On this week that features a day honoring our National Anthem, it is altogether fitting that we remember the story. It was September in the year 1812 and a war-ravaged the young states as the British burned the Capital city of Washington DC and headed north to the military epicenter of the young Republic, Baltimore Maryland. What they faced when they arrived, however, were simply regular folks! Americans, people who loved God and loved their country. On their way North passing through Upper Marlboro they took prisoner a beloved doctor by the name of William Beane. We each know the story of Francis Scott Key’s journey to the flagship of the British fleet to secure Dr. Beane’s release. We know and cherish the words he wrote from the bow of that ship as he watched with this question in mind “Oh say does that Star-Spangled banner yet wave, ore the land of the free, and the home of the brave?”
For what it’s worth… according US Code. During a rendition of the National Anthem after giving direction to men and women in uniform states, “all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart;” When Francis Scott Key spoke of the brave, he could have been thinking of something else he saw… you see, regular folks who called themselves Americans like you and me had taken 22 of their own vessels in the harbor so that the ships could get no closer. Americans, people who loved God and country like you and I had hidden in the tall grass and when the ground invasion began during the night, drove back the British soldiers so that when the day dawned, the symbol of Freedom, the American flag was still there!
As long as they were shelling they knew the fort stood. Then an eerie silence welcomed the morning. What the young lawyer Key didn’t know was that there was an attack by land of Baltimore and when the British saw the resilience of these Americans they ordered a retreat. As Key began to catch a glimpse of the flag over fort McHenry he was inspired to pen the words that we today herald as our National Anthem. Most Americans know the first verse, but may we never forget that fourth verse, “O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand, Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation; Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!” Americans, people who love God and love their country make the difference still yet today!
Regular folks can make a difference for good or for evil. Case in point, the stories of two men both named Chamberlain. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a schoolteacher turned soldier in the American Civil War, found himself in the crosshairs of history on a warm July day in 1863 on a small hill in Pennsylvania. Commanding the 20th Maine Regiment on the extreme Union left at Gettysburg he was in a most perilous position. Should he fail to hold against a strong Confederate attack, the Union could be lost. You see he was serving in an increasingly unpopular war at home against a resurgent enemy, and for a President fighting for his political life. Colonel Chamberlain, stoic but determined, refused to yield. His small regiment held
against an onslaught of Confederate attacks, an action many historians believe turned the tide of the war. He was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The other half of this analogy focuses on Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Great Britain in the years preceding World War II. His story is widely known. Through his policy of appeasement and a lack of moral courage, he handed Adolf Hitler much of Europe. Oh, how the scriptures bear witness to the truth that “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.”
As I reflect on this I am reminded that it has only been here in America where regular folks can actually make the difference they make. We must never forget that nowhere else on the planet does this dynamic exist. As my good friend Chad Connelly says, “we don’t see anyone from America taking wood from their homes and strapping it together to build a boat to leave this country for another!” This very small percentage of the world’s population is blessed with the incredible privilege to run their own government, but it only happens when regular folks, Americans who love God and country are civically engaged, they register and they vote! Remember that everyone from dogcatcher to president only reflects the values of those who vote. Americans, people who love God and love their country can, and must make the difference today!
Tim Throckmorton is the Midwest Regional Director for Church Ministries. He can be reached at 740-935-1406