Thursday, June 28, 2012

The American Dream

Is the American Dream a part of God's plan?

This thought started with a conversation on Facebook about telling our kids that 'they can do anything they want as long as they put their mind to it'.  The conversation bounced from it is healthy to inspire our kids to we shouldn't be making our kids to expect they cannot do things that they just cannot do.  I began to wonder about this because for me personally, I have tried to keep my kids grounded in the belief of what they couldn't do while encouraging them to strive to be more than what they are currently doing.  I want my kids to be great but I don't want them crushed when they aren't nor do I want them to expect that everyone who just thinks they can be great, will be.

According to Wikipedia (yes, not the most reliable) the American dream is defined by James Truslow Adams in 1931, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth."  The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the United States Declaration of Independence which proclaims that "all men are created equal" and that they are "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights" including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

While I think the idea of everyone being able to have the opportunity to do whatever they want is great and should be encouraged, I think we have lost sight of what that means.  The idea has gone from everyone having opportunity to just everyone having.  We, the people and government, believe that everyone should be have a house, a car and a job no matter their situation.  We have built a system of welfare that encourages people, to some degree, to be lazy and just take the governments money while others struggle to pay their taxes.

I think in relation to God and the American Dream, we have lost sight of what it really means. We have taking the task of providing for us out of God's hands and have given it to the government.  We might pray to God but we pray more to the big white house in DC.  We ask the government to protect us from ourselves.  While I believe the government can and should care for those who can't take care of themselves, I believe we have gone too far in that direction.  As citizens of America, we are taxed to take care of those who don't have as much.  The government and others believe that everyone should have the same thing.  We hear the cry to tax the rich just because they have more than someone else.  We say the 'government' should pay for our food, housing and healthcare but where is the government getting the money to do that?

Our reliance on God has been lessoned because of our reliance on the government and we are happy about it.  Heaven forbid we think and plan for ourselves.  Heaven forbid we accept the cards that are dealt us and trust that God is going to get us through.

This American dream is also causing issues among the work force.  We tell our children they should be able to do anything they want, when in reality they can't.  I remember a conversation I had with a couple of parents of recent college grads and they were talking about how their kids couldn't find a job even though they had great education credentials.  I realized that there was an expectation put on these kids that if they went to a good college that they would be able to land a great job as soon as they were done.  The kids were finding out that that wasn't the case in the least.  Their college education didn't guarantee them anything.  When I worked for Emdeon, I can't remember the number of conversations I had with people about the expectation they had that the company should be doing more for them just because of who they are.  

The other part of that is we have replaced the pursuit of God with the pursuit of an empty dream.  What good is a car, house and family in God's grand scheme?  Does the American dream really make us happy?  Should we tell our kids they can be whatever they want when in reality they can't?  I think there is a fine line.  I believe we need to teach our kids that trust in God is the only guarantee of anything.  When we sell our kids the idea of the American Dream, I believe we are only setting them up for failure.

We need to teach kids that our life is meant to be lived for Christ and only Him.  When we teach our kids to love their neighbor as themselves, we teach them lessons that will help them to realize that this life isn't about us but about helping others.  

The American Dream is better recognized when we decide to help others achieve it through our faith in Jesus Christ.  

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