‘God Bless the U.S.A.’: America’s most patriotic songwriter gets into the Bible business – Football News

‘God Bless the U.S.A.’: America’s most patriotic songwriter gets into the Bible business

The idea first came, Lee Greenwood told me, from a Canadian friend of his. If your founding documents are so important, the friend asked, why aren’t they displayed anywhere? Greenwood has had good ideas before — the lyrics to “God Bless the USA,” one of the nation’s most popular patriotic songs, among them — but he fancies this one of his best: “I thought, ‘Well, why don’t we just put them with a Bible?’”

Before long, Greenwood had teamed up with a Nashville-based marketing executive to devise his Americana Bible. It would start in Genesis and go all the way through Revelation. Then, where other Bibles end, Greenwood would insert the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights would follow. The Pledge of Allegiance — though it “came later in our history,” Greenwood notes — would be tossed in, too. And as a finishing touch, the lyrics to Greenwood’s song, handwritten by the singer himself, would be tucked in the back. “It’s a beautifully bound Bible — I guess you’ve seen it right?” Greenwood asked me, holding up the brown leather volume to his Zoom camera. “Distinctly, at the very top, it says, ‘Holy Bible,’” he said, tracing the words with his finger. “Believe me, this is God’s word.” He chuckled. “I haven’t touched it.”

This “God Bless the USA Bible” has been in circulation for three years now. But it gained newfound attention in April, when former president Donald Trump cut a Holy Week ad in its favor. (It’s “the only Bible endorsed by President Trump,” its website now declares.) This week, pro golfer John Daly joined, too. “We are bringing people to faith,” Greenwood said.

This Bible, its proponents argue, is an American bulwark at the intersection of two parallel freefalls: religious affiliation is on the decline, and patriotism is on the decline. “Unaffiliated” people, or religious “nones,” are the only major religious group seeing statistical growth in the U.S. Simultaneously, the portion of Americans who say they are “extremely” proud to be an American is near the lowest point since Gallup started asking.

The Bible, then, takes a pass at addressing both issues: infuse Christianity into America, and infuse America into Christianity.

Not everyone is comfortable with the idea. In 2021, shortly after news broke that the Bible would be carried by Zondervan, a leading Bible publisher, an online petition gathered nearly a thousand signatures, asking the publisher to pull out. The petition’s organizer, Utah resident John Morehead, said this “God Bless the USA Bible” is “an inappropriate blending of nationalist concerns with the Christian faith.”

“I have no problem with people being patriotic and having their patriotism, in some way, informed by their faith,” said Morehead, the director of the evangelical chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. “But I think Christian nationalism crosses a line into a fusion of those two, to the point where America is seen as a Christian nation.”

Morehead’s organization focuses on interfaith outreach, with the goal of creating “interreligious diplomats” — people trained to facilitate productive dialogue between people of different religions. A decade ago, he led a research team, funded by a Louisville Institute grant, dedicated to studying why some evangelical Christian churches were able to interact with those of other faiths in a constructive way, and other churches were not. Their discovery? The leading indicator for negative responses to other religious groups was a belief in Christian nationalism.

Christian nationalism, Morehead explains, is the pervasive view that pluralism is a threat, not a key feature, to American society. It’s the idea that “America is a Christian country, and if you’re a true American, then you’re a Christian.” Other religious groups, through this lens, “are somehow viewed as a moral threat to the country and to our political system.”

Morehead’s petition worked: in 2021, shortly after announcing it would print the Bible, Zondervan — an imprint of HarperCollins — backed out, taking usage rights for the New International Version with it. Greenwood and his team pivoted, instead choosing to publish with the copyright-free King James Version. (All of the documents in the “God Bless the USA Bible,” except for Greenwood’s song lyrics, are in the public domain.)

Now, three years later, the episode seems like a blip in the rearview to this Bible’s creators, who are experiencing unparalleled popularity thanks to Trump’s endorsement. (Both Trump and Greenwood get royalties from each Bible sold.) Greenwood is not only a fervent supporter of Trump’s candidacy, but a defender when it comes to questions about Trump’s faith: “I’m quite sure that he wouldn’t have made his video … promoting the God Bless the USA Bible, acknowledging that he believes in God, acknowledging that he has faith and that we should have faith in the country — I don’t believe in my heart that he would have ever stepped out and done that, unless he truly believes it,” Greenwood said. (Trump identifies with no particular Christian denomination, though a majority of Republican voters say he’s a “person of faith.”)

Greenwood, who’s gearing up for a 4th of July weekend tour, said he sees stadiums full of people who are proud to be Americans. “I guarantee you, when I sing ‘God Bless the USA’ at the end of my show, people are going to stand up, they’re going to be waving the flag,” he said. America needs to select a leader, he said, who can instill the same ethos in the whole country: “We just need somebody who can unite the country better.”

By that metric, Trump would have some difficulty: when he took office in 2017, 75% of Americans said they were “extremely” or “very” proud to be an American, per Gallup; by the time he left, that figure was down to 63%. That figure has crept back up to 67% since, but Biden, a devout Catholic, does not meet Greenwood’s approval; he’s a “weak leader,” he said.

What, then, would a leader look like that could bring the country together? “Well, let’s hope it’s someone that has his hand on the Bible,” Greenwood said. “Let’s hope it’s someone that God has put in that place, because if America is going to survive, it has to survive with faith.”

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