Tag Archives: consumerism

The American Dream . . . with a side of Jesus

xmas“We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.”  (Fight Club)

I had a chance this past week to hang out with folk from the Brethren Church  and in particular their church planting crew known as MissioChurch.   I like hanging around church planters because in general they aren’t normal, they typically are all a little ‘off’ in the head you know?  They have dreams buried in them that don’t allow them to accept status quo.  They are used to an identity in which they don’t always fit in with establishment.  It’s not rebellion, they aren’t against establishment, rather they believe that they exist to support and extend the reach of all things good about the Church and its’ service to the world.  It’s a holy kind of discontentment.  Church planters ask a lot of questions and aren’t afraid to live in the land of tension and discomfort.  They’ve worked hard to develop the skills in fact that allow them to thrive in such lands of in-between.

One of the speakers at this gathering transparently shared her story of downward progression from an idyllic life of “the American dream with a side of Jesus”.  Her and her husband had it all:  the stable high income jobs, a dream house on acreage, Pinterest quality decor, retirement investment strategies, social status, upward mobility . . . all that the American Dream is designed to be that comes with the white picket fence.  Her name is Shannan Martin and her book is entitled ‘Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted’.  What followed in their story was selling everything, moving into a low-income and broken neighborhood, taking a new job in the local jail, noticing their neighbors, getting involved in the justice causes of their community and adopting kids with little hope.  A life of beauty and hardship, a life that Jesus can’t exist on the side, he wants to be the main course of sustenance.

Here’s what I’m learning, the American Dream with a side of Jesus doesn’t work.  It’s completely unsatisfying.  The American Dream is not a big enough idea for me to give my blood, sweat and tears to. It’s a fool’s gold.  It’s slavery to a system of wants, false securities and anxiety-driven ambitions.  I know that I’m going to die, and none of the purchased commodities are coming with me, so what are the things that last I can invest into?  If I know I’m going to die, the only relevant question then is what do I want to live for?

Do you ask the big questions about your life?  Where does your satisfaction come from?  Whose opinion about you matters?  Who do you want to please?  What makes you come alive?  Does fear about the future dominate your brain-space more than living fully today?  Are the things you’re striving for going to live beyond your last breath?

The answers to our big questions reveal the things we worship, what we worship we become.  What I’m learning is God isn’t interested in being our side-piece.  He’s not insecure in the truth, power and freedom he offers so he’s not shy about what he wants:  he wants all of it.  He is the King and he wants singular allegiance.  We get to choose if we believe he is a good King and worthy of that place in our heart, mind, soul and life.  If we let him, he’ll do just about anything to break us down until we realize that he is all we need.  In him we can find our being and our moving.   Before there was ever a myth called the American Dream . . . He was.  If he brought all things into being then my created life finds purposed and wholeness in him.  To choose him is not foolishness, it’s deep abiding wisdom.  It’s what I’m choosing today, a singular allegiance to the One who made me.

“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” -Exodus 34:14

Are you not entertained?

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“Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?”  – Maximus in Gladiator

 Fans think twice about hero worship?  I’ll believe it when I see it.  Hero worship for our sportsmen and now women as well is thousands of years old.  We love our spectacle, we love our circus shows.  We want our neighboring mammals from the ocean to spend their lifetime in a bathtub leaving their context to amuse us for a price.  We love to be entertained and our appetites seemingly have no limits.  We shutter at an orca whale who turned on its trainer, but I myself have paid more than a few times to see it perform in the past and now it seems shameful.  Tiger Woods was the can’t miss marketing icon, clean and perfect like the Gillette shaver he promoted, until he wasn’t.  I am in no way pointing a finger at Tiger, the man is human and clearly had a lifestyle he now deeply regrets and the consequences are heavy.  My issue is the pedastal to begin with.  Perhaps Tiger believed his own hype, my beef is with the hype itself. None of this is new.  The Roman gladiator shows with animals also mauling their trainers.  They were mostly slaves, hoping to win their freedom, and if not, at least to taste some glory.  They were idolized as Rock Stars, sex objects and archaeologists have even found children’s dolls/playtoys in the shape/form of their favorite gladiator.  Babylon, Persia, Egypt and as far back as the Sumerians as we can tell, had some form of sport (usually violent) and hero worship.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE sports, always have.  I love competition and respect and have a sense of awe about the talent of others.  But they are human beings and that’s all I’m looking for. What is it in us that wants to idolize?  Are there deep insecurities?  Is fantasy and escape more normative for us than reality?  Why are we so thirsty for amusement?  Why are we so bored with our own selves?  It seems to me to be an issue of meaning.  If we have no real meaning ourselves, if we are not living out our own grand story, then we are looking to latch onto someone else’s.  If we can’t live our own dream, we try and ride the glamorous coat-tails of someone else who seemingly is living theirs.  (although in the end we find it is often no dream for them either)  We live in a culture full of hype, hyperbole and consumer driven marketing.  You HAVE to see this, recognize it and get some appropriate distance from it or those seeking your $$ on TV will be the ones to dictate to you what your story is.  What you should feel, what you should care about, how you should vote, what you should buy, how you should live . . . etc.  Why do we let someone else, who does not have our interest in mind dictate our story?  This is why I ceased watching the news years ago, tired of them dictating to me what to care about with hype and hyperpole for ratings.  (that’s a rant for another day).Here’s the thing, you have all the power and resources within you to be a hero or heroine.  Let me say that again, YOU do, not someone else.  You can parent in such a way to leave a legacy of love and blessing.  You can neighbor in such a way that spurs a culture of generosity.  You can work in such a way that brings to life more than just your company’s mission statement.  You can teach in such a way that inspires introspective learning for life.  You can friend in such a way that you literally become someone else’s answered prayer.  You can spouse in such a way that the experience of Oneness breeds a daily deep affirmation of who you truly are and who you belong to.  You can have a life with meaning and purpose that everything you touch, say, do, feel, think, express and attempt is heroic.  Not someone else, you.  You just need to decided to do so, and decide that everyday.  Then it will be your story that is told for years to come.

“What we do in life echoes in eternity. ”  – Maximus in Gladiator 

That could be your life.  Don’t seek entertainment, seek personal meaning.peace,marshall