Maybe the call to change the national anthem is well-meaning. Nevertheless, it is little more than an exercise in "chronological snobbery", a mindset that would spin everything off itself; today should govern yesterday.
An inspirational national anthem is like good wine, it must have provenance, time to be savoured and loved, connecting the past to the present with hope for the future. It must be spiritually and morally coherent, transcending the limitations of fashionable ideology.
Our present anthem fulfils all of these because it was written with genuine affection during a period of national and cultural coherence.
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The call to change the anthem, either in part or in whole, on the grounds that it's out of date misunderstands its function. God defend New Zealand is not just sung by living voices on one particular day, it is also a reverberation of the voices who have passed on. It is the distillation of the poignant love of one's nation by encouraging a humble and proper patriotism.
In the contemporary culture seduced by the cult of diversity and inclusion, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to write an anthem to echo that rich patriotic oneness. The frenetic search for elusive Kiwi values would ricochet in a cacophony of disparate voices pretending to understand each other. At best, we would have sentimental codswallop disguised as tolerance in a frantic swelling of virtue signalling.
An anthem is a consequence of having a shared and confident vision of nationhood. For decades, indeed for much of my lifetime, New Zealand has been divesting itself of that vision. The foundational, biblical message of humility, grace, sacrificial love and the need for forgiveness is being rejected without replacement. It isn't surprising some people are embarrassed.
The nuanced insights and sensitivities may well be too heroic and biblical for the embarrassed, but we have not discovered a superior story that would give our nation sufficient meaning for another anthem. We do not have an alternative tradition, history or a set of beliefs that would bring us together. All the waffle about diversity, inclusion and tolerance is mere deconstruction; a provisional parasite thinking it has a life of its own.
The "triple star", "shafts of war" and "entreat" are not meaningless to immigrants with limited English. Indeed many, particularly those who have escaped from totalitarian regimes, will be able to sing with renewed emotional power as they enjoy their new freedom and its foundations.
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Those New Zealanders under 30 could benefit greatly from coming to terms with the anthem's connection to the past. They might discover that God defend New Zealand is also a salutary teacher.
For example, a much more useful thing to do in schools than labouring children with the anxieties of climate change would be to teach something of the anthem's history, language, sensitivities and nuance. At the very least it might help them understand the poignant difference between the aspirations of our nation and practical outworking of its history.
Children could be encouraged to ask legitimate questions about their existence as New Zealanders. What does it mean to meet in the "bonds of love"? How is it possible to even think of such a possibility? And, goodness me, who is the God of Nations? The anthem is actually a prayer, we ask God, in the context of genuine humility, to protect our free
And anyway, all national anthems are eventually prayers either to the surging vanity of hubris and consequently the worst expressions of nationalism or maybe to nature and the consequent collapse into the sentimentality of pantheism. Perhaps even, rousingly, to the God of War like the Marseillaise, although one suspects that its appeal lies mainly in the stirring romance of Rouget de Lisle's musical score and the brief and tragic, romantic spirit of the French Revolution.
Perhaps the most encouraging news we have regarding our anthem is that a recent NZ Herald poll tells us nearly three-quarters of New Zealanders want to keep it as it is. Hallelujah.
• Bruce Logan is a former teacher who, since 2008, has spent New Zealand winters living and writing in Provence.