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American Dreams

As we approach the 4th of July and the 242nd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, I’ve been reflecting on the state of the American Dream.  

As I’ve always understood it, the standard American Dream was to live in peace, free from the fear of persecution, and with equal access to what our forefathers called “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  What made the American Dream so popular across the globe was, especially for those who longed to come here, how sharply life in America contrasted with life in other countries. For centuries our economic and political systems and our freedoms of both speech and religion have been the envy of all, some of whom undergone great hardship to immigrate here.

Lately, the American Dream has been under attack.  Forces of fear are trumpeting across the globe that we are weak economically and politically, that we need protection from the other people and other countries, and that we do not have enough jobs, homes, or resources to have either an open economy or open borders.  These same forces seem determined for ideological reasons to say that we are so impoverished spiritually that we cannot sustain either freedom of religion in the marketplace or ensure civil liberties in the public sphere.

As we abhor and resist these attacks, we must remember that we’ve been here before.  The American Dream was born in a time of war and resistance against a tyrant King, it survived the Civil War and the Great Depression, not to mention McCarthyism.  Never perfectly achieved nor implemented, the American Dream is sustained on the same quality that sustains the kingdom of God as preached by Jesus to the colonized people of first century Palestine:  hope

As people of faith, we place our hope in the egalitarian values of the Gospel and in God, who as our religious forefather John Robinson said to the passengers of the Mayflower as they departed Plymouth, England to find religious freedom in America, “I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word.”  As Americans, we place our hope in the strength of our Declaration, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, our system of laws, and the commitment of our people to the values of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Let our prayer for this 4th of July be:  Holy God, speak to us with hope about our future as Americans.  Teach us again that all people are created equal and that all your children deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Make us confident of our freedom and security, able to recognize our power, prosperity, and our privilege, and willing to use our values and our gifts to be a beacon for the entire world.  Amen.

–Pastor Pepper