Churches Ought Not Sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Posted: October 10, 2012 in Church, History

I really wish churches would stop singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic. It was not written by a Christian and is not about the Second Coming of Christ.

The writer of the lyrics, Julia Ward Howe, was a not a Christian, but a Universalist. The song is not about the second coming of Christ but was about the Union army (the army of the Republic of the United States – thus the name) getting ready to crush the Confederacy. It is a Civil War song. Mrs. How was a raging abolitionist (something which I can applaud) and saw the conflict between north and south as the great Battle of Armageddon.

Verse three is blatantly non-Christian:

I have read a fiery gospel, writ in burnished rows of steel:
As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal

Gospel means good news, not death by bayonet. Grace is unmerited favor or receiving what we don’t deserve, not reciprocity. This is a very unchristian song.

I can understand why (though still disagree), at the time, Christian people concerned about abolition of slavery would take up this hymn, but why have we forgotten the source and nature of the hymn?  Why do we insist on singing this “hymn” which came from no Christian source and, despite the biblical allusions, neither edifies the believer nor makes much of God?

I really do wish we’d stop singing this song.

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Comments
  1. Ted Carnahan says:

    Our hymnal significantly alters the words and omits that “gospel” one altogether. The overall effect of the changes is to make it, as you mention, a hymn about Christ’s Second Coming. I still don’t it much worth singing, though.

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