surely blesses all of God's people, no matter what country they are in. So why is America any different, any more special?" I mean, doesn't God want to bless England, and Wales, and France, and India, and China and yes, even Iraq, and all its people, as well? Are not all people everywhere created imago Dei and beloved by God? Is it somehow wrong to ask for blessings on one's own nation? Does doing so imply that there is only so much blessing mojo and God can't bless more than one nation at a time? Even and especially in times of war, do not armies pray that God will certainly favor them with victory and the enemy with destruction? I mean, that part is definitely a zero-sum game: if God blesses my enemy, then I'm probably out of luck. And it begs the question, at least for me: what does it mean to pray for one's enemies and bless those who persecute one?
It turns out there are some legal issues with this as well, that are well worth reading on the Sports Law Blog.