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August 25, 2010 / beidson

Anthem: Why We Rally, Why We Fight, Why We Die (and Why We Live)

Maybe you don’t get goose bumps when you hear your national anthem, and that’s okay.  But you probably have a song that does make your hair stand on end, that sweeps over you like a wave of zealous engergy.  And that’s okay too.  The real issue is the truthfulness of the tune that brings the tears.

Anthems are part of our heritage and inheritance.  We have been singing from the beginning, and we will sing forever with Christ in the New Creation (not all the time, but always).  The reason anthems are so significant to us is becasue they present stories about truth in a climactic manner, or at least stories about perceived truth.  They might be pop-chart material, but any anthem will appeal to an underlying significant truth which is permanent, such as love, whether love for country, king or crede.

And their permanence is not the only significant element.  Anthems seek to draw people together under that perceived truth, in order to fight and even die for that truth.  Anthems are grand stories about enduring victory and legacy which call out to people and draw them together for a passionate pursuit of and fight for the truth.  Ultimately, anthems are about rejoicing because they anticipate the conquering of opposing antitheses and enemies.  Anthems are about the lasting glory of champions.

I say perceived truth because not all tunes are true tunes.  For instance, take “Uprising” by Muse, a modern day anthem if there ever was one.  Here is a battle cry for the masses: It’s time to stop being pushed around by the “fat cats”–we need to rise up and take the power back–we need to take matters into our own hands–no worries, we will be victorious.  Highly politically-charged, of course–it’s so easy to be down on government (therein is a great gospel reality as well).  This anthem has everything: swelling choruses, a glorious mantra, chanting, triumphant chord progression, marching rythm, spiritual overtones, and a revolutionary message.

But this song is not true, at least not in the way it intends to be.  It is true that we are controlled by an oppressor, but it is not the government or any other fat cat at the top; it is an altogether different enemy, one far more fierce and aggressive–the real fat cat, who prowls around looking for lives to devour.  It is Lucifer, who led a host of angels in rebellion against God and now holds the world captive by the power of death.  “Uprising” sounds true because it rebels against supposed oppression and calls people everywhere to rise up and die for freedom, as do national anthems.  But these songs only get half the point.  They beckon us to die for lesser kings and causes, whoever and whatever they might be.  “Uprising” may have different motives than “Star Spangled Banner” but both are voices crying in the wilderness “Prepare the way for the Messiah.”  Only problem is, they are hoping in the wrong messiah.

Now our national anthems shouldn’t be about Jesus, to be sure, although recognition of God’s sovereign rule is appropriate.  But in our national anthems and in “Uprising” and in any other anthem we ought to hear a common theme throughout, one which calls us to come together for reasons that transcend our differences, one which calls us to lasting joy.

But if we think we will find this joy in rebellion against any man or movement, we are hopelessly deluded.  Only the gospel can give us the freedom and joy we are looking for.  Any anthem of man is in rebellion against God, because like Lucifer, we foolishly believe he is the grand oppressor, hiding behind laws and lies.  Before we can find lasting joy, we must confess that God is not our oppressor, but that sin and death and Satan are.  We must confess that God is our enemy because we are evil, not because he is.  And we must abandon the anthems of sinful men which call us to fight against one another and God, and sing the anthem of Christ which declares the victory of his blood and resurrection over the grave.

Here is our song for eternity, our anthem forever, a song about the lasting glory of our King and Champion: “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).

Now that’s a song to get goose bumps over.

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