When did the American Dream go from achieving a rich, full life to “I got mine, screw you”? When I was a kid, success didn’t mean you were a millionaire. It meant you worked hard and provided for your family. It also meant you looked after those around you and in the community. These days, it seems everyone is out for themselves and to hell with everyone else. It’s evident in everything from the opposition to health care reform to taxes to business practices. It used to be some people had the attitude “I got mine, you get yours “. That was bad enough, but now it seems to be “I got mine and I’m going to screw you out of yours, too.” The American Dream was never meant to be achieved by some on the backs of our neighbors, but that’s exactly what happening.
What is the American Dream? According to historian and author James Truslow Adams, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, also too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t see anything about getting rich in the deal.
Lately, I’ve been questioning whether the American Dream is at odds with Christianity. In some ways, it might be; the dream doesn’t seem to worry much about those less fortunate, which is a big thing in the Christian faith. It’s also kind of self-centered; Christianity, not so much. It doesn’t say a word about the bottom line being more important than people. It doesn’t say to ignore the less fortunate. It it does place great emphasis on equality and that’s certainly a Christian ideal. From what I can see, this dream of ours, while it doesn’t exactly fall into line with Jesus’ teaching, isn’t a bad thing. I really don’t think God has a problem with people taking care of their families, of parents wanting life to be better for their children than theirs is. It’s when we accumulate piles of stuff we’ll never use and then ignore someone asking for spare change so they can eat that day that God has problem with what we’re doing. Think about that next time you drive past that guy holding the sign that says “Will work for food”.