The issue of whether or not the two high school marching bands should have participated in this year's Veterans Day Parade has attracted a lot of back-and-forth discussion on our web site. In reading the discussion, several things occurred to me.
* If I were planning a parade, I'd probably think of having at least one marching band as pretty important. It's like the developer of a shopping center looking for an "anchor tenant." It just doesn't seem as much like a parade without at least one band. So I'd probably want to talk informally with band directors and make some arrangements before publicly announcing the date and time of the parade. If there were a problem, I might want to see if there's some way to reschedule that would make everyone happy. A great parade on the 10th is better than a good parade on the 11th.
* You may recall that, some years ago, veterans tried to get the school system to call off schools on Veterans Day so that a daytime parade could be held. School system officials said at the time they just don't have any more free days to play with and that it's better to keep kids in school but make sure that Veterans Day is acknowledged in some form or fashion during the school day. That ensures that every child gets the message, not just those whose families choose to attend the parade.
* Hard-and-fast declarations criticizing someone for attending the parade instead of church, or attending church instead of the parade, are misguided. Missing the parade to attend church doesn't mean you don't honor veterans, while missing church to attend the parade doesn't mean you don't love God. A parade is one way to express patriotism and gratitude; it's hardly the only way, or even the most important way. I believe in, and practice, regular church attendance, but I also believe that (as Jesus said) the Sabbath was made for man, and not the other way around.
I've never been to a Titans game at LP Field, and so if someone gave me tickets for a noon kickoff game I would, most likely, skip church that Sunday in order to go. That would not be an indication that I value the Titans more highly than I value God; it would be a special opportunity, one which I would hope God would allow me to accept. Ideally, I could find some other way of spending time in worship that day, earlier or later than my normal church service. Now, if I put leisure time activities ahead of church on an ongoing basis, that would be a different matter, and perhaps an indication of wrong priorities on my part.
I would hope we would honor and thank veterans in a number of ways, including by being good citizens 365 days a year, and that we would worship God 365 days a year, through our deeds as well as our words.
* The church I attend, First United Methodist, had the good fortune to be on the parade route. We had our normal Wednesday night meal, then those who wanted to walked outside to watch the parade, and then we went back inside and continued with our normal Wednesday night routine. So I got to have it both ways.
* The reason we honor veterans is because they have sacrificed to defend our rights -- including the right to worship as we please. That's a powerful statement, and I think it's a statement that prevents either side of this dispute from getting on too much of a high horse. Veterans can't blame civilians for exercising their Constitutional rights, while civilians need to recognize the role played by veterans in securing those rights.