The Editor in Chief for Yahoo Music wrote a column this week examining the history of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and suggested that the United States might want to search for a new national anthem. She also spoke with a journalist and activist who suggested replacing “The Star-Spangled Banner” with John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Lyndsey Parker referenced several incidents that have happened in recent weeks regarding the National Anthem. First, protestors overturned a statue of “The Star-Spangled Banner’s” author Francis Scott Key in San Francisco. Also, a student at the Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts in New York refused to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a virtual graduation ceremony. Instead, Liana Morales sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which many have called the “Black National Anthem.’
Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” after observing the Battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. Key held slaves and said that Black people were “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.”
Parker spoke with Kevin Powell, an activist and journalist who starred in the first season of MTV’s The Real World. Powell cited Key’s being born into a slave-holding family, his prosecution of abolitionists during his time as a lawyer, and his friendship with President Andrew Jackson, whom Powell calls “the Donald Trump of his time” as key components of Key’s questionable legacy.
Powell also referenced the rarely-sung third stanza of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It reads, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or 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.” Powell said he has not sung the national anthem since learning about its history in the 1980s.
When posed with the question of what a new national anthem should be, Powell said John Lennon’s “Imagine.” He called it “the most beautiful, unifying, all-people, all-backgrounds-together kind of song you could have.” Lennon’s song invites people to imagine a world with no heaven, no hell, no countries, and no religion.
Dan Andros, writing at Faithwire, took issue with Parker’s piece and Powell’s suggestion of “Imagine” as a national anthem. He said Lennon “described the song as the communist manifesto,” pointing out that “communism has left 100 million people dead according to David Satter.”
Andros also took issue with the piece’s portrayal of Key. While acknowledging Key’s troubled past, he said that Key also freed slaves and represented others who were seeking their freedom. He also said that Key spoke out against “violence and cruelty against slaves.” Andros concluded about Key, “while Key is certainly not some clairvoyant figure in history who sought to end slavery, and indeed spent most of his life in court on the opposing side of abolitionists, his story doesn’t fit entirely snug into one narrative.”
Andros called for Christians to do the one thing we can do “as we navigate this highly divisive and reactive moment.” He asked us to, “Pray for our nation.”
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