‘Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s….’ words Goshen College needs to remember as it bans ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. To get the most from this article and set just the right mood, go to any search engine and find a copy of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” for the words to this, America’s National Anthem, are at the heart of what tiny Goshen College is doing… prohibiting this stirring song from being played because of what college officials call its martial message.

Goshen, Indiana looks, at first glance, to be a typical Midwestern college town. 116 miles from the breakneck pace of the Windy City and all its distractions. Goshen is, particularly in summer, a sleepy place, a place where the pace ambles, and you can still find students sitting comfortably under a tree engrossed in a book.

But first impressions can be wrong… and if you saw Goshen as somnifacient you’d be wrong… for Goshen is more, far more than what you see. It is a land where the Word of God is vital! Living! Omnipresent and Real!

God is not abstract and distant from the collegiate community at Goshen. He is a kind and gentle God, as close as your beating heart. You do not merely think He cares for you… you know it! You see it! It is present reality.

In Goshen, Indiana as in its Biblical predecessor, no armies or any of the paraphernalia of war are allowed to enter… for this is land blessed by God… a land protected by God… a land apart. Glory Hallelujah for ever and ever.

The troubled spirits at Goshen.

For years now, officials at Goshen College have wrestled with something that profoundly bothered them… how could they, in good conscience, play “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting and other events when it celebrates everything they abhor and abominate, the chaos, mayhem and destruction of the “rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air”?

One bright idea after another was tried, to serve God as they were sure He wanted…. while not outraging the profound patriotism not merely of their Indiana neighbors but which they themselves deeply felt.

Some suggested playing a tune like “America the Beautiful” (which many of their fellow countrymen in any case prefer) or “This Land is Our Land.” Others recommended playing the National Anthem along with the anthem of another country, perhaps of an international student.

The discussions were long, learned, abstruse, unsatisfactory. There was no idea, no policy that satisfied all and kept Goshen true to its principles. Because a few could not solve the conundrum, Goshen resolved to consult the many. A survey was sent to 4,000 alumni, faculty, and students… A year was dedicated to finding a solution to a problem that seemed insoluble, how to serve their God and their country, too.

In due course, college officials released their findings… and in minutes the peace of Goshen College and its idyllic community was sundered; officials had decided to ban the National Anthem altogether, thereby returning the college to its strict previous policy…. Obeying God, so they reckoned, was more important than America. It was a decision nicely calculated to produce maximum criticism, outrage, and anger. Peaceful Goshen, where God’s peace abideth, was not peaceful anymore.

Their decision subjected an unhappy Goshen to the scrutiny of America. Officials who saw themselves as stewards of God…. were now pilloried as insular, bigoted, selfish people willing to take the benefits of the Great Republic while insulting the profound symbol of that Republic.

Goshen College, only days before unknown and unacknowledged, was now pummeled and ridiculed, assaulted and demeaned by local townspeople and by the nation. News media helped fan the flames by framing the matter as a debate between those who love country, who honor the military and its sacrifices, and despicable religious zealots and America detractors.

For Goshen these days of June, 2011 were the unhappiest of days. There was no peace in the land where in happier days God Himself found peace.


All of Goshen was on alert now, waiting for the further attacks they knew would come, and bitter, too. And as the attacks mounted the college officials resolved to do what members of the Academy so often do: abjure inconvenient principle, find a comfortable modus vivendi. In short, they waffled.

It was painful watching these officials, all targets now, twisting in the wind. They wanted the ban to continue; they wanted the attacks to stop. They wanted to have their cake and eat it, too. They wanted the impossible…

But in God, all things are possible.

“And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.” (Mark 12:17)

Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus was constantly questioned by those seeking to discredit him. The occasion on which he uttered the words above were one of the most important. Here some of his many detractors sought to trip him up by asking a vital question about taxes, specifically should they be paid at all. His questioners hoped Jesus would give a simple “yes” or “no” response. Answering “yes” would have left him open to the accusation that he was in opposition to the Jewish resistance to the Roman occupation and therefore against God, too.

Answering “no” would have given those present an opportunity to report him to the Roman authorities as someone who was trying to incite a revolt. Either way, the questioners supposed, Jesus was trapped.

But he wasn’t.

And neither are the people of Goshen College, for Jesus has solved for them, the problem he solved for the Jews the day they asked the question they were sure would trick him, ending his bothersome ministry.

The flag of the United States and its magnificent anthem are of Caesar. Use them, honor them accordingly, for you have the highest authority for doing so and no cause for dismay and confusion. Confounded you may have been… but can be so no longer.

And so America asks you, Goshen,

“O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Let the flag fly… the great anthem soar… not divisive but uniting and all under God… for in these ways the people see how God loves us and with what munificence He has shed His grace on us all.

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is ., where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://videopal.me/page/yJvJCzjKkfyM

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