Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

Contraband hymns

While we're on the subject of being amused at church...

We sang "Onward, Christian Soldiers" for an opening hymn at church today. Singing it brought back a memory of our time in Damascus.

Being a Mormon in Syria is an interesting situation. We're not officially recognized there, and so we keep everything very low-key. We also have to assume that everything we do at church is being monitored. Church is held in an American's apartment, so the idea of having tabs kept on us is not entirely far-fetched.

One Friday (the Sabbath), we somehow ended up singing this hymn as a congregation (in this case, "congregation" means about 6 people). It started out innocuously enough, with me playing the accompaniment on our tiny keyboard. But as we started paying attention to the lyrics, we all wondered why on earth we had chosen that song to sing.

For a church trying to keep a low profile in a predominantly Muslim country, the lyrics of "Onward, Christian Soldiers" could not fit the purpose less. We managed to finish out the song, though, albeit with nervous smiles on our faces.

It was the same with any of our hymns that mentioned Israel in the Biblical sense, meaning "the people of God." The last thing we needed was to have someone think we were singing hymns praising modern-day Israel.

You just don't think about these things in America, but they're unavoidable in the Middle East.