Sometimes the lure of the American Dream tugs on my heart–There is a better life for you. My
mind reverts to Cosby-esque episodes of enjoying life with family,
friends, and modern comforts. Many people would be quick to point out
that these dreamy images are not bad, but rather reasonable for anyone
to want. To an extent, I agree. Only to an extent
though. Because I think that when the ideal that plays itself out
in my mind is this brand of enjoyment, it actually wreaks havoc on my
soul. There is a certain shalom in this vision, but it is skewed and incomplete.
I think that most people who romanticize about poverty are pretentious
and probably haven’t really experienced it. In fact, I think most
impoverished people would feel patronized at the thought that
some middle-class American coveted their station in life. I
believe that God sets some people aside to abandon their lifestyle in
order to enter into a life of poverty, but I think that is different
than romanticizing about it.
As a Christian, the difficult thing about having an alternative to the
American Dream is that there aren’t really many alternatives that have
been made available. In the church, most of us are so thoroughly
dreamed up that we are busy building up our American lives without any
thought that perhaps God might be expecting something radically
different from us. But it’s not just the church; even if our eyes
were opened to the world of these alternatives, the commercial and
has evolved to persecute any one, Christian or not, that dares to
subvert its patterns.
I admit that I don’t really have more of a clue as to what a distinctly
Christian lifestyle might look like than you would. What little
pieces of this puzzle I do have, I am pursuing with my family.
And even then, I think that a Christian lifestyle is rooted more in a
transformed imagination than it is in discrete rules. But I am
convinced that any of us who do care to pursue a dream that not only
subverts the American Dream (which is why all of us are here, either by
our will, our parent’s will, or our ancestors’ will) but is a flaming
pursuit of the divine Kingdom will be diligent students of Scripture
and church history under the guidance of the Spirit.
The Scriptures and the history that lives in its shadow takes us beyond
the confines of modern society and remind us of the possibility of
another life, not just the next, but another life right now. They
remind us that men and women just like us dared to pursue an
alternative way in the context of both overtly and quietly oppressive
systems. They shape the images, the language, the assumptions,
etc. which form an imaginative construct in which the possibility of a
Christian life becomes possible. And only the Holy Spirit can
ignite our hearts toward this pursuit; only he can fill and shape our
imaginations in such a way that brings the life of the Scriptures and
history into the jungle of the modern world.
I covet your prayers and your partnership. This, I doubt, is an endeavor to be pursued alone.