I know when I write this question, people will interpret it in polar opposite ways, but I’m willing to take the chance.
In 1933, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his grandmother:
The question is really: Christianity or Germanism? And the sooner the conflict is revealed in the clear light of day the better.*
So, I sit here in my home country of the United States of America and ask the same question for the Christians in my midst: “Christianity or Americanism? This needs to be cleared up fast!”
Now, here is where the interpretations come into play, and it takes some reflection for us all.
Those who see American culture intertwined with Christianity have a hard time separating the two. To be American is to be Christian. The Church has a place for both the American and Christian flags, and there is no conflict on interest in saluting both. The extreme result becomes ultra-patriotism, that takes precedence over faith in Christ.
Those who call themselves Christian, but think Christianity needs to change along with society, have blended the two in a way that dilutes the Christian faith and the veracity of the Bible into some flavorless religion that in turn pulls down the American ideals of the past and turns the country into an intolerant smorgasbord of unchristian philosophies.
Bonhoeffer knew the historic reality of the basis of his country and of the strong and important influence of Christianity, but when that was destroyed by Hitler and National Socialism, he had no choice but to choose Christ over country. He demonstrated this by saying it was the duty of the church to stand up for the Jews and becoming an active part in the resistance against Hitler. Choosing Christ didn’t mean he left his country, though he had ample opportunities; no, he stayed and continued to speak the truth, paying the ultimate price.
So, today, when I hear arguments from this side or that, I grow increasingly aware that the way ahead for the follower of Christ can only be in maintaining allegiance not to country, but to Savior. I continue to be a good citizen by living out my Christian values, but compromise is not to be had — to the left or to the right.
Christianity or any other “ism”? That is the question.
How will you answer?
Grace and Peace
*Metaxas, Eric. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010, pg. 185.