Happy Canada Day to any of our Canadian readers out there. In honor of our own national holiday coming up on Monday, I dug into my guilt file and pulled out the coverage from a few weeks ago of Goshen College’s decision to stop playing the National Anthem.
Last year, the school decided that they would try out the song before sporting events, but apparently administrators received so much backlash that they decided to halt the short-lived tradition. The Reading Eagle thought it was hilarious to publish this promo:
” ‘Oh, Say Can You See? No.’
“Mennonite-based Goshen (Ind.) College will no longer play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ before games because of complaints it went against the school’s pacifist philosophy.
“As if the baseball team’s 10-41 record left any doubt.”
We also have some recent radio coverage from WBEZ, Chicago’s public radio station. While I normally love listening to this station when I pass through town, this piece fell a little bit flat, even though Goshen is practically in Chicago’s back yard. When I read the coverage, I was looking for the explanation for why the college removed the practice.
It’s connected to the Mennonite Church, a Christian-based faith.
A primary tenet of the church is non-violence. It also takes the separation of church and state very seriously.
The church doesn’t restrict the handful of its colleges from playing the anthem.
“A Christian-based faith” doesn’t really tell us much about the Mennonite church at all. “It also takes the separation of church and state very seriously” doesn’t explain how it feels about the idea, just merely that it takes it very seriously. Perhaps the story should note that Goshen is connected to Mennonite Church USA, just one of many Mennonite groups but may be the most mainstream.
Goshen College isn’t the only Mennonite school that refuses to play the anthem.
A college in Kansas and another in Virginia don’t play it either.
But neither received the backlash Goshen College is now getting.
Do Goshen administrators have any theories as to why they are getting the backlash in particular? Last year, administrators admitted student enrollment was on the decline; Did the criticism from other fellow Mennonites outweigh those concerns?
Since making both moves, what kind of reaction have they received from the community or nationally? Who were some of the players involved in the debate? I know Stanley Hauerwaus, Shane Claiborne and Mike Gallagher have been mentioned in previous coverage.
I would also be curious to hear how the school handles American flags, whether they display them or not. That leads me to this piece from Associated Baptist Press on whether churches should display the American flag in the sanctuary. As we approach the stuff-yourself-with-hotdogs-day, there are other similar stories to explore around this holiday on love of country, love of God, and whether there’s a hierarchy.