For pietist Lutheran pastors in America, it was an embarrassment that would not go away. Since the Reformation, it had always been one of the people’s favorite hymns, penned by Martin Luther himself—second only to “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Written in 1541, “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word” had been an anthem—sometimes even a battle cry—during the Thirty Years War. But the pietists’ goal—to transform Lutheranism from what they perceived to be the victim of “dead orthodoxy” to a religion of inner feelings, more in line with American evangelicalism—would be thwarted if the common folks in the pews sang militant songs rooted in the past.
Fortunately, in the late 19th century, British proto-feminist Catherine Winkworth set about the task of translating the old Lutheran standards into tamer English versions. By doing away with the German and toning down the words, Winkworth ensured that generations to come would forget both the culture and theology that had shaped their identity as Lutherans.
Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word
Curb those who feign by craft and sword
To wrest the Kingdom from Thy Son
And set at naught all He hath done.
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