It has been a consistent habit of mine over the last ten years to regularly have my nose in a book. My mentors have instilled this habit in me and for that I am truly thankful. Learning, I have found, is the most exciting thing that you can do. At the same time learning new things is often very inconvenient and very perplexing. In all honesty learning can be downright maddening. As one of my mentors has often told me, “Before the truth will set you free it will often tick you off first.” Just recently I found myself quite ticked off at something I discovered. I found myself asking questions like, “Why has no one ever taught me this before?” The reality is that they didn’t teach me because they didn’t know.
This historical fact I discovered recently was that the national anthem was not written during the revolutionary war and that it was not named the national anthem until about one hundred and fifty years after the founding of America. Now, I know the blind loyalist will say, “I don’t care when it is written that is still my song.” Unfortunately, my mind does not work that way. I am not sure if this is a curse or a blessing at times. It certainly causes me to lose sleep often. Upon discovering this truth I began diving deeper, doing some research, and was even more concerned about what I found. You see I was the person that looked at what Colin and many of the other NFL players were doing and said, “Why don’t you just stand? That is what an American does.” These new facts I was discovering began exposing my hypocritical legalism in which I wanted to bind others consciences to something that the Bible does not command and that the constitution itself does not command. Perhaps my response was more a result of my funky fundy (fundamentalist) background and was not founded in the truth of God’s Word and the truth of history.
Francis Scott Key
The author of The Star Spangled Banner was not a patriotic war hero like I had always envisioned. Francis Scott Key was an attorney who found himself aboard a British naval ship attempting to negotiate for POW’s that the British were holding. This was during the war of 1812 and not the revolutionary war. He wrote the song as he was aboard this ship while he was watching the battle rage on from the shore. The ironic thing is that he actually opposed America entering into the war of 1812.
Furthermore, there is a stanza of the song that we don’t sing. This stanza has been a point of contention and controversy. It describes how the black slaves died and gave their lives fighting the war of 1812. The stanza says:
"And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."
Here we have an attorney attempting to negotiate freeing some POW’s while watching black American slaves fight valiantly to narrowly secure victory in this war. That is not the picture I always had of how the song was created.
In addition Francis Scott Key went on record stating that the Africans in America belong to an inferior race, "a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” Could we possibly see based on these facts how many Americans, particularly African Americans, would not necessarily have an infatuation with the song?
Another thing I discovered that deeply troubled me in my stance towards the national anthem was that it was first named the national anthem via executive order by Woodrow Wilson in 1919. This captured my attention on three different fronts. First, why was a president involved in “naming” a national anthem? That is clearly outside of the bounds of the God given role that he has to protect from foreign invaders and to make sure that evildoers are punished. Romans 13 outlines his role very clearly. Second, why did a president need to sign in a national anthem by executive order? It seems like there might be more important things to use that power for. Third, it was interesting to me that out of all presidents it was Woodrow Wilson that signed the order. Wilson was a man who led our nation through some of the greatest changes in history in which power was being shifted away from self government to centralized governmental power. He was a central figure in creating the federal beast that we know today which is completely antithetical to the founders vision of America.
During Wilson’s presidency he ratified the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. This created our national banking system and what is now referred to as the Federal Reserve Bank. Don’t let the terms fool you. This federal bank is not federal nor does it have a reserve. It is a private bank that is in bed with the federal government to manipulate and control the money supply. Now, this bank has complete control over the banks and the money supply. They have literally enslaved people financially. We can thank none other than Woodrow Wilson for leading the charge in this.
In addition, during Wilson’s presidency the sixteenth amendment was ratified. Not familiar with this? Here is what the amendment states:
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
What this means is that the federal government was given the power to tax the people with absolutely no limits placed on them. This has lead to excessive taxes of the American worker, stripping freedoms from them. The next time you look at your pay check and see the federal income tax that is taken out, you can thank Woodrow Wilson for leading the charge in this.
At this point many of you reading this may be responding to yourself by saying, “So what?” What does any of this have to do with the national anthem? The point is that the same person who changed the landscape of America was the same person who issued the executive order naming the “Star Spangled Banner” as our national anthem. Wilson was not concerned with following the constitution and carrying out the founder's vision. He was concerned with creating a statist god in which the people would fall down and worship. In redefining America he had to redefine what it meant to be an American. Since, he was not concerned with following the constitution he needed something else for the people to commit to. His solution? An American is patriotic. An American reveres the flag. To solidify this act of worship he needed an anthem. A song that the people could sing to declare their commitment to the new statist god. His solution: sign in a beloved song of the American people. He wrote in the “Star Spangled Banner” to be a worship song for the new statist god that he created which was not the America the founders envisioned. If you support his version of America then please yes keep telling other Americans that they must stand for the national anthem.
Thank You Colin
In light of this I must extend a thank you to Colin Kaepernick. (Let me be clear on that point, lest I get accused of being a Marxist again). This does not mean I am in favor of Colin’s version of what America should be. I am thankful that by you creating this controversy it caused me to do some more research and to learn this somewhat troubling history. I am thankful that you have caused me to see clearly what it means to be an American. An American is not defined by the way in which he or she behaves towards a song. An American is defined by whether or not he or she supports, defends, and abides by the constitution. The question is not whether or not Colin, or any American for that matter, should stand or kneel. The question is do we follow the constitution. The next time you hear the national anthem feel the liberty to respond to it anyway you deem fit whether that is standing or kneeling. Colin, and the rest of the players following suit, if you feel like it is the right thing to do to keep kneeling in order to take a stance against police brutality then please continue kneeling. This is your first amendment right. Also, know that it is the right of the NFL and any team to either allow you to keep doing it or to give you the boot. If you don’t support this position then you are not truly an American, my friend. You are a follower of the Wilsonian god that was created. You are the one that needs to repent.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.