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Is the American Dream Incompatible with the Gospel?

Self-improvement 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.

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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