There is a moment in John Ford's heartfelt tribute to West Point, The Long Gray Line, that for its manly power and decorous simplicity is probably unlike anything you will have seen or heard in church in the last fifty years. The men are at chapel, and the news has just broken that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. They all stand, and they sing out the great verse from the song we have known simply as "America":
Our fathers' God, to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!
Ford did not have to think of it, because he and everyone else took it mainly for granted, that men are made one not by politics or by education, but by a common love for what transcends the individual person. And that is how the love we owe to our homeland, what the old Romans meant by pietas, can be brought into harmony with our love of God.
A Hymn for a Marching Faith
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Anthony Esolen is the author of over thirty books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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