God Bless America by Rev. Dr. Jalene Chase
Updated: Feb 25
In 1918, Irwin Berlin, born Israel Baline, arrived in the US from Russia at the age of five. I know the time frame is outside of my usual 1960’s to 1990’s music, but I felt led to share this song. Many speeches and performances end with the words “God Bless America,” and we can really use that blessing now.
My source for most of this writing is Wikipedia. It notes that Berlin wrote this song while serving in the US Army but sat it aside. Like many of his songs, it had remnants of his Jewish heritage. In 1938, with the rise of Adolf Hitler, Irving Berlin, who was Jewish, felt it was time to revive it as a "peace song," and it was introduced on an Armistice Day broadcast in 1938, sung by Kate Smith on her radio show. The original lyrics were changed to reflect the following, from
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, Through 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.
This is a song of patriotism that reflects cultural, religious, and political tolerance among all groups that call America home. The request for God to stand with us and guide us paints a picture of unity among people journeying together. Regardless of the faith we practice or the many names we call God the creator, the journey to freedom must be inclusive. The song was sung during the early Civil Rights movement, at labor rallies, and sports games. Several noted people, and the Klan, objected to the song because of its Jewish origin and wrote other patriotic songs. But this inspiring song, written by an immigrant, calls us all to swear allegiance to a land that is free. This is a land of immigrants. The only original people are the Indigenous people, and we must do better by them. Unfortunately, we got lost on our journey to liberty and justice for all. We must raise our voice in solemn prayer to seek freedom from bondage, hatred, bigotry, poverty, injustice, exclusion, violence, gender identity intolerance, and political polarization. It causes an inequity in our nation that hinders our ability to recognize that all deserve the blessing that this American home can provide. Then one day we can truly be grateful for a land that is FAIR.
Our church has members of several cultures. We know that it is possible to work together for the welfare of all people and we welcome the guidance of God to make all free. If you feel the same, join us. We meet virtually for worship on Sunday mornings at 10 am Meeting ID: 851 2578 5976 Passcode: 850888 One tap mobile +13017158592, Bible study on Wednesdays, and Check-in to chat on Thursdays. More information can be found on our webpage www.eumcbeltsville.com or our Facebook page www.facebook.com/groups/EUMCBeltsville/. Until next time: