Goshen College has decided to play "America the Beautiful" before its sporting events instead of the "Star-Spangled Banner." The Mennonite Church-affiliated institution located in northern Indiana has long had an issue with the latter piece, since its depiction of glaring rockets and bursting bombs conflicts with Goshen's motto of "healing the world - peace by peace."
Before it ever gained official recognition as our country's national anthem, the "Star-Spangled Banner" became entwined in our unofficial national pastime. Inspired by the War of 1812, it was first played at baseball games during the 1918 World Series, as the United States was fighting World War I. By the end of World War II, the playing and singing of the anthem had spread to other sports, as well, and became a lasting pregame ritual. (The singing of "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch of Major League Baseball games has endured as a post-911 Sunday tradition.)
Goshen, which competes as a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, went so far as to play an instrumental version of the national anthem before games last year, but was immediately met by peaceful protests among students, more than half of whom are Mennonite. The school suspended the practice (though it denied banning the anthem, as some headlines suggested) until a suitable alternative could be identified.
"The words of 'America the Beautiful' are wonderfully descriptive of creation's beauty in the heartland, in the coastlands and in urban and rural settings," read a statement by Goshen president Jim Brenneman, who also considered "God Bless America" and "This Land is Your Land." "They petition God's gracious blessing upon America. Just as we might petition God's grace upon our college, homes, us individually or another nation we love, such requests are never mutually exclusive."