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By Might and Right

Among the many internet postings yesterday commemorating the anniversary of the United States’ Declaration of Independence, Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review Online blog called attention to the final stanza of the John Phillip Sousa march, Stars and Stripes Forever. I had not been aware that there were any lyrics, but now that I do, I like the piece a lot less. The whole thing is pretty poor both rhetorically and poetically, but the last stanza really stands out in a Nebuchadnezzarian* way. Read it for yourself:

Hurrah for the flag of the free.
May it wave as our standard forever
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray,
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

Other than the fact that he wrote a pile of great marching music, I know nothing of Sousa, but I can glean a couple of facts from that verse:

  1. He was ignorant of American history, particularly of the circumstances of the Revolution, and
  2. He was entirely ignorant of what the Bible says about the rising of kings and nations.

The American Revolution was not won by might or right.† That the war was won at all borders on the miraculous, as the historical record shows.‡

More importantly, admirers of Sousa’s sentiments should take note of the words of Scripture.

He makes the nations great, then destroys them;
He enlarges the nations, then leads them away.

—Job 12:23

And those who think otherwise had better beware.


All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. The king reflected and said, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.” Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.

But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever;

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, “What have You done?”

At that time my reason returned to me And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.

—Daniel 4:28–37

I don’t claim to know the mind of God or to be his counselor, but the Sousa doctrine—which is the American doctrine—sounds a lot like Nebuchadnezzar. It is not for me to say that the insanity of Nebuchadnezzar parallels the fallen and still falling glory of the United States, but it would be foolish to deny the similarities.

How will it end for this nation? Well, I’m no prophet, and neither are you. But I can say without any doubt that it does not end well for those who steal God’s glory and credit his blessings to their own might and right.

* Of course it’s a word. You read it, didn’t you?

† The jury is still out, in my mind, as to whether or not the Revolution was a just war. In either case, it was not won by anyone’s “right.” Having said that, I will not be entertaining comments arguing either way.

‡ Read David McCullough’s 1776 and John Adams.

Posted 2010·07·05 by David Kjos
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Posted in: History · Independence Day · Soli Deo Gloria

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