Thursday, 8 August 2013

We worship you, Democracy

In the modern age, a lot of people take issue with the national anthems of their various countries, since the music seems to come from a different age. One of the main criticisms is that all these songs are so God orientated, praying for protection and peace, and often saying thanks for the gifts that a country has already received.

As the western world has moved on from its Christian past, or at least has made bold steps away from it, it makes sense that these old anthems are challenged, and it looks like Switzerland might be about to make some changes. A competition is going to take place, where people can submit versions of the anthem that contain no references to God, since Switzerland is meant to be neutral on the topic of religion.

This is completely fine, since every country should have an anthem that represents them, and how they want to be seen. If the people of Switzerland have decided that their old anthem was a bit rubbish, then getting a new anthem makes sense.

After all, a lot of countries are stuck with music that is enough to discourage them from making it onto the podium at a sporting event. Rewriting, or choosing a new anthem, is not necessarily a bad thing. And, if Switzerland wants to replace its old anthem with a religiously neutral one, then I would not have any more objections than I would if an Islamic country adopted a Muslim prayer as its national song.

However, it will be interesting to see what the song is about, as this will show us exactly how the Swiss view themselves, and what they think is worth singing about. Helpfully, the man running the competition has given some recommendations for content.

He says that the Swiss should celebrate the things that are celebrated in their constitution, meaning issues such as democracy and solidarity. This, he says, are topics worthy of being looked up to in a new song, and are the very things that the Swiss stands for. If we think about it, then there are a lot worse things he could have suggested. In fact, those issues some up the country of Switzerland quite well, so it makes it makes sense that he wants everyone to able to proudly sing about it as loudly as they can.

Yet, it still seems sad that a prayer to God, called the Swiss Psalm, is going to be removed from its important place. This is because it will be removed because this is what Europe has become, a place that worships and adores democracy, solidarity, and freedom, rather than God. As a Christian, however much the world has changed, that still does grate a little bit.

The national anthem is going to be a song about the positives of being a nation with Christian heritage, without any mention of the guy who made it all possible. Democracy in the west used to be about respecting the rights of man, as we were created in the image of God, while freedom and solidarity were parts of showing love for one another. The effect that Christianity has had on Europe has been great, with Christians such as William Wilberforce being fundamental in the building of who we are, but many, like those in Switzerland, now want to abandon God in favour of his blessings.

This seems like an imbalance, and something that doesn't really make sense to Christians. To those who are not Christians, and believe that God was a theological idea that somebody once came up with, or the product of primeval superstition, it makes perfect sense that He was nothing to do with building civilization. The reality however, is that so much of what we stand for has come from Christians following their faith in the public world, and it seems a shame to waste all that.

Switzerland, and Europe, is changing, and that is something that should be respected, but things like this show a lot about what they are changing into. They are changing into a world where democracy is a goal, and not a tool with which to seek a goal, where human rights is a utopia, and not a responsibility from God. All these things seem worryingly temporary and fragile without the authority of God to stabilise them, and it really makes no sense to worship things that God created rather than God Himself.

A song changing words doesn't matter that much, however. What matters is that we are prepared to see what it means, and do something about it. We should pray for Europe, seek to live a Christian life in public view, and really try and make sure that we do what we are meant to. Then we can be used as much as Wilberforce was. That is how nations are changed, the anthems are just symptoms of change.

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