Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Somebody Keep our Land?

We learned this morning that Member of Parliament Mauril Belanger has died of ALS. Back-bencher Belanger was in the news a lot in June because of his private members bill to change the words of our national anthem from "in all they sons command" to a gender neutral "in all of us command." Eventually it was passed, despite some dopey opposition in the House. It was a worthwhile endeavour and wonderful that the new words were adopted before Belanger's death. We sang the anthem with the revised words during our Canada Sunday service in late June. I didn't attempt to read lips to ascertain who sang retro!

CBC reporter Terry Milewski penned  a piece asking what will be next in terms of alterations to the anthem. At that time the Rogue Tenor anthem fiasco hadn't occurred. Milewski mused about the religious content of the anthem

Unmolested so far, though, in the debate about sons versus us, is the looming God problem. It lurks mainly in the French version of the anthem, about which the ungodly have muttered for years.
The English version, of course, does invoke the Almighty: "God keep our land glorious and free!"
But the French version, which preceded the English one and is not a translation, seems noticeably more militant in its invocation of a crusading Christianity.
"Car ton bras sait porter l'épée,
Il sait porter la croix
Literally, that's "because your arm knows how to carry a sword, it knows how to carry the cross." So we are deep into "Onward, Christian soldiers" territory. We're armed, and we're spreading the gospel of Jesus.
Perhaps, if you'd asked Adolphe-Basile Routhier, the author of the French lyrics, why he excluded other religions that don't revere any cross, he might have replied, "Because it's 1880."
And it was. But look at Canada now.

Milewski then spoke to the religious diversity of the country, not to mention those who would prefer not to mention the protection of a deity in our anthem at all. I have wondered about this myself, as some of you know. The vast majority of Canadians are still deists of some description, with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam representing a lot of us. My experience of Hindus is that they are very tolerant of diverse religious expression. So the anthem will probably be "godly" for a while yet, unless we get overly earnest.  

What are your thoughts? In a diverse society has the time come to be deity-free as well as gender neutral, or does the anthem as it exists reflect our society?


Frank said...

According to the Constitution Act 1982, the opening states, under PART I, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms " Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law: ...".

Seems to me that keeping "God keep our Land ..." in the anthem isn't that far a stretch to remain consistent with our constitutional preamble.

David Mundy said...

Amen! Thanks Frank.