I committed an act of civil disobedience the other night.
I threw open the dining room window, plopped down at the piano beneath it, and with the family gathered around, flipped open the hymn book and began singing. Starting with “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” my family and I soon moved on to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” “America the Beautiful,” and other rousing hymns offering comfort and exhorting courage in the face of difficulties.
Okay, so it wasn’t quite an act of civil disobedience – but the way things are going, it certainly could become one soon. Depending on the state one lives in it may be one already, for singing is a condemned activity in the COVID era.
Regardless, I was amazed at how cathartic singing was. I shouldn’t have been surprised, for singing offers not only physical and mental benefits, but moral and emotional benefits as well.
Singing, science tells us, releases a few hormones that naturally lift our spirits and make us happy. These include endorphins and oxytocin, the latter of which relieves anxiety and stress. Singing also promises to help our memory and health – could this be a COVID therapy we’re missing out on? – while offering a sense of community.
It’s likely that some of the uplift my family and I received from our song fest was related to these scientific benefits, but I would guess that much of it was also related to these songs’ words.
For starters, many were militant, refusing to give up the fight for what is right and true, encouraging singers to give themselves selflessly for the country they love. They also recalled historical incidents important to our nation’s birth and survival, such as the arrival of our Pilgrim forefathers, while also reveling in the freedom we have long enjoyed.
But many of these songs also include heartfelt prayers. Take “America the Beautiful.” Many know the famous pleas for God to “shed his grace” on the country and crown its “good with brotherhood,” but how many have forgotten the second verse?
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!”
Heaven knows our nation has many flaws, one of which is the lack of self-control demonstrated by the lawless abandon in our city streets. Yet despite how bleak we may feel the outlook is, we still have recourse to cry out to God for His aid in a hopeless, messy situation.
Finally, these songs offer a pattern for brightening our gloomy, contentious days. Moving on from the patriotic songs, my family ended with the old hymns “Count Your Blessings” and “Thanks to God.” The former encourages us to count our blessings when we are “tempest-tossed” and “discouraged, thinking all is lost.” The latter also encourages a grateful heart regardless of one’s circumstances.
My voice was hoarse by the time we finished, but my spirits were lifted and I felt ready to face whatever comes next.
Unfortunately, I’m not the only one wrestling with being a bit down these days, which is why I tell you about my little act of civil disobedience and encourage you to indulge in the same.
The ideals upon which America was founded are now forgotten by many. Yet these same ideals are buried in these songs of patriotism and faith. By singing these songs, we instill the truths contained in their words in our hearts. We learn once again to have faith in God, to gather and build community within our own families, and to delight in the blessings of living in a country with a wonderful history and heritage.
That, my friends, is a little bit of homestyle civil disobedience which any American should be able to get behind.
Cheryl Anne Endicott collection, CC BY-SA 4.0