I recently heard someone speak at a church. The overall message was good, but in some places it felt a bit off. But I couldn’t put my finger on just what it was. Then they reached a point where they mentioned the American Dream, a dream they condemned because it meant pursuing stuff.
At that moment everything fell into place. The person understood the Dream relating only to the material when in fact it’s the result of the spiritual. They missed the connection. Like many other terms today, this one too has been corrupted.
I know the person who spoke. They are good and mean well. But if a good person can be so far wrong, there are likely others who are in the same boat. It’s a teachable moment.
What is the American Dream?
Our society today emphasizes stuff such as; houses, cars, a good job, entertainment, being free from want—just buy our product. But that is not the American Dream. When I looked it up, I found the following definition. The ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved. The Dream is about opportunity. We choose the what—that is, the end. But the American Dream is about the means.
Compare this to the ideologies of communism, fascism, progressivism, socialism, etc. These care only about the ends; the means don’t matter. Today’s protestors call us to accept violence, looting, killing, and oppression as the means to justice. How ignorant. It is a morally bankrupt position, because such ideas come from man alone. Man turned away from God. This is one of the corrupt ideas underlying liberation theology. That the spiritual is achieved through the material, rather than through the spiritual an equitable material distribution achieved. Such ideas place faith in man rather than God.
So what’s opportunity? It is a favorable moment occurring in the normal course of events. Opportunity is not random or by chance. It is a normal state. It also has purpose. We realize an opportunity by employing our talents and abilities—God’s gifts—for some specific purpose and achieving an outcome. The outcome won’t always be what we desire, but that doesn’t matter nearly so much. What matters is we had the opportunity to try, and even if we fail we still have the opportunity to try again.
But it is not just opportunity; it is the equality of opportunity. The deck is neither stacked for nor against someone. Equality of opportunity comes about only in a society recognizing man’s God-given natural rights. Because only then is our inherent equality recognized. America’s Founders cited three important ones; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These concern man’s natural rights in the areas of being, actions, and dominion—all to be used within the context of pursuing happiness through a relationship with God.
The Need for Natural Rights
Life is God’s gift to each one of us, and evidence of His goodness. No one has the right to take that away. Second is the gift of free will to make our own choices. We choose how to morally care for ourselves, our families, and community. No government authority has the right to dictate how we should choose to live. It is by our choices alone we become better and grow in our relationship with God. Making choices while exercising stewardship requires morality—discerning good from evil. These actions are morally right because God gave man dominion over His creation, but that dominion comes with the duty of stewardship. Because creation belongs to God; He made it.
The third is man’s relationship with God. This last item is critical as God is the source of all morality. Without a relationship with God, man’s actions become driven by his emotions—what he wants. God wants us to do what is good (Isa. 56:1) Man left alone will choose pursuing immoral means to achieve his desired ends. Those immoral means destroy the opportunity inherent in the American Dream. We have only to look at today’s protestors for a solid example.
This year’s spring was pretty wet. The crops generally went in late, but everything was green and growing. Then came July. It suddenly turned hot and dry for the entire month. Plants began to stress and go dormant. But a week or so of rain in August, and everything is green again. Almost like nothing happened. Almost. The dry conditions came about the time the corn crop would begin filling out its ears. This year’s crop will be less than it would have been.
It’s the same with us. Beliefs such as the corrupted one I heard expressed about the American Dream, our governor’s actions around the coronavirus, and the protestors cruel destruction of people and property. All are based on bad ideas having their basis in man alone without God. Just like rain ending the drought, changing our ideas toward natural rights and Biblical principles turns us again toward God. It makes us whole again. In the words of Augustine, “[F]or Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”
But it won’t be without cost. Just as the crops will likely be less due to the drought, our fruit too will be less because we surrendered the opportunity to do what is right and good. It is time to hold our state officials and the protestors to account for their actions. That is justice, and ensures we can continue to realize the American Dream.
 Augustine, p. 63, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I, Volume I, The Confessions and Letters of St. Au-gustine, with a Sketch of his Life and Work, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, https://ccel.org/ccel/s/schaff/npnf101/cache/npnf101.pdf, accessed August, 2020.