When I first came to Goshen College I had no idea that the national anthem was not played before athletic events. It was something that was second nature to me. The rule in my mind was, “before an athletic event, the National Anthem will be played…period.” I was very surprised when I heard that Goshen did not play it. I was close-mindedly negative about the situation and did not care who heard me.
As I have spent a year here, learning more and more about Mennonite tradition, I have come to an understanding of why we do not play the Anthem. A few of these reasons stuck with me. Mennonites feel that the National Anthem is a way to pledge allegiance to something other than God. This is a problem to them and understandably so. Also, the song is obviously about a war and we know that Mennonites are generally a very pacifist people. Finally, at a college that promotes diversity and has a number of international students, we did not want to put America on a pedestal.
Although these reasons are valid, Goshen needs to be a hospitable place where everyone feels welcome. When people are calling in, offended, it becomes a problem. Goshen does not need to be known as the “college that refuses to respect the country.” Although I know this is not the case, people draw conclusions like this because they are thrown off guard by the fact that we do not play it. Sports events are often the only exposure people have to Goshen College. When they attain negative feelings about the college in their only encounter, we have made a mistake. We need to be hospitable to the people who come onto our campus. We need to be known for our core values, not as the college that does not respect the country.
I would also say that the National Anthem is something that binds together the American people. It is not just a song, but a symbol of the freedom that we have. This feeling of freedom is the reason that people feel so strongly on this issue. Although we may not agree with the war that was fought for our freedom, we can pay reverence to those that died so that we can be free.
By Nate Manning