Patriotism in the international church

This post is a follow-up to something I wrote ages ago about the lack of patriotism in the international church.

One rarely sees overt displays of patriotism in British Mormonism. There are three reasons for this, two of which have little to do with the church.

First of all, the UK has no obvious spot on the calendar that lends itself to flag waving. The United Kingdom traces its political existence to the Act of Union between England and Scotland in 1707, but no-one has ever suggested any national holiday to celebrate the event. The Scots would grumble about English domination; the English would grumble about Scottish grumbling; and the Welsh and Northern Irish would yawn into their tea cups.

The saints’ days offer something to each individual nation of the UK,* but whilst the Celts happily embrace Andrew, David, and Patrick, the chattering classes have convinced England that any celebration of St. George is nationalistic and xenophobic. Therein lies problem two: not only does the UK have no natural national holiday, we would also be slightly embarrassed at the prospect. Waving the flag and singing Rule Britannia — in an era when Britain no longer “rules the waves” (we ceded that position to the descendants of John Paul Jones), and when memories of the British Empire cause the nervous shuffling of feet — is simply not something you see much of outside of the soccer stadia.

This is not to say, however, that the British are not patriotic. They are, just quietly so. You might think Mormons would offer a more confident exception. After all, we have the idea of loyal patriotism enshrined in scripture and a ream of admonitions to be patriotic from church leaders. But therein lies the rub: Mormon patriotism carries, for obvious reasons, the patina of American patriotism, and it is difficult for non-American Saints to transfer their own patriotic urges into the vernacular. We also have a Gospel which embraces America above all nations. Given the dominance of America (= Zion) in historical and cultural Mormonism, would British, or French, or Chilean patriotism ring hollow in a Mormon context?

Whatever reasons we ascribe to this patriotism-phobia, as a phenomenon it sits comfortably with my experience of 28 years of European Mormonism. Until yesterday, I had never heard the national anthem sung in a British Mormon context.

Reading between the lines here, you might sense my regret at this situation. So, when the opportunity arose to bring the Union Jack to my local ward, I jumped. Rebecca is the ward music chair and I suggested to her last year that we hold a ward “Proms Night.” The Proms are a series of classical music concerts which are broadcast every summer; the Last Night of the Proms is a night for raucous patriotism and merriment. Mormons are not comfortable with raucous, but we felt that they could manage merry. And so the Worcester Ward Proms Night was born: the chapel was decorated with the British flag and Rebecca organised a programme of national poetry and song.

On 26 July 2008, God Save the Queen was sung in my church for the first time in my life. And you know what? The people loved it.

From England’s national hymn, Jerusalem, come these very Mormon words:

Bring me my bow of burning gold,

Bring me my arrows of desire.

Bring me my spear —

Oh clouds unfold! —

Bring me my chariot of fire.

I will not cease from mental fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,

‘Til we have built Jerusalem,

In England’s green and pleasant land.


* England has a particular problem: much of what is perceived to be British is in fact English. Do we celebrate England or Britain or both?

N.B. This being BCC, let me anticipate two points. 1. Yes, I do know that unfettered, bombastic patriotism can make rascals of all of us. Lamented President Kimball, “we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot.” 2. By and large, and speaking metaphorically, I prefer the flag to fly outside rather than inside the church. I would quickly tire of a frequent sacrament-meeting-as-patriotism hour. Note that our Proms Night was held as a Saturday activity.


  1. When I was a child (lat 50’s early 60’s), we were in then British (or Western) Samoa for three years. I remember singing “God Save the Queen” in church there.

  2. Sunday, July 1, 2001. My family (both my own and some extended) are attending a sacrament meeting in Branford, Ontario, on our way home from a fishing trip.

    The opening hymn is “O, Canada”, sung with a fervor (and announced by the bishop with, dare I say, a hint of defiance) that I’ve not associated before with Canadians (which include mission companions, coworkers, old roommates, etc.).

    As for the lyrics from Jerusalem, they also appear in one of my favorite movies, “Chariots of Fire”.

  3. As for Chilean patriotism, it’s hard for Church members to figure out how to express patriotism when the rest of the country still is trying to figure it out for themselves.

    We’re closing in a couple of decades since I was in Chile, but back then, it was a big question for many Saints as to whether to celebrate the 11th of September or not (1973, not 2001). In some Pinochet-friendly areas, the Saints did 9/11 big. In other areas that were decided desaparecido-friendly, 9/11 was just a day off and a day to try to ignore the history. (Both groups did celebrate Independence Day, 9/18, in big fashion — we always lost prime investigators to WoW problems on 9/18).

  4. Some of this is due to the historical connections between the rise of the Church and America.

    However, I think it is also apparent that another part of it is that American patriotism is very unique in a couple ways.

    Americans are loudly patriotic, and not particularly modest about it.

    American patriotism is not linked to any specific nationality- as it is in most countries- rather it is a celebration of the founding ideas and ideals. I think it can not be emphasized enough how very… bizarre that is as a form of patriotism.

    Historically patriotism has tended to be: “Our nation is better”, which implies that “our nationality is better”.

    American patriotism tends to revolve around: “Our ideas are better, our form of government is better, therefore our nation is better”.

  5. I always thought it was interesting that we had “God Save the King” as the last hymn in the hymnbook, after all of the American patriotic hymns. To me, it always smacked of “throwing a bone” or making a nod (however slight) to the notion that the church extends beyond America’s borders.

    I think it’d be awesome if we started printing more nationalistic songs from other (at least English speaking) countries in the hymnal. It’d be great to learn some of these and help my children understand that other people are proud of their homelands as well. Does anyone know if they include patriotic songs in non-English hymnals for the countr(ies) that speak the particular language?

    FWIW, we sang “God Save the Queen” in Family Home Evening the week of July 4th along with other patriotic songs. Maybe next year we should sing “O Canada” and make it a tradition.

  6. Peter LLC says:

    I suppose there’s nothing wrong with some red white and blue patriotism outside the mother ship–you just wouldn’t want to let it spread to the continent; with all that talk of children pledging allegiance to flourishing fatherlands, you’d have Germany, France and Austria at each other’s throats in no time in a fit of imperial nostalgia.

  7. Peter LLC says:

    American patriotism is very unique in a couple ways.

    Americans are loudly patriotic, and not particularly modest about it.

    Have you been to France in July?

  8. By the way, I checked out your old post, and noticed nobody commented on the “Battle Hymn of The Republic” referring to the French republic.

    I figure that was probably sarcasm. But just in case it wasn’t (heck I thought it was the French republic until High School), the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” is referring to the United States, specifically the Union as in the Union vs the Confederacy. It was an anthem for the North in the American Civil War.

  9. jonahtrainer says:

    Cicero in #4, how fitting. Yes, it would be good if the inspired ideas in the Declaration of Independence were still implemented in America. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Where there is liberty, there is my country.” I have always found patriotism fairly odd as countries are just brands like Coke or Pepsi and not to be trusted (just look at the current state of America with extraordinary rendition, etc.).

    I suppose patriotic Mormons the world over would do well to celebrate the ideas also. The doctrine is clear an unequivocal being mainly found in D&C 134, The Constitution A Heavenly Banner by Pres. Benson at BYU on Sep 17, 1986 and throughout the Book of Mormon.

  10. cj douglass says:

    Excellent Ronan. Your post strangely warms my heart.

  11. These words by the great Jeremy Paxman resonate with me when I think about why the English aren’t overtly patriotic:

    “So before the English submerge themselves in gloom again, it is worth noticing that there is something positive about the fact that the English have not devoted a lot of energy to discussing who they are. It is a mark of self-confidence: the English have not spent a great deal of time defining themselves because they haven’t needed to.”

    Having said that, I take any opportunity I can to sing Jerusalem. Thanks for the post, Ronan.

  12. Norbert says:

    Interesting post. I think the English/British situation is especially difficult for the reasons you mention, Ronan. (I recently read The English by Jeremy Paxman and he deals with the problems of English identity at length — and isn’t Brown threatening to do something about it?)
    The Finns have both the national hymn (‘Finlandia Hymn’ by Sebelius) and the national anthem (‘Maamme’ by Runeberg) are in the hymnbook and are sung in early December for Independence Day.

  13. Wonderful post, Ronan. Not much to say beyond that.

  14. Mark B. says:

    In Sidney, British Columbia (just up the pike from Victoria), on June 30 this year. I leaned over to my Canadian-born wife and wondered aloud if we would sing “O Canada”, since it wasn’t in the printed program.

    The bishop got up, made the announcements and then said that we’d sing #342 for the opening. Pasted in the back of each hymnal was a photocopy of O Canada. And we stood up and sang it, all four verses, at a livelier tempo than I’m accustomed to (at the start of baseball games when the Expos used to come to NY).

    The fans loved it. It’s hard not to like the song, what with my Canadian connections (wife’s family, daughter’s husband, both parents’ missions) and stirring words: who can’t get worked up about the “true north strong and free” or about “standing on guard for thee”?

  15. Norbert/Gomez,
    That is a great book. And as long as England has Jeremy Paxman on the telly, we shall remain a blessed land. Yes, the government has been floating the idea of Britain Day. Sounds fishy to me.

  16. RickFFM says:

    I can remember the German national anthem in the MTC and later being surprised to learn that it wasn’t something most Germans sang outside of a football match. And it wasn’t in the German hymn book, so the few times we sang it on my mission, we turned to the English-language hymn book. (Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken).

  17. RickFFM says:

    oops … that should have been remember learning the German national anthem in the MTC …

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    We once sand God Save the Queen in a sacrament meeting. I’m guessing it was an oversight by the music chairman. It was the closing song and after it was over, I kid you not, a woman stood up in the congregation and basically demanded that we follow it with My Country, Tis of Thee. So we did.

    But I didn’t see the need to get all snippy about it. I would have been fine with leaving it as it was.

  19. But remember, in Utah, they care more about a holiday 20 days later than 7/4. And because of that, we have misguided wards in the Southern part of the US singing “Carry On” on the penultimate Sunday in July (no, we have no firm mountains around us).

  20. Thomas Parkin says:

    My mother is adopted and we don’t know her ancestry. But virtually every drop of blood I inherited from my father comes from Derbyshire and Yorkshire.

    I once was talking to a little old British lady in a park in San Luis Obispo, CA. She had two beautiful Russian Wolf Hounds, and I struck up a conversation about her dogs. In the course of talking I mentioned that my last name was unusual here in the West. She replied that its a rather common surname in York, and that there is even a kind of bread or cake called a Parkin Loaf.

    Anyway – I love England. I consider it odd how much I love it. Maybe ancestral memories. Among the things that can nearly bring me to tears is almost any rendition of Jerusalem (what kind of awesome country has a national hymn written by William Blake!!), and the opening sequences of the Merchant Ivory adaptation of Howards End, where the elder Wilcox matriarch is walking around her house.

    Damn good country you’ve got there.


  21. Speaking of strange hymn choices, today we sang Now the Day is Over for the closing hymn – at 1:00 PM, a good six or seven hours before night was drawing nigh. Here is a hymn that has basically become useless. We used to sing it all the time before the 3-hour block, when sacrament meeting really was in the evening.

  22. Very thoughtful post, Ronan. I love Blake’s “Jerusalem”, btw, and often read it to my students. (If I weren’t self-conscious, I’d sing it.)

    One of the missionaries we just sent off–Elder Snee–is from Scotland, and looks like he could be my son–red hair and an absolutely charming smile. He celebrated the 4th of July by doing a magnificent (if over-zealous–for the MTC) imitation of Braveheart, which my husband witnessed when he went to bid the missionaries good night. I told Elder Snee that I want to see his act as soon as he returns from his mission. I’m guessing I’ll have to go to Scotland to see it, though. However, we might well do that. We’re scheduled to be in England in two years.

    If you’re there when we are, I’ll gladly sing “Jerusalem” with you.

  23. Michelle says:

    As a Canadian, I don’t remember NOT singing O Canada every year in sacrament meeting. I would venture to say, O Canada is sung with more fervor than any other hymn all year long. We also have a ward Canada Day picnic each year with many decked out in red and white. I don’t think Canadian mormons are complacent about their country and what it means to them.

  24. Sidebar – I heard a radio host in Dallas tell a story about the events that led to an NHL franchise relocating to Texas. One of the first events to show a latent interest was a preseason game with Edmonton and someone else (St. Louis?) played in Dallas, and the crowd was louder in their appreciation after “O Canada” than “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Maybe because Texans appreciate good anthems…

    Anyway, the guy was trying to make the point that because of the rendition of “O Canada” and the enthusiastic reaction, the ball started rolling toward other events that eventually helped bring the NHL in Texas and eventually other non-traditional climes…

  25. Norbert–so do the Finns have the national anthem AND “Be Still My Soul” (set to the same music) or just the one?

    Ronan, I just shot an e-mail to my husband, who is in your neck of the woods (I forgot to send a copy of the doc with him). I mentioned your post to him and observed that the Brits have an anthem which talks about Jesus, while we Americans talk about a flag and bombs. (I’d prefer “O Beautiful For Spacious Skies” for our anthem.) BYU’s server is down now, but once it’s up, feel free to contact him at Bruce_Young at . He’s staying at a lovely bed and breakfast, seeing plays, preparing for the C.S. Lewis conference, and pondering the hard losses he’s suffered over the past three months. Shakespeare is moving him in unusual ways. He also took Obama’s memoir _Dreams From My Father_ and was hit hard by Obama’s account of his mother’s death.

  26. We sang Come, Come Ye Saints on the 20th and Cary On today. Odd to sing about the desert in the midst of the Adirondacks!

  27. The Right Trousers says:

    Hey, British folks can be patriotic. For example, I remember singing “God Save the Queen” for the opening hymn in a district meeting in Scotland. But it didn’t correspond to any local holiday I was aware of, so I fear it may have only been a bit of cheek from our English district leader…

    FWIW, Scottish nationalism is alive and well in the Church in Scotland. A few old timers always came to Church in their kilts. I suffered through more than one Robbie Burns Night haggis at official ward functions. Ward members often got together to burn Guy Fawkes in effigy, and of course the elders were always more than happy to “fellowship” with them on these occasions.

  28. Steve Evans says:

    “Have you been to France in July?”

    Yes, I have, and it’s not patriotic in the American sense at all. The French for the most part detest singing La Marseillaise, and although there are fireworks and cavorting it is distinctly un-tied from the Republic itself in its current form (albeit celebrating the historical greatness of France is an ongoing duty).

  29. Walt Nicholes says:

    I worry about the “role” of patriotism generally. In my experience it is the shell of a number of activities that are meant to incite strong emotion and allegiance, which is then applied to violent and dubious activities.

    Don’t get me wrong – in the name of patriotism I enlisted for 4 years in the army during the Viet Nam war. I felt, or was taught to feel, that it was as much my patriotic duty to serve in the US Military as it was to serve a mission (which I did before enlisting.) I love America, but more than that I love the constitution of the United States. And I have really strong doubts about fighting a war that doesn’t involve a direct attack on our own shores.

    I feel that the best way we can bless another country or people is to bring them the gospel. Rearranging their government is something that they should do themselves – much like Washington, Adams, and Jefferson and their associates did. I don’t believe that we can give a lasting freedom to another people unless they want it enough to get it for themselves.

    So after rambling – back to my point. Let us sing songs of appreciation for our blessings, let us resolve to protect our liberties, and let that be our patriotism. Let it be something deep and quiet inside us until someone threatens it directly. And let us remember, and keep in proper context, that once, during the oppression of our people our leaders lambasted the government of the US, but always remained steadfast to the constitution.

  30. I can’t believe it falls to a former UU now living in Ohio to point out that it wasn’t a Mormon who wrote “For the Strength of the Hills.”

    Nationalism (singing “O Canada” and St. George’s Day and the rest of it) seems to me to be only a small subset of patriotic behavior, and I think I can make an argument that most of the stuff discussed above has no real impact on anything in the Gospel — or about as much of an impact as the belief that your region makes the best cheese or that there aren’t any trees as nice as the ones in your own backyard or that your mom is the best mom in the world. And I’m all about flags and singing happy, vigorous hymns (at the proper tempo, which always happens more with songs that people know well.) So yay for Ronan’s activity.

  31. Meredith C says:

    Jerusalem – the best hymn ever. I can’t sing it without getting choked up.

  32. Oh, Margaret, give Francis Scott Key more credit. Why were the rockets and bombs in the poem? Because the light from those rockets and bombs (all launched by the Brits, damn ’em!) “gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

    And, in Key’s poem, so long as the flag waves above the land it will be the land of the free.

    All that being said, I still don’t like singing it in church. I’m with John Taylor on this one: The Kingdom of God or nothing!

  33. Wilfried says:

    Interesting post, Ronan. In Belgium, patriotism in Church seems out of the question. We are not that kind of patriotic. Too many European countries, who in the name of their patriotism, used our small country as battle field. Patriotism has the ring of threat or of extreme right. Also, in an artificial country like Belgium, regional patriotism is separatist.

    Don’t we feel Belgian? In a soccer stadion at an international match, yes, with its own wild sphere. And at tennis, the port where Belgian girls have excelled at world level these past years. And at a war commemoration in subdued tones, to remember how horrible nationalisms from abroad have been to us. The word “Belgian patriotism” will not be used.

    So, no Belgian flag in Church and no national hymn (which no one knows anyway).

  34. Vesper Holly says:

    I seem to remember lots of patriotism at church during my time in Wales. Most memorably was the youth dance on Guy Falkes Day that ended with sparklers being handed out in the gym, being lit, the whole place filling with smoke and being rapidly ushered out to the parking lot where patriotic songs were sung with abandon. Perhaps it is just the English who are not patriotic?

  35. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 28
    Americans are to French as Evangelicals are to Mormons.

  36. Singing the “Star-spangled Banner” in church always seems like something we put up with on behalf of the old people in the ward, who seem to think it proves something.

    But it really doesn’t have anything to do with our church’s greater mission and in today’s world-wide church, it seems out of place.

  37. Peter LLC says:

    it is distinctly un-tied from the Republic itself in its current form (albeit celebrating the historical greatness of France is an ongoing duty).

    Indeed, thanks for the added nuance.

  38. im with thoreau.

    patriotism is a maggot in our heads.

  39. we used to sing ‘God save The Queen’ and ‘Jerusalem’ in Sacrament Meeting every Armistice Sunday in Wandsworth in the 1970’s. I’ve never sung either in Church since.I wonder if it has to do with the passing of the last generation conscripted to fight.If they decided we were going to sing patriotic songs, I wouldn’t have argued with them- wonderful members that they were. I wish we did it more often (although marooned in Scotland, I might not find it too comfy an experience!)

  40. In my home ward we often sing the national anthem on Remembrance Sunday, tals about sacrifice and freedom are given and a good spirit is always present.

    In the days when the family were more or less assigned to speak and provide music for a departing missionary I requested we sing Jerusalem and it was most memorable an occasion for everyone present.

    I am not sure about the flags in the chapel though, cultural hall (if you have one) its only me but I think it is not quite fitting to display the flag in the chapel……as well as taking photos in the chapel..tut tut Ronan!

  41. Latter-day Guy says:

    RE ‘Jerusalem’
    I couldn’t help but think of this. [Language warning] The first two minutes apply to the song, but the rest is hilarious too.

  42. The Kingdom of God or nothing!

    Mark B (#32), I’m with you on that. Patriotism is a man-made attitude and in the past has been potentially divisive for the Church. There is little place in general conference addresses nowadays for the “I love America” talks of the past – no disrespect to America, I quite like it myself. But in a global gospel, patriotism has become as redundant as many other cultural aspects of the Church that have been quietly left behind; for example, separate morning and evening Church, as before the introduction of the block programme; standing for the intermediate hymn and other things (but I miss that!); and taking off your shoes to enter the temple – I miss that as well, although I believe some temples still do it. Our loyalty should lie first and foremost with the kingdom of God, because that will outlive any earthly kingdom.

  43. Deacon,

    We checked the handbook:

    The national flag may be displayed inside Church buildings on special occasions, such as patriotic programs.

    As for photographs in the chapel…yep, I’m naughty.

  44. Norbert says:

    so do the Finns have the national anthem AND “Be Still My Soul” (set to the same music) or just the one?

    No, two different songs. ‘Finlandia’ is the national hymn, whose tune was stolen appropriated for ‘Be Still My Soul’ — and then there’s the anthem ‘Maamme,’ (‘Our Land’) important as a part of the rise of Finnish nationalism in the 19th century.
    I would argue that Finnish patriotism is tied up in the land and nature to a degree that any celebration in that regard might be felt to be ‘patriotic’ in a sense.
    BTW, I went to last night of Proms in Hyde Park in 2003, and it looked nothing like Ronan’s little gathering. It was very very silly.

  45. Antonio Parr says:

    The Emerson, Lake & Palmer version of “Jerusalem” absolutely rocks . . .

  46. Randall says:

    A few thoughts on why Americans tend to be more patriotic than our European counterparts:

    First, I agree with Cicero #4, that at its heart, American patriotism endures because it is pride in our political system and national success, and not in our race or tribe.

    Second, we simply haven’t been a people for as long as European countries. We’re still in our exuberant adolescence.

    And third, (an extension of #2) Americans remain a very “modern” people in an increasingly “post-modern” world. Europeans have deconstructed the pride out of their countries. Misgivings about colonialism, past glory, failed wars, and inactivity during the Holocaust create a very nuanced and eventually effete patriotism. Ambivalence makes for a dour anthem.

    In contrast, Americans maintain a simple and blithe self-concept that is easily sung at the top of our lungs. Don’t worry Euros, with the resurgence of my Democratic Party, we’ll surely embrace additional equivocation and self-doubt.

  47. John Mansfield says:

    Norbert, just land and nature? No remembrance of Mannerheim leading defense of the country against the Soviet army? No regard for independence from Russia only ninety years ago?

  48. John Mansfield says:

    I like this painting of the Finnish Maiden defending against the Russian double-headed eagle. Is this all out-of-date now?

  49. Norbert says:

    Norbert, just land and nature? No remembrance of Mannerheim leading defense of the country against the Soviet army? No regard for independence from Russia only ninety years ago?

    Yes for the Winter War, not so much for the other, I think. I’m just an expat, but I think the decades of ‘special relationship’ with the Soviets dulled that ire to a degree.

    Cool painting, though.

  50. I remember on my mission that a (French) Branch President was totally incredulous when he found out that an American flag was posted inside the chapels in the U.S. His response, “Oh, you Americans are so chauvinistic!”

    He may be right, but posting a flag is just fine with me. And I don’t think it’s confined to us Mormons: I’ve seen flags posted in the sanctuaries of the local Methodist and Episcopalians churches. Anyone else?

  51. In all my travels in the church in the US I have never seen a US flag in a chapel. How often does this occur? Where? Small town Utah?

  52. I’ve seen a US flag in the chapel during each eagle court of honor I’ve attended.

  53. StillConfused says:

    I see that some of the women are in pants. Is this a church service or something different?

  54. I regularly attend Eagle court of honor ceremonies. They are always in the gym or the RS room. We are talking about a flag affixed to a wall.

  55. The Eagles are held in the chapel here. They carry the flag in at the beginning; they carry it out at the end. I’ve always found our chapels to be ridiculously devoid of anything affixed to the walls.

  56. Except a clock.

  57. Having grown up in England I have sung God Save the Queen a few times in Church. I have suggested it for Priesthood opening exercises (here in the US) but have been shot down.
    Kevin #18 – That is awesome. I love church moments like that. In the same vein our daughter was born on the Fourth of July*** and we have a big BBQ for the Ward between the parade and fireworks. This year as always we brought out a cake and announced it was time to sing Happy Birthday to my daughter. One guy was obnoxiously insistent that we sing to America as well. We did not indulge him as a group.
    ***Note: Children born on the fourth will believe the fireworks and parades are all for them and you are the best Dad ever up until the age of six; your individual results may vary.

  58. Re: 53. There is a cure for being StillConfused. Read a little more carefully.

    The Original Post said that

    On 26 July 2008, God Save the Queen was sung in my church for the first time in my life.

    Even when you cross the Atlantic, the days of the week don’t change. Here in the promised land, 26 July was a Saturday, and we can only hope that it was in England as well.

    So, it’s unlikely that the meeting (which Ronan described as Worcester Ward Proms Night) was a sacrament meeting. Else it might have been called the “Worcester Ward Sacrament Meeting and Proms Night.”

    Did you sing the “never, never, never” song, Ronan?

  59. #53 StillConfused: it was stated earlier that this was held on a Saturday. However, sisters in my ward wear trousers to Church on Sundays as a matter of course. Usually dress trousers, but jeans are not unknown. I don’t, I hasten to add..I’m a sort of “flowery dress with open toed sandals” kind of girl myself, but the leadership take the attitude they’d rather see sisters turning up to church here wearing trousers than not turning up at all.

  60. Peter LLC says:

    posting a flag is just fine with me.

    Of course it is; it’s part of your American exceptionalism. Revel in it!

  61. it was really…um…interesting to grow up latino in Utah. All the time hearing about how america is the promised land and america is great and has better ideas and government than anyone else in the world. When I brought up there were other countries in the world I’d always get something like, “Oh they’re ok too. But they’re not AMERICA!”

  62. Peter LLC:

    Our American exceptionalism, you say? Yep, it’s what makes America “grate”!

  63. In an interview with Stanley Hauerwas I asked him how national “patriotism” had become for many a substitute for religion. I like his response.


    I’m not sure any of us know how that happened other than the general subservience of the Christian church in America to America. The general view of most Christian Americans is they can let their children make up their minds about whether they are a Christian or not but they don’t let them make up their minds about being an American. Now that’s an indication that national identification has become more determinative for the way people live than their Christian identification. Now I’m sure they will deny that if you suggest it, but ask them if they don’t believe that they ought to raise children to grow up to make up their minds and they will always say, yes of course. But then they don’t, when it comes to the issues of national loyalty they don’t let children make up their own minds, it kind of comes with the drinking water.

  64. Mark, you speak of Rule Britannia which even I think goes overboard in its jingoism. Still, it’s fun to sing.

    When Britain first at Heav’n’s command
    Arose from out the azure main;
    Arose, arose, arose from out the azure main;
    This was the charter, the charter of the land,
    And guardian angels sang this strain:

    Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
    Britons never, never, never shall be slaves!

  65. Mark B. says:

    I was going to write a snarky comment about the crew of the Bonhomme Richard singing a rousing and sarcastic chorus of “Rule, Brittania!” that song right after Serapis struck her colours, but then I remembered that most of my ancestors were in England or Wales in the 18th century, and that Ronan already ceded the point in his original post, so I decided not to. But I did spell “colours” in the British style as a sign of good faith.

  66. Mark,

    You are a gentlemen, but, alas, I am not.

    The Bonhomme Richard was given to the British Americans by Les Frogs. Must you Yanks always rub French salt into your wounds, reminding yourselves at every turn that it was the French that won you your independence from Britannia?

    Without France, you are nothing.

    Not so England.

  67. Steve Evans says:

    “Without France, you are nothing.

    Not so England.”

    Tell that to the Normans.

  68. StillConfused says:

    I will have to admit that my dress pants (trousers) are nicer than the skirts that many women wear to church… but I still go in a skirt. I should honor my English routes more and go in trousers!!!

  69. #61 – Interesting, too, Ronito, that despite the well-established doctrine that the Book of Mormon peoples inhabited the American *continent*, and that this was declared a choice land, things seem to oddly come back to “America” the nation being the choice land, forgetting everything north and south of said United States. So Canada, Central and South America are all equally choice – and they have extremely diverse political systems, ergo possessing The Constitution is not a condition of being a choice land.

  70. Mark B. says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Ronan.

    Of course, John Paul Jones was a Scot, which suggests two things:

    (1) that, as long as we’re giving due homage to the French for throwing off the oppressors, we may as well toss a few bouquets to the Scots; and

    (2) that the Act of Union was really a rape–John Paul Jones knew it, and, like Joseph, got himself out.

  71. #69: South America is it’s own continent.

  72. Stephen,
    The Normans weren’t French.

    The Act of Union was a Scottish idea.


  73. #71: depends where one lives. At school in the UK, I was taught there were 5 continents (hence the 5 rings on the Olympic flag, one for each continent).
    Today, depending on where one lives, the perceived wisdom is there are apparently 6 or 7 (

    I assume it’s safe to say when Joseph Smith wrote the Articles of Faith, ‘this the American continent’ was understood to reach from the tip of North America to the bottom of South America: therefore #69’s comment holds true. An inspired (but not revelation, and not perfect) Constitution does not a choice land make.

  74. Randall says:

    Anne #73 speaks truth.

    I work in a clinic with staff from 10 different countries. Among us, only the people schooled in the US consider North America to be its own continent. The ex-pats also grind their teeth when we refer to ourselves as “Americans”. Although, no one has provided me with a viable alternative.

  75. Mark B. says:

    Ronan and Steve:

    It’s obvious that Ronan’s right about the Normans. They actually are descended from an obese mailman who used to hang out in a bar in Boston.


    That is a common defense in rape too: “She really wanted it.” It’s right up there with “She said she was 17.”

    (Actually, two of my great-grandfathers were born in England, one in Hertfordshire, the other in Wiltshire, and a whole host of my other ancestors are from Britain (other than the Danish great-grandmother, I think they’re all British) so I am bound to the old country (countries?) by mystic cords of memory. It therefore pleases me no end that we former colonials were able to fulfill Churchill’s prophecy, made in that extraordinary speech in the House of Commons on June 4, 1940, that “in God’s good time the New World with all its power and might, [shall] set forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old.” Glad we could help out Ronan, so that German is your second language–not your first!)

  76. Mr. B,
    You continue to display a woeful understanding of history. It is true that America helped liberate continental Europe, but when Churchill was speaking, Britain was already successfully repelling the Germans, having won the Battle of Britain without any American help whatsoever. Suck on that, Sam.

  77. Mark B. says:

    Ah, Ronan. I’m really surprised that you would place the Battle of Britain before June 4, 1940. Your own Mr. Churchill (half American, by the way–his mother was born in a lovely brownstone on Henry Street, just a half mile from here) said in an address just two weeks later (June 18, 1940) that:

    What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

    [Emphasis added.]

    The main event is generally considered to have begun with Adlertag, August 13, 1940, with the first concentrated attack by the Luftwaffe on British air defenses. So, Ronan, your timing’s off. But you are right about the Battle of Britain having been won by the Brits, with virtually no assistance from anybody else.

    And it was, as Mr. Churchill predicted, your finest hour.

  78. You are right about the dates, sir, and you are also correct to reiterate that most salient of points, viz. that the RAF defended our islands while the Americans twiddled their thumbs. We are, of course, grateful for later sacrifices and have been pleased to subsequently bequeath on you our empire.

  79. Ronan,

    There was at least some material support coming in via the sea correct in 1941 before our entry into the war? The battle of B was winding down then right?

  80. Ronan,

    Did you know that Britian just paid off its WW2 debt to the US in 2006? I think the last payment was 83MM

  81. bbell,
    So, you’re adding Loan Shark to the list of America’s sins? Where will it end?!

  82. Peter LLC says:

    The ex-pats also grind their teeth when we refer to ourselves as “Americans”.

    I live in Austria and many make a point of referring to us as “US Americans.” I respond by asking them how many other countries located on this continent contain “America” somewhere in their names that would necessitate this silly distinction without a difference.

    Since most agree that Canadians come from Canada, Mexicans from Mexico, Bolivians from Bolivia and so on, it should be no mystery and without controversy that Americans come from the only country named America.

    Anybody who runs the risk of being mistaken for a real American can just slap a Canadian flag on their luggage and be done with it.

  83. > I live in Austria and many make a point of referring to us as “US Americans.”

    You’re in good company, PeterLLC!

  84. #74, thank you. I do try to speak the truth always :-)

    #79: the war repayment loans..that’s not even much for coming to our aid- by effectively bankrupting us. I played on bomb sites as a child because as a nation we didn’t have enough money to rebuild, and I was born 15 years after the war ended.

    #81..I have several friends in mainland European countries who refer to US Americans as ‘United Statians’. makes sense to me, but for some reason seems to annoy the living daylioghts out of the more right wing Americans/Unitedstatians of their acquaintance.


    Here are the details on the loan. It was at 2% and was made to keep the UK solvent after the war had almost bankrupted the country. It was actually made post war and the terms were really favorable for the debtor. It also had a line of credit feature in the event that the UK needed more cash.

  86. Mark B. says:

    Dear Anne,

    Far be it from me to quibble about a few billion dollars (or even a few billion pounds sterling), but Ronan’s comments about loan sharking and yours about Britain’s slow recovery from World War II don’t really tell much of the story. There was, after all, the Marshall Plan.

    Here’s a line from a piece on the BBC website about postwar Britain:

    Britain actually received more than a third more Marshall Aid than West Germany – $2.7 billion as against $1.7 billion. She in fact pocketed the largest share of any European nation.

    The article on the BBC site goes on to say that the postwar loan ($4 billion in 1946) and the Marshall Plan aid were essentially wasted. I’m no historian of postwar Britain, and I avoid economics–and economists–as much as possible, so I’ll leave to others the debate whether the article on the BBC site is correct.

    But, the fact is that the U.S. was at it’s most generous best when it enacted the Marshall Plan, and I’m pleased that we did it. If Churchill was right in predicting that your island nation’s standing alone against Hitler, and stopping him, in the summer and fall of 1940 and winter of 1941 would be viewed as your finest hour (and I think he was), then perhaps the U.S. adoption of the Marshall Plan, to aid the nations of Europe who had borne a much greater share of the burden and suffered such great destruction during the Second World War, could be seen as our finest hour. I’d like to think so.

  87. Mark B. says:

    Kill that lousy apostrophe in the first line of the last paragraph.


    Details on the Loan. Looks like a pretty favorable loan from the details

  89. Researcher says:

    Well, we would have been thinking deep thoughts about the Marshall Plan, but now we’re all fixating on what the meaning of “it’s” is.

  90. Peter LLC says:

    I have several friends in mainland European countries who refer to US Americans as ‘United Statians’. makes sense to me

    Would it make as much sense to refer to “United Kingdomians” as well?

  91. Would it make as much sense to refer to “United Kingdomians” as well?

    As the full title of the country is “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, “British” or even “Brits” (for those who can’t manage the extra syllable) are perfectly acceptable.

  92. I’m proud to be a Kingdominian. Failing that, TUKOGBANIian also works.

  93. Peter LLC says:


    Indeed. And by extension, calling a citizen of “The United States of America” an “American” makes all kinds of sense while “United Statian” essentially none at all.


    I could get behind TUKOGBANian–it evokes exotic far-flung empire.

  94. Ronan,

    I fear “Kingdominian” and “Tukogbanian” sound a little too Star Trek for me…I’ll stick with Scottish!

  95. Ah, but in Spanish, you can have “americanos” and “estadounidenses”.

  96. Problem is, queuno, that the nation to the south is “Estados Unidos de Mexico”. So estadounidenses might be confusing.

    We could begin with the Spanish abbreviation, EEUU (don’t ask me, I have no clue where it comes from) and call us “eeuus”, which would match many non-Americans’ feelings perfectly!

    Or we could turn to the Japanese for inspiration: Nobody there calls us Amerika Gasshukoku–instead it’s “Beikoku” or Rice Country. How about “Ricelanders”?

  97. By the way, Rick Reilly from ESPN offers his take on anthems, and gives love to the Brits:

  98. Mark – I think most American Hispanics (going all the way down to Tierra del Fuego) would be happy to let us have “estadounidense” if we’d stop using “americano” exclusively.

  99. John Mansfield says:

    What others call Americans is their business. I wish the anglicized forms of foreign city names didn’t change every other decade. I was briefly baffled by a recent National Geographic mentioning some place called “Kolkata.”

  100. Also, ESPN the Magazine has a National Anthem quiz leading up the Olympics that might be interesting…

  101. Mark B. says:

    I’m with Rick Reilly in loving La Marseillaise–but maybe it’s just because I don’t speak French.

    The last three lines of the refrain are stirring:

    Marchons, marchons !
    Qu’un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !

    According to one website, in English that’s:

    Let us march, let us march!
    May their tainted blood
    Soak our furrows!

    Frankly, I’d be happy to make “impur” its English cognate–those guys’ blood isn’t just tainted. It’s impure through and through.

    And “sillons” is furrows? Can’t we come up with a better word. (The gutters running with blood is a fine image!)

  102. kendall smith says:

    Mark B:

    It is standard for Spanish acronyms to repeat the letter if the plurals are involved. So the acronym for the Spanish term for Armed Forces–Fuerzas Armadas–would be FFAA. Not sure if that explanation makes much sense.

    From the Diccionario Panhispanico de Dudas:
    “En abreviaturas formadas por una sola letra, el plural se expresa duplicando esta: ss. por siguientes, EE. UU. por Estados Unidos.”

    Estadounidense wouldn’t confuse anyone–it is common knowledge that it applies only to citizens of the United States.

  103. Mark B. says:

    Thanks kendall.