As the U.S. economy fights to improve, things simply aren’t as comfortable as they once were. Americans aren’t accustomed to our current economic situation, and we can’t seem to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
This makes sense because our country was built on the ideals of freedom and the pursuit of a better life, one characterized by comfort and prosperity. The American Dream has conditioned us to believe that we need a beautiful house, new phone and new computer, and we deserve those things because we have worked hard to get them.
The American Dream, for so long, was delivering on its promise. Is the American Dream now dying? And if it is, as a Christian I also have to ask, “Is it worth reviving?”
The term “American Dream” was coined during the Great Depression and was meant to propel people forward and give them hope. In many ways, it worked. Jobs were created, industry picked up, and American life was reinvigorated. This energy and zest for the good life have continued to characterize the country ever since.
We have to recognize, however, that consumer appetites are unlimited while resources are not. The U.S. population makes up 6 percent of the world, but we consume 46 percent of the world’s resources. We continue to consume with little to no regard given to those we exploit in order to maintain our lifestyles.
We believe that our standard of living must continue to go up, but if we care anything about other people, as well as the future of our children, then we have to find a better way to address the situation of all people. We may have to sacrifice the American Dream – for a better one.
The death of the American Dream will either shackle us or liberate us; it all depends on our perspective. If we continue trying to accumulate more, we’ll be in bondage, but if we can exchange the American Dream for God’s dream, it will free us from the rat race. The American Dream isn’t accessible to all people, but God’s dream is.
God’s dream is not limited to a nation, and it is not focused on prosperity. It is focused on getting behind those in need, not getting ahead of them. It’s about simplicity, sharing, inclusion and equality. God’s dream calls us to pursue “downward mobility” for the sake of others – and in some crazy, paradoxical way, we find happiness, comfort and meaning there.
We are blessed when we share our blessings, not when we hoard them.
Chris Robertson is a second-year student at McAfee School of Theology with an emphasis in global Christianity.