Australian National Anthem and God

Lachlan Heywood wrote an article in Friday’s Courier Mail outlining an emerging debate among politicians around the words of the Australian national anthem.

A PUSH is under way to insert a reference to God in Australia’s national anthem. Several god-fearing federal MPs say it is time that Advance Australia Fair was amended to reflect the nation’s Christian values. Our national song does not mention God, unlike the anthems of New Zealand, the US and the UK. Queensland Liberal MP Peter Slipper told Parliament the “importance of God” and Australia’s Christian foundations deserved to be recognised in the national anthem.
“Most people, whether practising Christians or not, would accept that Australia is a Christian country and that, as a nation, we have our roots in the Christian faith,” he said. Other parliamentarians, including Family First’s Steve Fielding and the Nationals’ Barnaby Joyce and Bruce Scott, yesterday voiced support. Any amendment is likely to be hotly debated.
High-profile Christian and Labor MP Kevin Rudd and Queensland Liberal MP Michael Johnson said a God reference was not needed. “In the 1890s the sons and fathers debated about whether or not to establish religion in the Australian constitution,” Mr Rudd said. “Wisely they decided not to. The same intelligently applies to our national anthem.”

Advance Australia Fair

So what about the verses we sing now? They don’t start too well, with the assertion that we’re all young and free, though I do like the thought that we have plains to share with those who come across the sea.

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in Nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing,
“Advance Australia fair!”

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share
With courage let us all combine
To advance Australia fair
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair

Peter Dodds McCormack, the writer of Advance Australia Fair, was choirmaster at Scot’s Church in Sydney at the turn of the twentieth century. However it appears as though he did not write any words to that song that referred to God. See this interesting post on the subject.

Christian Lyrics Added

I’ve been to a number of places of worship where the ‘Christian’ verse is sung:
With Christ our head and cornerstone,
We’ll build our Nation’s might.
Whose way and truth and light alone
Can guide our path aright.
Our lives, a sacrifice of love,
reflect our Master’s care.
With faces turned to heaven above,
Advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia fair.

The words may be appropriate for worship settings attempting to connect the Australian context and Christian spirituality. However we do live in a pluralistic society in which the Christian discourse is one of many. And what’s this about faces turned to heaven above?

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