Racing Presidents The truly important part of Nats games (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

James Marsh, a Methodist minister, loves his God and his country and his baseball team but is queasy about when all of these things intersect at a baseball game in the form of “God Bless America.” Marsh sits out the song when it is played at games — though, as he explains, not for the reasons people probably think if they silently or loudly judge him for it. So he wrote out the real explanation for The Post.

He says it’s mostly because he feels that love of God and love of country aren’t the same thing and can’t be forced together at a sporting event. It feels exclusionary to him, and if he has that feeling, he wonders, how would a non-religious person — say, a secular humanist — feel about it?

Some, however, still do not buy his reasoning, suggesting that it masks his real intention:


This guy’s just lazy and couches his laziness in terms of some sort of principled stand. We call this type of person a loser.


Mr. Marsh, you are a closet atheist. Rebelling against the song confirms that you are are going through an identity crisis. Professional help will help you come out of the closet. Good luck and may God Bless America!

Great. Now for those people who accept Marsh at his word, we have many interesting interpretations and counter-interpretations. One of Marsh’s chief objections to the song is the pressure to conform, espousing a complicated set of beliefs about God’s intentions toward America and our right to ask him for a special national blessing. There are those who admire him for this:


What a beautiful way to frame my own beliefs: I want God to be walking with and standing beside every person on this Earth — and every country. We’re an absurdly rich, immature nation. I’d like to see God spend more time elsewhere on this planet.


Actually it is very hard to follow your conscience and sit when everyone else is standing. I want to do it but I don’t want to incur the tension — I’m at a ballgame for goodness’ sake — so I stand up.


Lincoln (not the exact words): I seek not that God be on our side but that we are on God’s side.
[PostScript note: “But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side." The contrast to the “God on our side" idea was implied in the question he was answering.]


There are plenty of countries in the world where you are obliged to do things to spare others’ feelings. For women to wear headscarves or walk on a different side of the street. To abstain from drinking alcohol or taking the Lord’s name in vain or eating pork.

The point of this country — really, its single greatest founding virtue — is that we’re free to do whatever the heck we want to as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else. Not someone else’s feelings, or their sense of what we should or shouldn’t do, but their personal integrity and property.

Leave him alone and mind your own business. If you think you’re being patriotic in telling him he has to stand during God Bless America, you don’t understand what patriotism even means.

comfysofa responds directly to glaucomatose:

I don’t care if he sits or stands but I reserve my right to call him a wanker who needs to get over himself. I don’t intend to force him to get over himself. I’m just telling him he is being a self-important dork. In my country he would be regarded as a wanker due to his inflated sense of self-importance.

adifferentpointofview doesn’t feel asking God to bless America is asking God to play favorites:

Asking for a blessing for your country does not mean you are asking that only your and no other country be blessed, any more than when a person says a prayer at dinner and asks for his food to be blessed, s/he implying no other food be blessed or when a minister prays for his congregation to be guided in the ways of the Lord, he’s asking that no other congregation be guided. There is nothing wrong with asking God to bless America. I doubt most of the patrons mean to imply that God shouldn’t bless other countries as well.

And some can’t really summon passion on this issue at all:


It is a ridiculous article. What’s one to do? Ban the harasser from harassing? Pllleeeaazze.


I stand up to stretch my legs.


What’s more American than baseball, hotdogs, and making a big deal out of nothing? And I will defend your right to be trivial and insignificant with the last drop of my beer.

And finally, as the child of a Cubs fan, PostScript is pleased to quote djokinme:

I’m glad we threw GBA into the mix. If there’s anything baseball needs it’s more singing and longer breaks, to really help slow down its furious pace and let the fans catch their breath.