USA Today: GOSHEN, Ind. — Rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air – these are the words that brought tears to the eyes of those who witnessed the historic first playing of the national anthem at Goshen College Tuesday afternoon.
Tears of pain for 22-year-old Marlys Weaver, a senior journalism student who hates the images of war she sees "in nearly every verse."
Tears of joy for 56-year-old Steven Shriner, a retired Air Force sergeant who proudly wears a red, white and blue cap.
They were among more than 100 people who gathered around the Goshen baseball diamond to hear the patriotic tune that had never been played at the Mennonite college that has always embraced its peace-loving, pacifist roots.
But as the 1,000-student campus has grown increasingly diversified – only 55% of students today are Mennonite, compared to more than 60% a few decades ago – the pressure to show allegiance to the flag has grown.
After a visiting fan complained a year ago and a conservative radio show picked up the story, Goshen embarked on months ofpassionate debate – exploring what it means to be a Mennonite in a society that embraces the flag – a debate that concluded Tuesday with the national anthem and the inaugural hoisting of the American flag down the first base line.
The small wooden grandstands were packed with more than 100 fans, a mix of students and adults. Most of them stood during the playing of the anthem – about a dozen remained seated and at least one booed during the song.
Some students painted American flags on their chest while members of an off-campus group – caling themselves the Jesus Radicals – came dressed in black with black crosses painted on their foreheads.
"This is a sign of mourning," said Nekeisha Alexis-Baker about the cross.
Meanwhile, Taylor TenHarmsel, a junior, proudly displayed a generous splash of red white and blue on his chest."The freedom that flag has given us allows us to do this," he said.