This week marks the anniversary of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” being recorded by American songstress, Kate Smith. I have a fond personal memory of this song; I remember my Nana playing it on the upright piano in the farmhouse. I also have a distinct memory of attending Grange meetings with her and singing “God Bless America,” along with “Bringing in the Sheaves.”
Irving Berlin was a Jewish immigrant whose love for America was instilled in him by his mother. She often said, “God bless America” in recognition of how the freedom of our nation saved her family. It’s a sentiment we sometime forget. Have we become so comfortable in our liberties that we’ve forgotten how fragile they can be? “God Bless America” has been an anthem through the darkest moments of American history. It brought us through World War II and its message sustained us even through September 11, 2001 when members of Congress stood on the steps of the Capitol to sing Berlin’s words of prayer:
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.
The words are simple, but the message is powerful. First, Berlin recognizes God as our only refuge in times of trouble (Psalm 9:9-10). Second, he sees God as the author of America’s beauty, both in its freedom and in his creation of the land (Psalm 19:1-4). Finally, the song proclaims a deep personal love for the United States. That is the very heart of becoming a Praying Patriot; we are called to pray for the future of our nation, praise God for the blessings he’s already bestowed on us, and embrace America as the home he’s given us.
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© Joshua J. Masters and American Psalms, 2012.