So go the opening lines of America The Beautiful, as found in the final revised edition of the song lyrics published in 1913.
I am a Native Coloradoan, who has gazed many a time at the glory of Pike’s Peak, rising high above the American Great Plains on which I was born and raised a child of the golden oceans that are Northeastern Colorado’s Wheat fields. While I live too far East in Colorado to glimpse the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies on a daily basis, a fact you may find surprising since many people envision Colorado as comprised of one big mountain, or a land of rugged highlands from end to end. Nevertheless, my travels west to Colorado’s Front Range often find me staring straight ahead at Fourteener after Fourteener towering above the land of my birth. You may not realize that Pike’s Peak west of the city of Colorado Springs was the inspiration of Katherine Lee Bate’s endearing America The Beautiful. Those opening lines are perhaps part of what has always held me enthralled, I coming from the very American region of wheat fields and mountains that so fittingly inspired these now practically immortal words. From “sea to shining sea” this has been found to be a song held near and dear by generations of Americans of various backgrounds. Speaking of the rampant popularity of the song even in her own day, beginning with its release as a poem on July 4th, 1895, two years after she first composed it, and before it later on gained immortality set to the hymn “Materna” by S.A. Ward, Bates believed this widely acclaimed hymn was “clearly due to the fact that Americans are at heart idealists, with a fundamental faith in human brotherhood.”
“A fundamental faith in human brotherhood”
Where has that fundamental faith in brotherhood gone? Is America still a lamp for all the nations? In light of the racism again rearing its ugly head from coast to coast in the United States of America in this dark hour of our nation’s history, especially between African Americans and Caucasians, I firmly believe that if we are to remain a guiding light to all Nations, instead of an extinguished candle ever after lamented for what she could have been and remained, we must come to admit to the following points:
1. Sadly, White on Black racially motivated crime and discrimination still exists far and wide.
2. Sadly, Black on White racially motivated crime and discrimination also exists far and wide.
3. Sadly, some law enforcement officers are corrupt, hate filled, and racist.
4. Happily, many law enforcement officers are honest, hard-working, self-sacrificing, merciful American Men and Women.
5. Happily, all human persons are created with a marvelous dignity, more precious in the Creator's eyes than the whole material universe below Man. We are the one point in the Universe where Matter and Spirit meet. It belongs to Man to give voice to all material creation and to praise and glorify God as the rocks, plants and animals below us can’t (for they have not spiritual souls), and even as the pure Angelic Spirits above us also can’t (they do not have bodily emotions and sensations). They do not experience the visible universe as we do, only the Spirt and Matter union that is each human person can enjoy vivid sunsets, the taste of ice cream, the smell of rain, and the sound of Mozart and in turn praise God for such gifts from the Lord. The miracle that is Man occupies the wonderful place between the Animals and Angels. Our individual worth becomes fully visible on Calvary Hill: Each one of us, each and every human person, God would have died for, and actually did die for on the Cross, even if I or you had been the only human person ever to have lived. In doing so, Christ Jesus, God made Man, opened back up Heaven to us, and restored to us our ability to be the voice of Visible Creation adoring the Creator.
6. Happily, skin color does not change one iota the awesome realities noted in #6.
A Melting Pot Of Masterpieces
Our Nation must not censor or minimize any of these six above stated realities. Part of America’s splendor is the embrace and celebration of the Truth, Beauty and Goodness found in the many and varied ethnic groups and their customs and traditions. This also means we feel (or should feel) an intimate connection, compassion for, and relatability with all the other Nations of the Earth, and that should foster holy, happy, healthy relationships with all peoples the world over.
For my part, I feel blessed abundantly to have family and friends that are African American, Lebanese, Japanese, Irish, Mexican, Spanish, Italian, German and Vietnamese, besides many others. What other Nation boasts of such a wonderful gift of the unity of the races?
America's God given power and glory has nothing to do with racism. Racism defaces her. For that matter, so too does the shackling of authentic religious freedom to the inner walls of churches diminish this Nation; disallowing religious beliefs to be practiced in the public square vandalizes America’s beauty. Ultimately, America’s beauty has everything to do with her citizens humbly relying on God's Grace and seeing God in every one of their neighbors, and thus treating them with Love and Mercy in the Light of Truth whilst at the same time being good stewards of Creation, respecting and giving thanks for the crop laden “fruited plains” that sustain us and the azure, gleaming “spacious skies” under which we embrace Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
A Theme Song Of and Impassioned Prayer For Our Times
It seems to me that Katherine Lee Bates’ song, though fitting at all moments of American History past present and future, was prophetic in the sense that a time has arisen when the song is especially fitting as a National Prayer and again, in my opinion, is overwhelmingly worthy of being elevated to the status of National Anthem.
Though it is still widely recognized and sung in some circles, a renewed appreciation and celebration of all that this grandly Faith filled and Patriotic hymn represents should be taken up by all people of every race and Faith across the wide American landscape, hearing in its sweet lines a prayer to the Creator of us all to renew and protect this Land. Take time to read, reflect upon, and pray over all the verses of this masterpiece. At the heart of America The Beautiful lie the words that are the soul of The United States Of America, found both at the end of the first and last verses, and being at once a patriotic acclamation and an urgent prayer to the Lord of this Land that dwells above:
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!”
From San Francisco to Baltimore and everywhere in between, may we rediscover brotherhood and our utter dependence on God’s Grace for ourselves and our Land to survive and thrive as we together seek the Face of God that we might live.