God and the American Dream
Losing An Ideal
There is a lot of discussion today as to whether or not the "American Dream" is dead. Some would say that our country is undergoing a fundamental change that is taking us away from what our founding fathers envisioned, and is moving us closer to the edge of Socialism, or even Communism. And I myself believe that there are certainly powers out there that seem to be stronger than ever, who are attempting to steer us in that direction. The sad thing is that they are not powers outside our borders, but men and women in our own government, that have a greater chance of changing us than anything or anyone we have had in our nation's history.
While I'm not advocating a Red Scare, or McCarthyism which took place between 1948 and 1956 in which men and women went on trial for being Communists, it does seem that many of the policies that have been implemented in our Government lately have been leading us from a republic to a socialistic state.
But is the American Dream dead? And if not, then how can we keep it alive and well? Further, as Christians, is it something that we even want to promote? Some would say that it is simply a materialistic substitute for God. Let's examine these things and see.
The American dream is really a set of ideals in which all men and women can achieve freedom, an opportunity for prosperity and success and an upward social mobility through hard work. James Truslow Adams wrote about this ideal in 1931. He had this to say:
"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."
This dream is rooted in the Declaration of Independence. In this founding document we find these words:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
II. Judeo-Christian Roots
It is obvious from the Declaration of Independence that this concept has Judeo-Christian roots as well. The Bible teaches that all mankind was created in the image of God and therefore there is no one group that is better than another (Genesis 1:27). So whether you are royalty or peasant, whether you are rich or poor, no matter your place in society, you are a special creation of the one true God.
The idea of the American dream is a noble one, in which every American citizen has the right to live out the dreams and plans that God, the creator, has placed in their heart. It is this concept that has made America a beacon of freedom and liberty for almost two and a half centuries now. We are in a nation that thousands of people risk their lives to become a part of every year.
One of the major problems in our society is that we as a people are rejecting our roots. God is being taken out of the public square. In doing this, the American dream is being neutered as well. It is being divorced from its Judeo-Christian roots and is in danger of becoming merely a greedy race for power and materialism.
Many of those who would seek to fundamentally change America are actually using our founding fathers and documents against us. This is clearly seen in the phrase: "The Separation of Church and State."
III. The Separation of Church and State
. The concept of the separation of church and state is being misused to take God out of our national life. This phrase, which isn't even in the constitution, is being invoked in a way that is completely foreign to our founding fathers and to our founding documents. It is being interpreted today to essentially create a godless state.
The phrase "separation of church and state" can be traced to a January 1, 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson. He was addressing the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut. And it was published in a Massachusetts newspaper. Obviously his use of the term was not to eradicate the church from public life. If that were the case the people to whom he was addressing it would have called him on it. It was intended by Jefferson and understood by the Danbury Baptist Association that we must keep the state from interfering with religious liberty.
This phrase was expressing an understanding of the Intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. It has since been repeatedly used by the Supreme Court of the United States.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..." and Article VI specifies that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
IV. A Reverse Discrimination
The whole reason for all of this was that no one religion received state endorsement, while those not of that religion were denied rights, or even punished. Many of the original settlers in America were escaping that very thing and came here for religious liberty. Today the first amendment and the separation of church and state are being used in a sort of reverse discrimination whereby religious people, rather than discriminating against others are being discriminated against. This is especially true of the Christian religion where public displays of belief are seen in a negative light, and in some cases removed.
And God is being taken out of our public schools so that our children cannot even learn about the religious roots that have made us what we are today.
In conclusion let us get back to the American Dream and it's ideals of each American becoming all that they can be and having opportunity for freedom, prosperity and success. It truly is a noble experiment that is rare in this world of tyranny and oppression. But without the understanding of man's uniqueness as being created in the image of God, it will die. Separation of God from state will kill it because it cuts out the very Being upon which our ideas of freedom, prosperity and success are based.
And what do we do about our declining culture that has forgotten God. We must point out to our children at every opportunity what America and the American Dream are truly all about. And we must elect public officials who have similar values to our own.
We must speak out against those who would fundamentally try to change the ideals and beliefs of this great nation.
But the greatest thing Christians can do is pray for the revival of this land of ours that has forgotten God. Let us pray for a renewal of the values and standards that have made this country the beacon of freedom it formerly was. And we must live out those values ourselves. Only then will this nation continue to be the shining city on a hill that men and women have been drawn to over the centuries. And only then will we continue to have an American Dream worth pursuing.