We live in interesting times, and everywhere you turn there is bad news. This is as true today as it has ever been. Between the dismal employment numbers and the high and unbalanced tax rate, to wars against Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan,Pakistan, Iraq and Libya, and foreign policy challenges with China, Iran and North Korea, there is a lot of bad news. In addition, there is no shortage of pundits ready to point out the problems with the current administrations approach to each of these issues.

While it is fair to point out mistaken policy, and I have and will do that, sometimes it is helpful to dream of what could be, or should be, rather than rail against that which is. With that in mind, I’d like to come to the defense of the American Dream.

I think the American Dream gets a bad rap. It is often derided as a shallow dream for accumulating more stuff, rather than a dream for the loftier goal of caring for others. This is especially true in the Church where we have an eternal perspective and know that temporal things are fleeting and have limited eternal value. Is this a fair critique? Before I answer that, I think a better or fuller understanding of the American dream is necessary. James Truslow Adams defined the American dream in his 1931 book “The Epic of America”. He states:  

“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.”

This definition, however, is only a restatement of the dreams of our founders who wanted there to be opportunities for every man, regardless of station in life. It was first and, probably, most clearly defined in the Declaration of Independence, which describes an attitude of hope. The Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal and that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”.

This dream is also the dream of God for every man, (For I know the plans that I have for you,’ …., ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope) that he would reach the potential that God created him for. Rather than being something that the church would spurn, the American dream should be something that is embraced, not just for Americans, but for every man. With that being said, the dream of God for every man to realize his or her created purpose, presents a very positive contrast with the modern ethos that permeates the socialist worldview.

In Psalms 139, God tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made. In I Corinthians 12, Christians are told that although we are all members of one body, we are all unique and needed. Timothy lauds hard work. Paul commends generosity, and Jesus speaks well of wealth creation. In III John 2, John prays that Gaius would be in good health and that he would prosper in all respects just as his soul prospers. What a great picture of what a civilized society should look like. Each person wonderfully created as a unique and valued person, working hard at what they love, contributing to the welfare of the greater community, prospering in body and soul as well as in all other respects, creating wealth and sharing generously with those around them.

That is my dream for America, a dream that I believe I share with our founding fathers as well as with God Himself. I do not believe that the original purpose for which God created us was so that we would go and make disciples of all peoples. I think He created us to enjoy Him and to worship Him and to fulfill our created purpose. Our first commission precedes the great commission and was not nullified by it, but is a necessary pre-requisite to fulfilling the great commission.

How better to fulfill the great commission than to be a praise to God by being who He made us to be. Psalm 148 is one of the more interesting Psalms in that it indicates all manner of “inanimate” things that are able to praise God. I wondered how the sun or a mountain or trees or snow could praise God, but it is obvious how they do this. He created them, they are fulfilling the purpose for which they were created, ergo, they are praising God. If these things can praise God by just being what they were created to be, then the kings of the earth and all peoples (who are also mentioned in that psalm) can praise God by being what we were created to be.    

Do you hear any echoes of the socialist credo in the American Dream, or do you, like me see these as incompatible opposites? It is fashionable to dress socialism in religious language; but it is not the language of hope that sets you free to accomplish your dreams, it is the language of guilt for what you have accomplished and obligation to allow others to share in the fruits of your labors regardless of their contributions or, more to the point, their lack thereof. With apologies to Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame, the American Dream and the dream of God for all men is to live long and prosper. These goals are best reached when each individual is empowered by those around him to strive to maximize his or her potential, rather than to be a ward of an oppressive nanny state.

There has been much written about the incompatibility of socialism and Christianity and I would recommend those pieces here and would add my voice. As Orthodox Christians, we should reject the socialist error as not just a political error, but a spiritual or doctrinal error as well. The voice of God, through Moses to the Pharaoh of Egypt, echoes down through the millennia: “Let My people go”! It is God’s cry, it is my cry and it is the cry of every human heart.