Is the American Dream Incompatible with the Gospel?

There are so many places in the Bible where we are encouraged to grow.

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Much is being said about how the recession is changing our behaviors, even our values. 

David Brooks of the New York Times in a recent Op Ed piece “The Gospel of Wealth” pointed out that people are saving more, downsizing their homes and cars. He also gives a shout-out to David Platt, a pastor and author of a new book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, as a prophet of that change. 

While I think that what Platt has to say is both radical and right on (He says megachurches tend to encourage consumer Christianity, for example), I disagree with him on this point: that the American Dream, with its elements of self-development and personal growth, is somehow antithetical to or incompatible with the Gospel.  

Self-development is not by definition self-aggrandizement, nor is personal growth necessarily self-centered. There are so many places in the Bible where we are encouraged to grow: grow in Christ, grow in righteousness, grow in love and charity. In fact, I remember once hearing a Trappist monk define “sin” as the “refusal to grow.”

So, yes, let’s refocus our values and adopt new priorities and let’s keep growing in kindness and wisdom too.  

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