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The Sacred Subtext of “America the Beautiful”


July 4, 2014

Katherine Lee Bates‘ inspired poem “America the Beautiful” is more than just a paean to the majesty of America’s scenic places and bounteous food basket. It is a psalm of praise, an anthem to the spirit of American exceptionalism, the godly people people who made her exceptional, and God Almighty who gave us America’s defining liberty and abundance.

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Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain! 

America! America! God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.

America is the embodiment of human liberty. God is the author of liberty. America was the first nation where the  Biblical truth that men are created equal in the sight of God was encoded into the Law of the Land as a tribute of human dignity, life, property, and the right to pursue happiness. Without the grace of God and His guiding hand, America would never have come to be.

Oh, beautiful for pilgrim feet, whose stern, impassioned stress, a thoroughfare of freedom beat across the wilderness!

America! America! God mend thine every flaw. Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.

America was founded by religious seekers who risked all and lost much for the simple right to live according to the dictates of their own consciences. They were stoic and relentless in their pursuit of religious freedom, fleeing many countries until, in the wilderness of North America, they made their home, and paid an unimaginable price for the precious liberty they found. But in their toil and stress, they paved a path for millions and millions, through the generations who would seek to plant their roots in the holy soil of a free land.

The religious underpinnings of the American ideal are undeniable, but this free country can only remain free so long as the people remain a moral people.  As individuals exercise self-control, the need for government decreases. True liberty lies in obedience to the law; most importantly the moral law of God, the only true and eternal authority.

Oh, beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.

America! America! May God thy gold refine, and all success be nobleness, and every gain, divine!

The soil of America is moistened by the blood of heroes; the men and women who willingly risked and gave their lives for the cause of freedom. America is a country beloved, worth fighting and dying for, because liberty is merciful; the only condition truly compatible with the human spirit. The shedding of blood in the name of liberty is a merciful act, akin to that of Jesus Christ, which brings relief from bondage for generations.

America, even with her seemingly infinite wealth and natural resources, finds its true value in its goodness. Gold is only of worth when used in grateful and godly transactions. Success without moral integrity is a failure in its own right. True prosperity cannot come from riches alone, but in the righteous use of wealth and knowledge for the betterment of all.

Oh, beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years. Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears.

America! America! God shed thine grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!

The Founders envisioned a land of liberty with equal opportunity for all where the bonds of hopelessness and oppression would be burst. But could they have known how the idea of government of, by, and for the people would spread like a wildfire across all the lands of the earth? American exceptionalism is our past and the only viable future for the world. In 1776 the American ideal bore a future promise to any and all people who wished to live free. A Shining City on a Hill, America is defined by the brotherhood, the kinship, the equality under the law and in the eyes of God, of all men, women, and children. America has no castes or ruling class or royalty. American government is guided by the people, and the people are guided by moral principles of honor, integrity, compassion, and responsibility.

Brothers and Sisters, our beloved country could be lost if it is not soon restored to its true purpose and identity. But I believe it will not be lost. America is God’s nation. America is still the country to which all people flee seeking liberty and opportunity. America the Beautiful will be restored, but we must first adorn our lives with goodness and love for God and one another.

by Marjorie Haun  7/4/14

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