Count Your Blessings – Adventures in Odyssey Gives Thanks

I went ahead and purchased a year subscription to the Odyssey Adventure Club, I have been able to gain access to all the episodes Adventures in Odyssey. In light of this I will list the top 6 Adventures In Odyssey episodes about thankfulness in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday that is coming up. So without further ado, let’s start the countdown.

 

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6. “Thanksgiving at Home” (Episode 132)

Things are not well in the Barclay household on Thanksgiving morning for Mr. and Mrs. Barclay are sick in bed. Donna and Jimmy take upon themselves to make preparations for their Thanksgiving feast with hilarious results. While it spends most of the time with Donna and Jimmy as they attempt to salvage their Thanksgiving, in end they come to realize how thankful they are for their mom and dad in light of their absence.

 

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5. “A Thanksgiving Carol” (Episode 173)

In an effort to educate people about the significance of the Thanksgiving holiday, Whit and the gang perform a KYDS Radio program entitled “A Thanksgiving Carol” inspired by (you guessed it) Charles Dicken’s classic novel A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Stooge has a cold heart towards everyone, even to his overworked clerk Bob Wretched. It takes the haunting of his late partner Jacob Arley and Terrance Clodbody the ghost of Thanksgiving past, present and future (only one ghost..budget cuts you know) to get him back into the spirit of Thanksgiving. This parody is on par with the others that AiO has done over the years and again is able to demonstrate the importance of thankfulness.

 

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4. “BTV: Thanks” (Episode 383)

Just like “BTV: Compassion” which I mentioned in this post “BTV: Thanks” uses a collection of sketches that illustrate the topic of thankfulness. Among these sketches they tell the story of how one the 10 lepers that were Jesus healed came back to thank him as well the story of King David’s demonstration of thankfulness at the return of the Ark of the Covenant. It is a great anthology of stories that can be humorous as well as meaningful.

 

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3. “A Thankstaking Story” (Episode 675)

The most recent episode on this list and it’s another parody like “A Thanksgiving Carol,” only this time “A Thankstaking Story” is a parody of Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas although it also has some inspiration from the Rankin & Bass Christmas specials too. Whit, Connie, Eugene, Wooton, Jay and his Uncle Wally are stuck in Whit’s End on Thanksgiving day due to heavy snow. In order to pass the time, they decide to make up a story about a grump named Srunch and his plans to ruin Thanksgiving for the Muglues. Once again it is a great parody and it much like the story it is parodying it demonstrates how Thanksgiving doesn’t come from a store.

 

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2. “Thank You, God” (Episode 49)

This was the very first Thanksgiving episode that just so happens to tell the story of how Whit accepted Christ. Whit decides to hold Thanksgiving dinner at Whit’s End and has invited Connie Kendall and her mother June along Tom Riley and with his wife Agnes. The Rileys have brought a boy named Rodney who has been staying with them due to family difficulties. When asked what he was thankful for, Rodney expresses that he finds little to be thankful for since his father’s work keeps from spending the holiday with him. In light of this Whit decides to express his thankfulness for his step mother Fionna Donneral who eventually lead him to the Lord.

 

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1.”In All Things Give Thanks” (Episode 41)

While this episode does not take place on Thanksgiving like the others did, it still demonstrates the importance thankfulness especially when life throws a curve ball. Everyone in the Mulligan family is having trouble from angry neighbors, to demeaning teachers and ill-tempered school bullies. But as the Mulligans learn from 1 Thessalonians 5:18, they are to give thanks in the midst of all circumstances whether good or bad because God is the one who ultimately in control and He works all things for good. This episode gives a practical application of thankfulness in everyday life, showing that giving thanks is not limited to just one day a year.

Well I hope you enjoyed reading list and I will see you all next time!

Wonder, Excitement & Discovery [Part 2] – My List of 10 Recommended Episodes

Last time on “A Few of My Favorite Things,” we went over my personal background with Adventures in Odyssey as well as the people behind the stories and characters of the audio series. But now the time has come to talk about the stories that AiO tells by discussing some of my favorite stories. Now with almost 30 years worth of episodes there are some that I have not been able to listen to. With this is mind this not going to be a top 10 list where I rank the best episodes, but rather I will just list ten episodes that stood out to me personally. In addition I will only talk about episodes do not require a lot of context to understand what is going on, so that means no episodes that relate to bigger story arcs. Now that’s out of the way let’s talk story.

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“On Solid Ground” (Episode 210)

I choose “On Solid Ground” as an example of a series of episodes I enjoyed listening to. It starts off like a regular Kids Radio program which is a format that AiO adopts from time to time to tell a story or a series of stories, but the broadcast is “interrupted” by OT Action News which follows the events that take place in the Old Testament of the Bible as if they were really happening. For this episode they follow the story of Abraham or Abram as he was once called and his nephew Lot and how their lives are affected by the choices they make. This first OT Action News story is great start to a great format that AiO would continue to use in future episodes.

 

“B-TV: Compassion” (Episode 345)

Like “On Solid Ground,” “B-TV: Compassion” is one in series of episodes where window washer Bernard Walton is the host of a show called B-TV where he and others tell stories that relate to particular topic they are covering. If couldn’t tell from the title this B-TV episode is about compassion and it probably has one of the funniest intros with Eugene Melstner mistaking the topic of compassion for compression. All in all this is one of the greats of the B-TV themed episodes.

 

“Hidden in My Heart” (Episode 321)

This one is a pure Kids Radio presentation that demonstrates the importance of scripture memorization but with an interesting twist. They spoof a number of TV shows including Rescue 911 (it’s a real show) renaming it Rescue 119 (after Psalm 119), Lassie or Laffie the Wonder Dog, and Star Trek aka Star Trip. It is fun listen especially if you enjoy a funny impression of William Shanter or Shattered as he is called in this parody. 

 

“A License to Drive” (Episode 194)

For those who are familiar with the series, Connie and Eugene are at odds with each other quite a lot with Eugene sometimes lording his high IQ over Connie’s more average intelligence. But despite Eugene’s success in academics he has failed to get his driver’s license, something Connie was able to pass with flying colors on her first try. With Whit’s insistence, they set up driver’s lessons so that Eugene can learn how to drive as well give Connie experience in teaching. Needless to say it is a fun ride (get it fun ride) while showing diligence in action on Eugene’s part as the student and on Connie’s part as the teacher.

 

“Welcoming Wooton” (Episode 472)

This is the episode in which we are introduced to Odyssey’s eccentric mailman, Wooton Basset. We learn right off the bat that he loves people and he does what he can to help out, even if his job performance suffers. Unfortunately his boss fires him for taking one too many well-meaning detours from his postal route. While the ultimate outcome seems a bit cliché, we get to know Wooton as a person and have a lot of laughs along the way.

 

“Called On in Class” (Episode 539)

A fun episode told from the perspective of Trent DeWhite who is facing the worse fear of his life: giving a report in front of the entire class. His exaggerated imagination is working on overdrive thinking of what could go wrong and how he is going to escape the horror that is public speaking. But in all seriousness “Called On in Class” exemplifies the fear of public speaking and the fact that is being narrated by a kid gives it a degree authenticity along with a dash of humor. Give it a listen and get caught up with Trent as he tells his story.

 

“Sunday Morning Scramble” (Episode 552)

While this episode has the simplistic set up of the a family getting ready for church, for the Washington’s it becomes Mission Impossible. While giving lots of humorous scenarios, it also reveals an important lesson about taking the time to worship God. “Sunday Morning Scramble” is one of those episodes that you have to hear for yourself in order to understand what makes it so funny.

 

“Odyssey Sings!” (Episode 572)

American Sings has come to Odyssey to find new talents and many enter into the singing competition believing it is their chance to become famous. This episode provides AiO the opportunity to satirize singing competitions series you find on TV all the while teaching that true affirmation comes not from men but from God. Additional plus for the original songs that were performed as a part of this episode especially Wooton Basset’s “Ode to Macaroni.”

 

“The Great Wishy Woz” (Episode 453-454)

Another quasi-musical and a parody to boot, “The Great Wishy Woz” is of course parodying The Wizard of Oz. It is presented as a Kids Radio program written by Mandy Straussburg who also plays Dotty. She and her little dog NoNo are swept up by a tornado and end in a different and strange world. To find their way back home the Fairy Oddmother advises they follow the Big Fat Road to ask the Great Wishy Woz for the answer. Along the way she meets Manny Kin (portrayed by Tom Riley), Metal Guy (portrayed by Bernard Walton), and Mystic Mountain Lion (portrayed by Jack Allen) who also are meeting the Woz so their wishes may be granted. “Great Wishy Woz” serves an allegory for the Christian life and you can pick up on things the more you listen. I can not recommend these episodes enough.

 

“A Lesson From Mike” (Episode 412)

For the last episode I decided to share an episode that really hit home for me. It is a story about how a girl named Julie comes to terms with the death of classmate named Mike. As Julie gets to know who Mike was she found they shared a lot of common interests and in the process begins to regret that she had never taken the chance to know him while he was alive. “A Lesson From Mike” doesn’t pull any punches and it tackles a difficult subject with depth and realism. Through this episode AiO shows us how important it is to reach out to those who are lonely. As someone who had their lonely moments in high school I agree with Julie that having a few friends can make all the difference.

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While there are many more amazing Adventures in Odyssey episodes these ten are my recommendations from what I have listened to thus far. Who knows maybe I will update this in the future, but for now this will suffice. Thank you reading and I will see you all next week.

Looking Beyond the Surface – Making the Right Media Choices

At sometime in our lives we have probably heard the phrase you can’t judge a book by its cover. Many times it used to express the belief that just because it doesn’t look good on the surface doesn’t mean it’s bad on the inside. But what if the opposite was true? What if the book cover looks perfect but story contained within is awful? Some might think I mean awful in the sense that is not written well, but I am talking about the messages within the story itself.

It is easy to pass this off and say that is just a story; however, any story whether it be found in books, movies or TV shows reflect the beliefs the creators and by extension the culture. However we need to be aware of what we put into our minds, because while it may look good it may not be good for us. Just as the saying goes you are what you eat and those who are health conscience do what they can to watch what they eat, the same is true with what we read and watch.

I find disheartening that there are many who are unaware or apathetic towards state their minds and spirits as they read or watch media that has flawed messages. I don’t expect everyone and everything to be perfect in a story; main characters need to have flaws in order to make them relatable. But what if those same main characters who are displayed as role models are saying or doing something that is wrong? It doesn’t even have to be overt, in fact most times it’s very subtle and there lies the potential danger. If a certain behavior is displayed as normal it conveys the message that it’s acceptable when it is not.

Now I know it is not popular these days to judge media by what it may or may not be implying but if we expect not to be affected by the media we set our minds on then we are sorely mistaken. This reminds me of something I read for my senior seminar paper which addresses this issue. In her book How Fantasy becomes Reality: Seeing Through Media Influence, Karen E. Dills describes,

“…the paradox that we live in a culture where we are powerfully influenced by messages from the mass media but where many of us misread that influence because we think are invulnerable to it. I believe we deny our own vulnerability to media we are actually increasing the degree to which we can be manipulated. If you do not know you are vulnerable – indeed, if you think your are invulnerable – you will not think and act in way that protect you. Two basic errors in judgment that we make are (1) believing that fantasy stories in no way shape our realities and (2) believing that media’s reason for being is to entertain rather than to persuade us.” (p. 9)

We first have to admit the potential influence that media can have over our thoughts and second to take steps to think more critically about what we watch and why we watch it. For Christians a good rule of thumb comes from Scripture in Philippians chapter 4 verse 8:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

When we set our minds on these things we will reflect it in our lives and verse 9 continues with this thought:

 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

So look beyond the surface and reflect on excellent and praiseworthy media that affirms what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable.

via Daily Prompt: Surface

Wonder, Excitement & Discovery – Listening to Adventures in Odyssey

Hi I’m Kendra. You are about to travel to a place of wonder, excitement and discovery! Welcome to Adventures in Odyssey! In honor of the last month of summer for elementary, middle and high school as well as college students I decided to talk about one of my favorite audio series. The fact that Focus on the Family has produced this audio series for nearly 30 years demonstrates how many people enjoy and identify with the stories and characters from the fictional small town of Odyssey. Adventures in Odyssey has something for everyone from children to adults.

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Adventures in Odyssey (1987-Present)

I remember being aware of the series for most of my life but it was not until in late elementary school that I began to listen it on a regular basis thanks to a local radio station. At 6:30 PM on weekdays (Mon. – Fri.) the station would air previously released episodes of Adventures in Odyssey while on Saturday at 8:30 AM they would aired the newer episodes. This radio station still maintains this schedule to this day and every now and again I tune it to hear the odd episode or two.

After being properly introduced to the series my family bought a number of AiO audio albums, which contain a set of episodes. One of the albums entitled “Countermoves” was recorded on tape cassettes, which I would listen to when I was younger to help me fall sleep at night. When I was older I would even listen to them in car as I drove to locations as part of my merchandising job since I had an older car with just a tape player (Oh the HORROR!). I still have this album, unfortunately I am short one tape because it got stuck in the tape player of my first car and after it was sold and exchanged for my second one I never saw it again. In light of this I am hoping to purchase a CD version of “Countermoves” sometime in the future in order to replace my incomplete cassette tape version.

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John Avery Whittaker: Shopkeeper, Inventor and Teacher.

Anyway enough talk about tapes and CDs, and let’s get to the amazing people behind the scenes of Adventures in Odyssey. This includes the amazing voice actors who have taken on the role of Whit’s End’s owner and operator John Avery Whittaker (or Whit to his friends) throughout AiO’s time on the air. The first voice of Whit to grace the airwaves was none other than Hal Smith, best known for his role of the town drunk Otis Campbell in The Andy Griffith Show. Upon his death in 1994, the search began to find an actor to voice the ice-cream shop owner. Two years later in 1996, Paul Herlinger became the second voice of Whit, and this was the Whit that I grew up with. Many people may unfairly compare him to Hal and while I do note some differences in performance, I believe Paul did an amazing job considering the big shoes he had to fill. Upon Paul’s retirement in 2008 (passing away only 2 years later), yet another actor by the name of Andre Stojka came in to take on the role of Whit starting in 2009 and is currently playing him in the series.

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Hal Smith (1916-1994)
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Paul Herlinger (1929-2010)

 

 

 

 

 

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Andre Stojka (1944-)

Of course AiO is not complete without its two other iconic characters who are employed at Whit’s End. Enter Connie Kendall voiced by Katie Leigh and Eugene Meltsner voiced by Will Ryan. Just like it’s hard to imagine Odyssey without Whit, it is equally hard to imagine not having Connie and Eugene working alongside him. Connie’s youthful enthusiasm and Eugene’s unsatiated thirst for knowledge give them an interesting dynamic to their relationship to Whit as well their relationship with each other…by that I mean friendship. Their voice actors Katie and Will are also good friends in real life and have recently wrote a book together called Adventures in Oddity in which they talk about their work both on AiO as well other projects which include Disney’s Little Mermaid, An American Tail, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and much more.

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Whit’s End Trio.
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Bernard Walton…Window Washer.

Besides the Whit’s End Trio as I like to call them there are a number of memorable characters that have been played by talented voice actors over the years. This includes actors have since passed on: Walker Edmiston, the voice actor for Whit’s friend Tom Riley and business rival Bart Rathbone, Dave Madden the voice actor for pragmatic window washer Bernard Walton, Alan Young who voiced Jack Allen a childhood friend of Whit and Janet Waldo who voiced Jack’s wife Joanne Allen (nee Woodston). Other talented voices who are still alive include Chris Anthony, Earl Boen, Steve Burns, Townsend Coleman, Corey Burton, Aria Cruzon, Jess Harnell, etc. Of course none of this would be possible without the talented directors, producers, writers and sound designers which include Phil Lollar, Chuck Bolte, Paul McCusker, and Dave Arnold just to name a few.

If you can’t already tell there is a lot to be said about this series and I have not even got into the stories yet. That will be saved for Part 2 coming up later this month. Hope you see then as we look at the episodes of Adventures in Odyssey.

Let Us Be Elegant Or Die! My Thoughts on Little Women

Little Women is a story that somehow transcended time and its characters are relatable now as they were back when they were first written. There has been a lot of analysis over the years and let me tell you I found some doozies as I was researching information about this novel. But as this is “A Few of my Favorite Things” I will mostly stick to my own experience and personal opinion with just a dash of interesting tibits of information about the book and its author.

Best place to start is the first time I was introduced to the story of Little Women. I was not introduced through reading the book (I did read it later though) nor was I introduced through its multiple film adaptions. Rather it through an audio drama production that I first heard the story. Any guesses who made that audio? That’s right Focus on the Family Radio Theatre.

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2004 audio adaption.

Within the same year my 5th grade class read and studied the novel and I remember bringing in the audio drama for the class to hear. It was only the following years that I became more aware of some of the film adaptions of this literary classic which can be seen below.

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1933 Version.
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1949 Version.
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1978 Version.
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1994 Version.

While I have not seen the entirety of these films other than the 1978 version, I have seen some clips online and have read about other people’s opinions about them. However Focus on the Family’s audio adaption stands well on its own merits and will always hold a place in my heart. A huge plus that the audio version has is that it provides the voices and sounds allowing your imagination to fill in the visuals from a character’s appearance to the layout of a house.

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Orchard House, the Alcott family home.
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Josephine March, great American authoress in the making.

Of all the characters I loved the character of Jo March because she was the creative free spirit that many women, young and old, desire to be. While every sister stands out in their own right, it can be said that the story Little Women is Jo’s story since it follows her a majority of the time. Since Jo is a reflection of author Louisa May Alcott this is hardly surprising.

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Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

Little Women one of the few stories that I have personally encountered that has relatable female characters. The reason why they are so relatable is because the characters based on the women in Alcott’s own life, her sisters. I can believe in Meg’s prudence, Jo’s candidness, Beth’s congeniality, and Amy’s exuberance. This is the reason why this book has remained in the public consciousness for all this time because the audience can see themselves in one or more of the March sisters. I can only hope that some day I might come across an author or filmmaker who can produce the same kind of effect that Little Women had starting in 1868.

God & Country – Presenting Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom

On this day 240 years ago the Declaration of Independence was adopted after long weeks of deliberation within Continental Congress. On such an historic occasion I bet you thought I might look at something that honors the history of the United States. But that’s not what I am going to be looking at that today. Instead I will looking at the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer as he was presented in Focus on the Family Radio Theatre’s production, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom.

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Revised Cover circa 2007

Now I know what some might be thinking, why am I talking about a German theologian on America’s Independence Day. Why I am not talking about George Washington, John Adams or Thomas Jefferson? That will be revealed in time, but first a little personal history of how I was introduced to this audio drama.

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Original Cover circa 1999

My family had purchased audios from Focus on the Family  before, mainly The Chronicles of Narnia which were being produced around the same time and I remember listening to The Cost of Freedom was when very young. I say that because I recall listening to it on cassette tapes, and that was a long…long…long time ago (sarcasm is hard to express via text). I don’t remember exactly how old was anymore, but looking at the release dates of the productions I was younger than 10. While it was not the norm for children our age and generation to be listening to audio drama, my brother and I were the exception. And it was thanks to the people at Focus on the Family that I was able to learn about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

For those don’t know Bonhoeffer was German theologian and pastor, known for his resistance against Hitler and the Nazis regime. He paid the ultimate price and being executed only a month before Germany’s surrender to the Allies. The Cost of Freedom starts off with the allusion of the theologian’s death in which a military officer is heard stating the charges of Bonhoeffer’s treason and that the penalty for such an offense was death by hanging. After the pounding of a gavel, the sound the rope straining against the weight of suspended body can be heard. It is a sobering mental image to start off, and this knowledge remains in the back of the mind of the listener as they learn about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and how the events and influences of his life, both as boy and as an adult made him into the man he would become. All in all Focus on Family demonstrated excellent storytelling and the Peabody Award it received for this audio drama was well deserved.

One thing that remained with me till this day was conversation that occurred within the story between Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the fictional character Philippe who was based off of French pacifist pastor Jean Lasserre whom Bonhoeffer interacted with in 1930-31 while he was at Union Theological Seminary in New York. It starts when Philippe calls into question Dietrich’s view of following both Christ and his Country, asking what he would do if his government were to condone something that would be contrary to Christianity.

“Imagine a situation where you have to choose between your government or your faith? Which do you choose? Are you a German first, or a Christian?”

Later after experiencing racial prejudice through being refused service at diner because his African American companion, he and Philippe continue their discussion. In this conversation Bonhoeffer expresses that if the situation he witnessed happened in Germany with blessing of the government, he as follower of Christ would have to speak out against such actions. He goes on to say,

“Our allegiance must be to the eternal, to Christ himself over and above all things. I am a Christian first and foremost, a German second. And I can only hope to God that the two will never oppose each other.”

While the conversation itself fictional, it does reflect events that took place as well as the beliefs of Bonhoeffer that can be found in his writings as well as actions.

Two days after Adolf Hilter was elected as Chancellor of Germany, Bonhoeffer gave a radio address entitled “The Young Generation’s Altered Concept of Leadership.” In it he introduced the idea of the Führer Principle which described the younger generation’s desire for a leader who could provide the authority to solve the problems their country was facing in the aftermath of the Great War aka WWI. But the authority was not derived by God but rather was derived from the leader which made him a messianic-like figure. As a result Bonhoeffer explains,

Thus the Leader points to the office, but Leader and office together point to the final authority itself, before which Reich or state are penultimate authorities. Leaders or offices which set themselves up as gods mock God and the individual who stand alone before him, and must perish. (Metaxas p. 142)

It can be said the Führer Principle is around even today, although it would have to be renamed the President Principle. Many in the U.S. look to the individual and the office of President to be the savior of the country’s problems. However no can fully put their faith into one person, because they have the potential to lead people astray. The people of Germany put their faith in Hitler and it led to the greatest atrocities the world had ever seen up until that time. As Christians we should respect authority, but we should also remember there is a heavenly authority that takes precedence. The greatest service anyone can do for one’s country is stand up for what’s right even if their country opposes them.

Dr. Karl-Hermann Muehlhaus summed it up best in his paper “True Patriotism- Aspects of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life and Theology” saying,

…(Dietrich Bonhoeffer) was truly German and loved his country very much, but even more he was a Christian, and his love to his country was qualified by his even greater love to God who has revealed himself in Christ, and by his belonging to the universal church, the body of Christ, which comprises all nations, peoples and races. (p. 1)

Know that that true hope of those who profess faith in Christ is not found in political leaders, but in the God of the universe.

“This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.” (I Timothy 4:9-10)

Sources:

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

“Patriotism and the Führer Principle” by Walker Wright

http://presentdaypatriot.blogspot.com/2012/01/patriotism-and-fuhrer-principle.html

“True Patriotism- Aspects of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life and Theology” by Dr. Karl-Hermann Muehlhaus

https://www.academia.edu/13105152/True_Patriotism_-_Aspects_of_Dietrich_Bonhoeffer_s_Life_and_Theology