Dreamers of the Day

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible." -T.E. Lawrence, "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pursuing God

In this complex day-in-age, it is difficult to ponder where we have come from. As one analyzes a journey, one must ask three questions: Where have you come form, where are you and where are you going? The past determines the actions and decisions one will make in the present that will affect the future. The American past is the same way. The very principles the country was founded on still impact everyday life in more ways than realized. These core beliefs are the mold in which many beliefs are formed and shaped.

The focal point of the American past is this phrase: “the freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In an ancient (ancient in American terms) document, this phrase echoes loudly in today’s economics, law and philosophy.

The “right to life”, has been changed to: “the right to live and pursue true life.” Life today is not simply breathing, but more than that. It is the “right to party” as the Beastie Boys put. It is the right to live wherever and whenever one wants to. It is the right to allow certain people to live and others to die. This pursuit of the “right of life” has consumed the modern day American. Security systems, tougher laws and background checks help protect this life. Drugs, exercise and surgery help prolong this life so we can do more, faster and bigger. The pursuit—today—is about the expression of the life.

Liberty also is a term rarely used outside of historical settings. However, it is a core belief that Americans hold to each day. Liberty is a synonym of freedom only that it takes place in society. Americans hold to their freedom of speech, right to bare arms and religion. America was founded on the hatred of oppression by the government and so Americans pursue this characteristic. The pursuit of liberty is not an easy task. Many lines have been crossed because of certain laws and restrictions to guard the public, but American liberty sing rings true today. Yet, this is not enough. Americans still are pursuing a greater freedom and questioning every restrictive policy. Capitalism has flourished (although not as great as a society such as Hong Kong) because the greater amounts of freedom achieved each day. So, the pursuit of liberty can be summed up as this: to pursue life without restrictions.

Happiness is the last of the nouns, but not the least. Closely linked with right to life, happiness is the modern American’s ultimate goal. Happiness is defined as whatever the person wants to do. To have this freedom in a country is amazing and capitalism can allow for this, but as all systems, it has its weaknesses. Americans pursue happiness because they can—because they chose to. An American dream consists of a house, a dog, a white, picket fence and 2.5 beautiful kids. Cars, clothes, televisions, computers and 401ks are not considered luxuries, but necessities. Pain killers as well as other pain alleviators sell well because pain is the antithesis of happiness. Pursuing happiness typically means following what makes you happy and avoiding what does not.

I write this because in my theology, somehow, somewhere, these have infiltrated my mind. I think our view of economics and sexuality has a greater affect on our theology that anything else. I would like to add to the list of sociality. Many times I find myself being “Christian” when nothing could be further from the truth. Like a butterfly in a tangled web, I think I am free of society’s web. I am then snagged again only to see my striving to wear me out. I have been pondering what it is to pursue God and the aforementioned nouns of “life, liberty and happiness” have had a profound impact on me as well as my peers.

For instance, with life, the American pursues life in a unique way. Not unique from other humans, but from other life forms. The human will try to become something it is not. It will build wings, created an outer coat or even produce lungs to go underwater. Life, to the American human, is not gauged simply by a pulse, but by activities—by doing. I think this statement is best expressed in the movie Dumb and Dumber. “We have no jobs…we have no food…OUR PETS HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!!!” As comical as it is, it is also very revealing. To hit rock bottom, to be a loser is to “not live”. Americans pity the poor and homeless not because of what they have, but what they do not have. Americans are appalled that other humans can get by with so little.

Now here comes the dangerous part. In theology it is the same way. The pursuit of God is measured by the doing of the American. The obvious is church attendance and other forms of public expression, but even in the personal realm. Many times I myself or others around me have guilt for not doing things the “Christian” way. I can easily make one feel guilty if they have not done a certain discipline because—and here’s the kicker—it is an expression of life. The American Christian’s spiritual life is not determined by the God whom he or she serves, but by the life being expressed from them. I believe this is why it is so difficult for American Christians to be expressive. If it isn’t life or “Christian”, then it will convey the wrong message. To pursue is to be holy and expression has been disposed. Sin has lost all meaning at this point because the judge has become the crowd or our Christian peers—not God Himself.

The same can be said of liberty. The pursuit of freedom in Christianity is done in the same manner as the American. The Christian must first recognize these “strongholds”—these places of bondage. Then, in the name of Jesus, they are to conquer them. The reason being is that Christ came to set the captives free. All this being true, the Christian pursues freedom by destroying the works of the evil one in the exact same way as the American does in socially. There are more rules placed to resists the powers of bondage, the things that bound are all question and the mission is freedom. The only difference is the Christian does in the name of Jesus. The American does it in the name of freedom, but both pursue “a life without restrictions” only to miss the entire point of freedom: it is restrictive by nature.

Happiness seems to be the worse of the three. The Christian pursues the pleasures of the kingdom here on this earth, whether they believe the “health and wealth” doctrines. The Christian has “contracts with God” stating that if God will do such-and-such thing, then they will follow. Pain is hated because it is evil and hardly ever endured. The Christian approaches pain the same way as an American—is it the chief enemy of life. Thus, because life is number one on the list, energy is poured into this great battle and victories seemed to be won. The Christian will compromise or morph into other theologies to make it work and be less painful. The Christian will pursue happiness (which is labeled as “knowledge of God” or “the disciplined life”) fervently, which gains the accolades of believers. The pursuit of happiness is disguised by Spiritual gobbledygook or even immense amount of knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.

It is here in lies the crux of the matter in my opinion. The American Christian has taken its heritage (and a blessed one at that) and applied its social principles to Christianity. The American Christian helps define the pursuit of God by using the same pursuing definitions it uses socially, but has forgotten one, very large characteristics of each noun (life, liberty, happiness): each of these have an end.


At 6:56 AM, Blogger Creth said...

someone's back on the wagon...

I like

At 1:40 PM, Blogger Trey said...

It appears that being back on the wagon didn't last long.

Where are thou, Jason?

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Micah & Brad said...


At 6:14 AM, Blogger Micah & Brad said...

Thinking of you today, and praying for you.


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