Today, in sacrament meeting, for the congregational hymn, we sung Hope of Israel (hymn #259) … and I was struck by the decidedly Jihadist ( Jihad-ish? ) tone of the selection. As I read through the text, I mentally made a few edits and found the changes illuminating:
Israel Islam, Zion’s Allah’s army, Children of the promised day,
Chieftain Mullah signals onward, And the battle’s in array!
Israel Islam, rise in might
With the sword of truth and right;
Sound the war-cry, “Watch and pray!”
Vanquish ev’ry foe today.
See the foe in countless numbers, Marshaled in the ranks of sin.
Israel Islam, on to battle; Now the vict’ry we must win!
Zion Allah, down with error; Flash the sword above the foe!
Ev’ry stroke disarms a foeman; Ev’ry step we conq’ring go.
Soon the battle will be over; Ev’ry foe of truth be down.
Onward, onward, youth of
Zion Allah; Thy reward the victor’s crown.
Now … I’ve always been a little uneasy with the militaristic hymns. I get the metaphor — I just don’t really agree with it. The war we’re at is with our worst selves — not with our neighbors. There is no “us” and “them”, truthfully. Except for the most cruel and craven, every person who’s ever walked this planet has been on our side of the fight. We’ve all — with varying degrees of success — been in a war with our own, private demons. There is only ONE enemy — and that is Satan. Everyone else is just collateral damage.
The funny thing is, I love this hymn. It’s rousing! And maybe that’s its point … but today — when we remember the acts of those who were so sure that they were on the right side of the battle that they were willing to kill — I didn’t really feel like singing along.