Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Christian pastor executed by the Nazis in World II, wrote: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow Him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.” (From The Cost of Discipleship.)
The reason I title my blogs, “Scribblings from Exile,” is that I believe Christians, even in America, are in exile. The blessings of democracy compel us to perform earthly citizenship duties, but we are, as the apostle Paul called us in one of his letters, ambassadors from another kingdom. Jesus rebuked his disciples for supposing he intended to be a political king.
A theme of my story Singing in Babylon is the understanding of this calling into exile. Kate and Philip, American Christians, feel themselves in exile when they journey to work in Saudi Arabia, a Muslim majority country. On returning home to the United States, they realize they are still exiles. They do not belong to the consumer culture of the West any more than they belong to the Muslim-majority Middle East.
If we Christians in Western countries understood the call to die to our culture, as we might if we listen to Bonhoeffer, would our message be listened to rather than ignored or ridiculed?
Ann Gaylia O'Barr, author of Singing in Babylon, Searching for Home, Quiet Deception, Distant Thunder and A Sense of Mission (all OakTara), was a Foreign Service Officer in the United States Department of State from 1990 to 2004. Assignments included tours in U.S. embassies and consulates in Saudi Arabia (Jeddah and Dhahran), Algeria, Canada, Tunisia, and Washington, D.C. (Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and Bureau of Intelligence and Research).