Yuillogistically Speaking

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“Eulogy (yew’-loj-i) a speech
or written testimony greatly
praising some person
or thing”

 By Major Chick Yuills –


 

It’s happened once too often, and the embarrassment is too terrible to experience even one more time. I stand there, completely dumb, while everybody else in the room sings, hand on heart and eyes on the flag. Well, their eyes should be on the flag, but really they’re all watching me-at least, that’s what it feels like. So I’ve mastered the tune and memorized the words, and next time I go to Rotary, or any other public gathering where patriotism is the order of the day, I’ll be singing with the best of them:

O say, can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming…

The only thing that’s worrying me now is what happens if they sing “God Bless America” or “O beautiful for spacious skies”? I guess I’ve still got some learning to do.

Life is a lot less complicated back in the UK. It isn’t just that we’ve only got one national anthem, “God Save Our Gracious Queen,” which we don’t sing all that often. (You Americans seem to have three without even counting those songs that express your pride in belonging to whatever state in the union you claim as your birthplace. For us Scots, of course, there’s “Scotland the Brave” and “Flower O’Scotland,” but they’re more about fighting the English than about being Scottish!)

There’s also the fact that we’re not nearly so good as Americans at being patriotic. We get too easily embarrassed-the British “stiff upper lip” and all that. I can just imagine the tongue-tied mess we’d make of the “Pledge of Allegiance” if we had one. I’ve got to hand it to you: you’re far better at being patriotic than we are. I guess that’s the glue that holds together a nation as culturally varied and ethnically diverse as America. I’ve only been here eight months and already I’m beginning to feel a tug at my heart and a tear in my eye at the first strains of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The only problem with patriotism is that, like every other virtue, it carries the seeds of its own vices. A proper patriotism, unrestrained, can easily degenerate into a narrow nationalism; a perfectly justifiable pride in one’s own country and culture can, almost unnoticed, slip into bigotry and racism. It’s a process that we have witnessed all too often in world events in the 20th century.

Thank God for the Gospel, with its insistence that God’s love is for all men and women. Thank God for the internationalism of The Salvation Army. In our earliest days, headquarters in London, understandably mimicking the terminology of governments, had a “foreign office.” But wise leaders soon realized that there are no foreigners in God’s sight. The offensive phrase was replaced by “overseas department” and ultimately by International Headquarters.

When Britain found itself at war with Germany in 1914, Bramwell Booth, our second general, was careful to guard the Army’s internationalism against unwise nationalistic sentiments. He expressed our allegiance to a cause which is greater than country when he reminded Salvationists everywhere that, since every land was his Father’s land, every land was his Fatherland.

The most moving event I have experienced since coming to California, the thing that has made me most proud to be a soldier in this Army, has been to be present at a gathering at which Anglo and Hispanic Salvationists openly expressed repentance and offered forgiveness to each other for prejudices which they had harbored in their hearts and sometimes expressed in their actions. Our Father in heaven must have laughed and cried with us that day.

Perhaps it was George Scott Railton who best expressed the conviction that the Salvationist is ultimately a citizen of heaven, a soldier of Jesus Christ, a friend of every human being and the enemy of none, save Satan and his hosts:

 

No home on earth have I
No nation owns my soul.
My dwelling place is the Most high,
I’m under his control.
O’er all the earth alike,
My Father’s grand domain.
Each land and sea with him alike,
O’er all he yet shall reign.
With thee, my God, is home;
With thee is endless joy;
With thee in ceaseless rest I roam;
With thee, can death destroy?
With thee, the east, the west,
The north, the south are one;
The battle’s front I love the best,
And yet: thy will be done.

The patriotic songs we sing, the pledge of allegiance we make, the political party for which we vote-all may have their place. But, for the Salvationist, no other loyalty can rival our unreserved commitment to Jesus Christ, our untiring combat against evil, and our unceasing compassion for men and women of every nation under heaven.

 

(No doubt this monthly column will give me opportunity to preach, protest or even pontificate. But, as far as possible, the emphasis will be on positive praise for all things good.-cy)

 


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