“Why are American Christians so opinionated in the church and out of the church?” I asked my to-be American husband. As a mainline protestant Canadian Christian immersing myself into Midwest American Evangelical Christianity, I was struggling with the personality of the American Christian. The American Christian was far too outspoken and politically active for my Canadian sensibilities.
I came to understand and believe that my American Christian friends were simply a by-product of the larger American revolutionary personality; outspoken, confident, proud, generous, courageous, action-oriented and reflecting the entire political landscape, not just the extremes of the right OR the left. I learned that American Christians, living in a culture that values personal opinions and debate, needed to have discourse concerning any and all church matters. My experience was that the stereotypical Republican American Patriotic Christian was the exception and not the rule.
At the same time, I was blessed to experience the American Christians’ generous and courageous personality when Believers from my church community rolled up their sleeves to become the Body for me in my darkest days while facing the illness and death of my husband. I was privileged to witness American Christians at their best, ministering to me in the most difficult of situations when boldness and confidence were needed to proclaim victory in Christ in the midst of tragedy.
After spending almost two decades in the US, I returned to Canada, socialized as an Evangelical American Christian. Even after three years of working to re-establish my Canadian Christian identity, there continue to be times when I feel that my adopted American Christian personality is too much for the fundamentally strong but gentle, reserved, quiet “living out your faith with few words” Canadian Christian community and the larger very tolerant Toronto Canadian culture where the cultural narrative declares that Christianity is at best one of many equal paths to God. I find it harder to live out my life as a Canadian Christian than as an American Christian, despite the outward niceness of the Canadian Two Solitudes personality (two nations trying to live side by side peacefully).
The culture wars are an ever present part of daily life in the US; court battles on behalf of the Christian Right (but not always on behalf of all American Christians) are a daily event. Despite the larger political and societal conflict, I lived openly as an American Christian, with freedom to discuss my faith with friends and decide my position on any issue independent of any personal political affiliation. In contrast, proclaiming Christ as The One and Only True Way to God in Toronto is viewed as un-Canadian, narrow, and God forbid even intolerant and American. Living out my faith in Toronto Canada feels counter-cultural and indeed subversive as I try to find ways to proclaim Christ in a culture that at best values equality of all religious beliefs in the name of peace and tolerance.
Nonetheless, God has used the Canadian national personality that is exhibited in Canadian Christians to bless me, support my healing and to further my growth as a Christian. The faithful and committed Christians in my spheres of influence in the Toronto/Hamilton area have demonstrated gentle caring for me during my transition back into a Canadian life and have modeled a contagious desire to grow deep in Christ. At this time in my faith walk, this is what God had clearly ordered for me that the Canadian Christian can deliver in a sensitive, strong yet gentle manner.
God does indeed work in wonderful and mysterious ways through the very cultures that greatly influence His precious Saints!!