During my vacation, I remembered something about our hymns for Pentecost and Trinity Sundays that I meant to note on the blog. Many of the songs we sang those weeks contained military references: "Onward Christian Soldiers" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" to name two that I recall (but I believe there was at least one more with a similar reference). In recent years, we've become uncomfortable with such aggressive language; indeed, some of these hymns were omitted from the ELW, presumably for that very reason.
There are certainly reasons to tone down such rhetoric, but we also lose out on part of our heritage and history. We also miss the chance to discuss the poetry and imagery such language can also represent - the final battle of the Book of Revelation, for example. We are also meant to wage a war for hearts and minds of converts, are we not?
For some reason, the hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers" always brings to my mind an episode of "Little House on the Prairie." (I believe it was the finale, but I may be wrong since it has been so many years.) The town's people are being evicted from their homes, with the whole town being forced to move. I can't remember the details of why exactly - some faceless and sinister "corporation" is behind the whole thing, as I recall. Anyway, the reason it's relevant is that the community chooses to blow up all their homes and buildings before walking, riding, and marching their way out of town with the remainder of the possessions. As they march, they sing that hymn, and it represents their fortitude, their rectitude, their positive attitudes in the face of adversity. They stand up and do what they think is morally correct, waging their personal battles of faith, and they do it without acts of violence, of course. The image has stuck with me for years for its emotional impact. To stand up for what you believe is to be a Christian Soldier, and I think that's worth singing about.