Rebelling Against the American Dream

Read this interesting article a couple of weeks ago (HT: John Fea’s blog). Here is a taste, followed by a few words of reaction from yours truly.

We American Christians have a way of taking the Jesus of the Bible and twisting him into a version of Jesus that we are more comfortable with.

A nice middle-class American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts.

A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who for that matter wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings comfort and prosperity to us as we live out our Christian spin on the American Dream.

But lately I’ve begun to have hope that the situation is changing.

The 20th-century historian who coined the term “American Dream,” James Truslow Adams, defined it as “a dream… in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are.”

But many of us are realizing that Jesus has different priorities. …

He then talks about how his church has processed this and reacted:

First we gave away our entire surplus fund – $500,000 – through partnerships with churches in India, where 41 percent of the world’s poor live. Then we trimmed another $1.5 million from our budget and used the savings to build wells, improve education, provide medical care and share the gospel in impoverished places around the world. Literally hundreds of church members have gone overseas temporarily or permanently to serve in such places.

And it’s not just distant needs we’re trying to meet. It’s also needs near at hand.

One day I called up the Department of Human Resources in Shelby County, Alabama, where our church is located, and asked, “How many families would you need in order to take care of all the foster and adoption needs that we have in our county?”

The woman I was talking to laughed.

I said, “No, really, if a miracle were to take place, how many families would be sufficient to cover all the different needs you have?”

She replied, “It would be a miracle if we had 150 more families.”

When I shared this conversation with our church, over 160 families signed up to help with foster care and adoption. We don’t want even one child in our county to be without a loving home. It’s not the way of the American Dream. It doesn’t add to our comfort, prosperity, or ease. But we are discovering the indescribable joy of sacrificial love for others, and along the way we are learning more about the inexpressible wonder of God’s sacrificial love for us. …

He continues, but you can read it at the link above. Reading this brought tears to my eyes. As a father of two kids who were adopted from the foster-care system, a church taking this approach to making a difference in their world and community is what this world needs. We don’t need more churches encouraging Christians to pursue prosperity or comfort. This, in my view, is heresy.

Christ called us to take up our cross. He also assured us that in this world we would have trouble, but to be assured that, despite appearances, He has overcome this world. He overcame it, not to make life easy for us, but to change our hearts, and open our eyes to making a difference for His Kingdom. Instead, we tend to gravitate toward what makes us comfortable. Yes, God does want our best, and often chooses to bless us with physical health and answers our prayers in ways that we hope. I wonder, though, if this is sometimes our settling for less than God’s best. Why must I assume that God’s best for me to prepare me for eternity is the same as what makes me most comfortable here on earth? I applaud this church for setting an example of something that the community can see and be drawn to. It is something different. Where in the world do you find this type of sacrifice? This is the Kingdom breaking through!

Even so, come Lord Jesus, but in the meantime, please help more of us to catch this vision of Your Kingdom breaking through on this world.

2 comments on “Rebelling Against the American Dream

  1. We so agree! God has placed a passion within each person’s heart and that particular passion, if acted upon, will change lives for God’s kingdom. We’re talking physical needs as well as spiritual. For you and for us, that passion is foster care and adoption. For others, it is any myriad of things. For too many, the passion is thrown aside because it’s too easy to say, “I’ll follow you, Jesus, but don’t ask me to . . .” I just finished reading The Hole in our Gospel – very challenging! And Crazy Love, yup! God doesn’t want us to be lukewarm. He is calling for on-fire, passionate people. That’s what we are created for. It’s exciting, not always easy, but it’s why we’re here.

    And as an aside: Bishop Martin’s small church in Texas stepped up to do the same thing for the orphans of their county. It’s a great read, Small Town, Big Miracle.

  2. […] what this makes you is a certain kind of modern Christian, an American. (I recently blogged about my faith and the American Dream and the ease of American Christianity.) Here’s the problem: it doesn’t work everywhere, […]

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