When I was in grade 8 the underdog Calgary Flames made a dramatic Stanley Cup run, ultimately losing to Tampa Bay in game 7 of the finals. Too young to remember the 1994 playoffs, this was the first time I could remember a Canadian team making it to the Stanley Cup finals. At the time I had a tremendous passion for both hockey and my home and native land, so this was a momentous and exciting time. For me, one of the highlights of the final series – remember that Canada was just coming out of the nationalistic fervour ignited by our refusal to participate in Iraq war – was the enthusiastic anthem singing of the Canadian fans. I glowed with pride as these Canadian patriots belted out their undying loyalty to the truth north, strong and free.
This past spring I watched a very similar patriotic display by the fans of the (very much not underdog) Vancouver Canucks with a slightly altered attitude. It wasn’t just the militaristic implications – more than implications – of the repeated line “we stand on guard for thee” that disturbed me. It was also the deeper sentiment of undivided loyalty in the anthem, captured nicely by the line “true patriot love with all our hearts command.”
In age where our Christian convictions are precisely that – private and docile ideas that either have little bearing on our public lives or, at the very least, must be translated into more appropriate public discourse before we put them into action – we have little trouble proclaiming that our country commands the love of all our heart, soul and might. On Sunday I’ll be talking about loyalty. Do we believe that unity and peace – salvation – comes from the nation state coupled with the supposedly unifying power of globalization or do we believe that salvation comes from Christ alone? Our answer will also command our loyalty.