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Fort McHenry and the battle for God's favor in America

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During the Battle of Baltimore, September 13-14, 1814, Francis Scott Key spotted the broad stripes and bright stars of our nation’s flag gallantly streaming over Fort McHenry, inspiring him to write the “Star-Spangled Banner”. In the fourth verse of the song, we discover there was more at stake to the valiant defense of the fort and the War of 1812 than most people today understand. The war was not just a battle to determine who would rule in America. It was also a theological fight to decide which country was favored by God.

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Recently, The Maryland Historical Society discussed the fourth verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” during a lecture at Fort McHenry, which is less than an hour drive from downtown Washington, DC. Britain had always considered their long-standing constitution to be the most Christian way of governing people. In American republicanism, individualism and personal rights were favored. This concerned the Brits.

The British wondered if it was better for a person to focus on their own rights. Did that really reflect the heart of God? Was British subjection and resignation to your station in life the only way to live life closer to the true faith, as the British believed? The War of 1812 had taken on a divine significance and every struggle contained eternal ramifications to those involved at the time. Francis Scott Key, who witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry while he was under British guard on a ship in the Patapsco River, expresses these feelings when writing,

“Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

To celebrate the Battle of Baltimore bicentennial and the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner, Fort McHenry has planned eleven days of special programs and events from September 6-16, 2014, including commemorative ceremonies, living history demonstrations, and interpretive programs. On special loan for the bicentennial will be Francis Scott Key’s original handwritten manuscript of "The Defense of Fort McHenry." For more information, visit the Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine website or contact the National Park Service at (410) 962-4290.

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