February 8, 2020

“O God of All the Nations”

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is a Presbyterian minister who is also a hymn writer. America’s recent political upheavals have inspired her to compose a new hymn, “O God of All the Nations,” which she has set to one of my favorite hymn tunes, Llangloffan (see information about this tune on Hymnary.org). Although Gillette hasn’t said so on her Web site, I suspect that her text was in part inspired by “O God of Every Nation,” which is also set to Llangloffan. (One of my own hymns can also be sung to this tune, although, for historical reasons, Munich was my first choice.)

Some have criticized this hymn as too “political.” I have two responses to this criticism. First, Gillette has offered a number of biblical citations to justify her text; it is surely scripturally based. At least as important, however, is the fact that much of the Old Testament can be viewed as political commentary. Separating God from politics separates God from considerations of good and evil. If our worship is oblivious of the world around us, including the political world, it is simply solipsistic.

I am perhaps not a disinterested observer respecting the Gillette hymn, as I myself have recently written two collects in reaction to the behavior of our current president (“For a Troubled Nation” and “For an Impeachment Trial of the President”). I don’t consider my collects to be different in kind from those in the Book of Common Prayer.

I have reproduced “O God of All the Nations” below. You can also find it on Gillette’s own Web site here, on a page that carries the following notice:
Copyright © December 19, 2019 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Permission is given for free use of this hymn.

O God of All the Nations
Tune: Llangloffan 76. 76. D

O God of all the nations, your ancient prophets saw
That kings and institutions are not above the law.
Integrity is precious, and truth will one day stand;
Your way is peace and justice, and love is your command.

O God, when times are troubled, when lies are seen as truth,
When power-hungry people draw praise and not reproof,
When greed is seen as greatness, when justice is abused,
We pray that those who lead us will know what they must choose.

We pray they’ll gather wisdom and lift up high ideals,
To guide our struggling nation along a path that heals.
We pray they’ll have the vision to value each good law,
To put aside ambition, to seek the best for all.

O God of all the nations, may those who lead us see
That justice is your blessing, that truth will set us free.
Give all of us the courage to seek the nobler way,
So in this land we cherish, the good will win the day.

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