Francis Scott Key: God and Country

Francis Scott Key: God and Country
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God and Country Go Hand in Hand

One of the historic figures that comes to mind on Independence Day is Francis Scott Key, a man who loved God and country. He wrote the words that became America’s anthem, but he also wrote hymns and advanced Sunday School in America’s new western territories.

We’ve been celebrating America’s independence from England since July 4, 1776. Most Americans celebrate the day with family get-togethers, cookouts, and watch fireworks lighting up the night sky. It is a day when we are proud to be Americans and reflect on the freedom and liberty hard-won by those before us. We think of our military and veterans, the Revolutionary War, founding fathers, and our flag.

As Christians, we think of God and the blessings He has poured out on America. We sing songs filled with patriotism and national pride that give glory to God such as America the Beautiful, My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and God Bless America.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD;” – Psalms 33:12

The Star-Spangled Banner

There is one song that stands out among the others that became our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, written by Francis Scott Key in 1814. This song’s history is unique, and you can learn how The Star-Spangled Banner came to be by watching this video:

The photo below is of the actual Great Garrison Flag that survived the bombardment at Fort McHenry, inspiring Key to write his infamous poem. The family of Major Armistead, the commander of the fort, kept the flag until they donated it to the Smithsonian in 1912.

Fort McHenry Flag

Evangelizing the West

Many do not know that Francis Scott Key was a national advocate of Sunday School. Samuel Slater is credited with bringing Sunday School to America in the 1790’s. Under Key’s leadership the Sunday School movement helped evangelize the West. The following are excerpts from Writer of ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ helped evangelize West thru Sunday School movement, an article written by David Roach of the Baptist Press.

Christian educators say Key’s two passions went hand in hand. Sunday School could once again, they say, be a catalyst for spiritual and moral renewal in America.

“America and Sunday School literally grew up together,” said David Francis, a retired director of Sunday School for LifeWay Christian Resources. “Nowhere else in the world has Sunday School been embraced like in America. Nowhere else in the world has the idea of a constitutional republic been sustained like in America. Two ideas. Both of God. At the same time. Spreading together across a continent. What a fortunate coincidence.”

Francis Scott Key

Key was “an earnest Christian,” and “a teacher of a large Bible class,” according to Edwin Wilbur Rice’s 1917 book The Sunday School Movement and the American Sunday-School Union (ASSU). Key joined the ASSU board of managers in 1824, the year the union changed its name from the Sunday and Adult School Union.

The ASSU’s 1835 Annual listed Key as a “lifetime member” based on his contribution of at least $30 — the equivalent of $815 today.

Francis wrote in his book Missionary Sunday School that the ASSU’s aim was to start Sunday Schools across America where individuals from lower economic classes heard the Gospel and learned to read and write “using the Bible as a primary text.” Sunday Schools typically comprised children “who rarely or never attend[ed] church,” and adult classes often formed as a secondary ministry.

Key chaired an 1830 ASSU meeting in Washington, which instituted the “Mississippi Valley Enterprise,” a campaign that established west of the Appalachian Mountains more than 61,000 Sunday Schools for some 2.7 million pupils over the next 50 years, Francis wrote. Many of those Sunday Schools developed into churches, some Baptist, in areas previously without an evangelical witness while others became weekday schools before the era of American public education.

When Key died in 1843, the ASSU stated in its Annual, “By the decease of the Hon. Francis S. Key, of the District of Columbia, we lose one of our earliest and most steadfast advocates and patrons. His frequent and liberal contributions to our funds, and his readiness at all times to vindicate the principles and advance the usefulness of the Society, furnished unequivocal evidence of his interest in our cause.”

Francis told Baptist Press the Sunday School movement under Key and other early leaders “played no small role” during America’s first century in raising up a citizenry that was “both moral and literate.”

==> Also read Franklin Graham: Being Used for God’s Glory.

==> And read Rossvally: From the Synagogue to the Saviour.

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