Religion: Singing Hymns and Hers

A hot-selling songbook downplays men and King James

Is nothing sacred? After church leaders set about updating the United Methodist Hymnal in 1984, their most controversial acts were to excise one of the most popular hymns in the Protestant repertoire, Onward Christian Soldiers, and to strip verses from The Battle Hymn of the Republic. The literal-minded rationale: a pro-peace church should not use "militaristic imagery." Outraged parishioners would have none of it. The two hymns were restored -- banners, watch fires and all -- after the revisionists were inundated with 11,000 protest letters.

( Other well-worn lines have not fared so well in the new hymnal, the most thorough...

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