Dear Goshen College,
Recently I heard that the Star Spangled Banner will be played at Goshen College athletic events. I was very surprised to hear this, considering the respected position Goshen College holds among Mennonite higher educational institutions. I did not attend Goshen College, but I have many friends who did. My parents also lived in Goshen for a while, and I visited the town and the college many times between 1995 and 2005. I always had an extremely good impression of Goshen College.
Your recent decision to play the national anthem disappoints me. This new policy is more fitting to Messiah College or Tabor College, institutions that can’t run away from Anabaptist or Mennonite values quickly enough. I had more trust in Goshen College.
I remember coming “home” to the United States with my parents after four years abroad with Mennonite Central Committee. I was in culture shock on many levels, but the most shocking was to observe how easily Mennonites in my parents’ home community warmed to the idea of war with Saddam Hussein. During the Persian Gulf War, I felt disillusionment with my extended family, my Mennonite high school and my home town. I winced when my peers cursed Arabs and foreigners. I only came to terms with that web of darkness when I was a student at a Mennonite college, where I was challenged to broader thinking, hope for the future, faith in the New Testament and love for fellow humans. It was such a contrast to my home community’s relaxed attitude toward nationalism and xenophobia. At college, I found a place to belong, where I could openly embrace the values of non-violence and internationalism.
Playing the national anthem is one step toward saluting the flag, one step toward inviting military recruitment at Goshen College and one step away from Christians beyond our borders. I have quietly watched too many Mennonites and Mennonite churches throw away their tradition and lose the peace position. I hope that that does not happen at Goshen College. I trust that more intelligent people will come along and change your policy. Hopefully it will happen before my children are ready for college.