American singer Crystal Collins got a world-beating bollocking from all sides after murdering God Defend New Zealand prior to a rugby league game in Denver, Colarado, last weekend.

But was it murder? Or was she just putting it out of its misery, because a miserable thing it is, if you look closely.

"God" – first word, first problem. Not really relevant, especially given the recent finding that more than half of New Zealanders profess no mainstream religious affiliation.

Our anthem, however, is a hymn addressed directly to the Creator. Our pleas rise from rugby stands directly to his ear – or so the theory goes. If there is no such being, then every word is meaningless, yet we persist for 40 lines in asking special favours of him.


Many countries have secular anthems. France and the USA have battle songs, which would hardly suit us with our run-down defence forces. North of the US border we find O Canada, with just one reference to a supreme being buried well down the verses.

Advance Australia Fair is resolutely non-religious (and took five people to write, like a Lady Gaga song).

We do have another national anthem, also religious – that's the one where he saves the Queen - but you don't hear it nearly as often. She's 92, after all; you can't expect miracles.

"Of nations" – who is this god of nations? The deity of the bible has only one nation, that of the chosen people. Furthermore, he is the omnipotent god of all things. So our anthem is not even religiously coherent.

"At thy feet" - never let it be said we don't know our place.

"In the bonds of love" - I've always been at a loss to know what this means, but it turns out to be worse than I thought. There is a book called The Bonds of Love by psychoanalyst Jessica Benjamin, which, according to its publishers, attempts to answer the questions: "What is the appeal of domination and submission, and why are they so prevalent in erotic life? Why is it so difficult for men and women to meet as equals? Why, indeed, do they continue to recapitulate the positions of master and slave?"

"We meet" – that would be right. No one has ever sung the national anthem to themselves for pleasure. It's a group sing or it's nothing.

"Hear our voices" – this is the start of a long list of orders the anthem issues to the put-upon divinity to whom it is addressed: Defend... Guard… Make… Put… Let… Give… Crown… Guide.

"We entreat" – obviously one thing we do know how to do without anyone's help.

Most embarrassing of our entreaties is the one to "Make her praises heard afar" – the cultural cringe is so important to us, we've put it in our anthem.

Well, here we are at the end of the column and we haven't got anywhere near the lines about our mountains ever being freedom's ramparts to the sea. I have no idea how that would work, especially since most of our major cities are built on the water with any mountains behind them.

I do know we have any number of world-class songwriters who could come up with a more singable, sensible and inspiring national anthem. They work fast too. What a great legacy that would be for Winston Peters to leave in five weeks.

Footnote: For all its faults, ours is not the world's worst national singalong. It's a hotly contested title but it should probably go to Hungary's anthem Himnusz (Hymn) which includes such lines as "Torturous slavery's tears fall/ From the burning eyes of the orphans!"