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Old 12-24-2010, 03:04 AM   #1
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I believe God has a dream for people today.

It’s just not the same as the American Dream.

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My take: Why my church rebelled against the American Dream



Editor’s Note: David Platt, Ph.D., is the author of the New York Times bestseller Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream and is senior pastor of the 4,000-member Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama.

By David Platt, Special to CNN

We American Christians have a way of taking the Jesus of the Bible and twisting him into a version of Jesus that we are more comfortable with.

A nice middle-class American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts.

A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who for that matter wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings comfort and prosperity to us as we live out our Christian spin on the American Dream.

But lately I’ve begun to have hope that the situation is changing.

The 20th-century historian who coined the term “American Dream,” James Truslow Adams, defined it as “a dream… in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are.”

But many of us are realizing that Jesus has different priorities. Instead of congratulating us on our self-fulfillment, he confronts us with our inability to accomplish anything of value apart from God. Instead of wanting us to be recognized by others, he beckons us to die to ourselves and seek above all the glory of God.

In my own faith family, the Church at Brook Hills, we have tried to get out from under the American Dream mindset and start living and serving differently.

Like many other large American churches, we had a multimillion-dollar campus and plans to make it even larger to house programs that would cater to our own desires. But then we started looking at the world we live in.

It’s a world where 26,000 children die every day of starvation or a preventable disease. A world where billions live in situations of such grinding poverty that an American middle-class neighborhood looks like Beverly Hills by comparison. A world where more than a billion people have never even heard the name Jesus. So we asked ourselves, “What are we spending our time and money on that is less important than meeting these needs?” And that’s when things started to change.

First we gave away our entire surplus fund - $500,000 - through partnerships with churches in India, where 41 percent of the world’s poor live. Then we trimmed another $1.5 million from our budget and used the savings to build wells, improve education, provide medical care and share the gospel in impoverished places around the world. Literally hundreds of church members have gone overseas temporarily or permanently to serve in such places.

And it’s not just distant needs we’re trying to meet. It’s also needs near at hand.

One day I called up the Department of Human Resources in Shelby County, Alabama, where our church is located, and asked, “How many families would you need in order to take care of all the foster and adoption needs that we have in our county?”

The woman I was talking to laughed.

I said, “No, really, if a miracle were to take place, how many families would be sufficient to cover all the different needs you have?”

She replied, “It would be a miracle if we had 150 more families.”

When I shared this conversation with our church, over 160 families signed up to help with foster care and adoption. We don’t want even one child in our county to be without a loving home. It’s not the way of the American Dream. It doesn’t add to our comfort, prosperity, or ease. But we are discovering the indescribable joy of sacrificial love for others, and along the way we are learning more about the inexpressible wonder of God’s sacrificial love for us.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my country and I couldn’t be more grateful for its hard-won freedoms. The challenge before we American Christians, as I see it, is to use the freedoms, resources, and opportunities at our disposal while making sure not to embrace values and assumptions that contradict what God has said in the Bible.

I believe God has a dream for people today. It’s just not the same as the American Dream.

I believe God is saying to us that real success is found in radical sacrifice. That ultimate satisfaction is found not in making much of ourselves but in making much of him. That the purpose of our lives transcends the country and culture in which we live. That meaning is found in community, not individualism. That joy is found in generosity, not materialism. And that Jesus is a reward worth risking everything for.

Indeed, the gospel compels us to live for the glory of God in a world of urgent spiritual and physical need, and this is a dream worth giving our lives to pursue.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Platt.
My take: Why my church rebelled against the American Dream – CNN Belief Blog - CNN.com Blogs




I no longer believe in religion.

I do believe in being kind and charitable towards others.
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Old 12-24-2010, 08:42 AM   #2
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While I am happy that he is making a difference in community/world, I just wish it had nothing to do with religion.

A lot of these people that are "saved" are grateful beyond a doubt, but do you have to spread the gospel too?

Anyway, at least this is a pretty good story.
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Old 12-24-2010, 08:55 AM   #3
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I no longer believe in religion.

I do believe in being kind and charitable towards others.


I never believed in religion or god. I do believe that militant atheists are just as bad as religious fundamentalists. But if he has the personality that Christians say he has, I'd say "HE SUCKS!"
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Who cares if there's a god? What I can see, touch, hear, taste, smell, and feel is more important.
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Old 12-24-2010, 09:53 AM   #4
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What makes "militant" atheists just as bad as religious fundamentalists?

It's such a common criticism levelled at Dawkins, Hitchens and Dennett etc. but having read their books I cannot see the equivalence. On one side you have advocates for free inquiry, freedom of belief and scepticism and on the other (the religious fundamentalists) there is literalism and a strong tendency to accept claims uncritically.

Could somebody provide one example of "militant" atheists acting as badly as the average conservative religious group (Family Research Council, Catholic Church, 700 Club etc.)?

I'll just point to a rallying point where secularists have been doing some good Non-Believers Giving Aid - Support for the Haiti Tragedy and Beyond.
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Old 12-24-2010, 10:29 AM   #5
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If all religious people acted like this, I wouldn't mind religion nearly as much.
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Old 12-24-2010, 10:44 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by A_Wanderer View Post
What makes "militant" atheists just as bad as religious fundamentalists?

It's such a common criticism levelled at Dawkins, Hitchens and Dennett etc. but having read their books I cannot see the equivalence. On one side you have advocates for free inquiry, freedom of belief and scepticism and on the other (the religious fundamentalists) there is literalism and a strong tendency to accept claims uncritically.
That was not what I meant.

I'm not familiar with this so called "common criticism". I'm not criticizing any 'advocates for free inquiry, freedom of belief and scepticism'.

You see, I was born in a society where being an atheist effectively means going to hell. Therefore, quite naturally I tried to live in harmony with all the religious beliefs however immoderate they may be. And I could have kept on doing it all my life. What pissed me off were those 'enlightened' people shoving their 'proper' ideals down my throat.

People who want to ban or illegalise religion are no better than those who want to 'guide' every single person that is 'lost'. If you demand your right to practice whatever you want, then you have to respect other people's right to practice whatever they want ! Everyone should be free to raise their kids and conduct their lives as they see fit.

But at the end of it you should be able to say 'I did what I thought was right' and not 'I made everyone do what I thought was right'.
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Old 12-24-2010, 11:02 AM   #7
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A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I'm An Atheist - Speakeasy - WSJ

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So what does the question “Why don’t you believe in God?” really mean. I think when someone asks that they are really questioning their own belief. In a way they are asking “what makes you so special? “How come you weren’t brainwashed with the rest of us?” “How dare you say I’m a fool and I’m not going to heaven, fuck you!”
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Old 12-24-2010, 12:16 PM   #8
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Thanks deep for the article.

I'm glad I was never raised to be materialistic because my church said God wants you to be rich. It makes me suspicious of Joel and Victoria Osteen, who go around saying that. Not that God wants you to be poor, but there's more to life than materialism.
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Old 12-24-2010, 01:24 PM   #9
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I no longer believe in religion.

I do believe in being kind and charitable towards others.


Same.
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Old 12-24-2010, 04:14 PM   #10
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If all religious people acted like this, I wouldn't mind religion nearly as much.
. That bit about 160 families signing up for foster care/adoption stuff for children-that is awesome. Very, very cool. There's some kids who will have a happy time coming their way.

Despite my personal feelings about religion in general, I have no problem with most people who are religious, because I think a lot of religious people out there would agree with the man who wrote this article. The religious people I know certainly would.

As for "militant atheism"-I think basically it's just the fact that just as religious people constantly browbeating you with their message gets annoying to those who don't want to hear it, so does atheists doing the same. If religious people are happy believing what they believe, and they aren't bugging anyone else about it, aren't harassing people or doing evil, violent things in the name of their faith or whatever, leave 'em alone and let them have their faith. You can have a list of arguments proving that they're wrong all you want, and I personally wouldn't exactly disagree with you in many ways, but if you don't want them to bother you, don't bother them in return. Golden rule, and all that.

Angela
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Old 12-24-2010, 06:28 PM   #11
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People who want to ban or illegalise religion are no better than those who want to 'guide' every single person that is 'lost'. If you demand your right to practice whatever you want, then you have to respect other people's right to practice whatever they want ! Everyone should be free to raise their kids and conduct their lives as they see fit.
Who are the people who want to ban or illegalise religion? By definition a secularist opposes government interference in peoples personal beliefs.

The issue of raising children in a religious tradition is an area where by your standard of people being free to practice what they want is contravened. If the child doesn't have the opportunity to make up their own mind about such matters should that "right" of the parents really be respected. It's not a coincidence that religions place such an emphasis on inculcating children and the damage which this causes in many cases shouldn't be overlooked. The apparently controversial position that the likes of Dawkins takes against faith-schools and labelling children goes against the grain but I think that he is right.
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Old 12-24-2010, 07:02 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Moonlit_Angel View Post

As for "militant atheism"-I think basically it's just the fact that just as religious people constantly browbeating you with their message gets annoying to those who don't want to hear it, so does atheists doing the same. If religious people are happy believing what they believe, and they aren't bugging anyone else about it, aren't harassing people or doing evil, violent things in the name of their faith or whatever, leave 'em alone and let them have their faith. You can have a list of arguments proving that they're wrong all you want, and I personally wouldn't exactly disagree with you in many ways, but if you don't want them to bother you, don't bother them in return. Golden rule, and all that.
Well said, Angela
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Old 12-24-2010, 08:21 PM   #13
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I'm glad someone understands it that way for a change. I'm not going to be one to judge though.

Mildly off topic, but what is religion today anyway? Do you have to be religious to believe in God?
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Old 12-24-2010, 08:37 PM   #14
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Mildly off topic, but what is religion today anyway? Do you have to be religious to believe in God?
I see myself as more spiritual than religious. I see religion as a set of rules and dogmas you have to follow, while spirituality is more about your relationship with God.

So, no I don't believe you have to be religious to believe in God. The way I see it, religion gets in the way of your relationship with a Higher Being.
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Old 12-26-2010, 08:27 PM   #15
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I no longer believe in religion.

I do believe in being kind and charitable towards others.

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MT...
I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand"I have a problem, it is the Government's job to cope with it!" or"I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!" "I am homeless, the Government must house me!" and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and[fo 1] there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation and it is, I think, one of the tragedies in which many of the benefits we give, which were meant to reassure people that if they were sick or ill there was a safety net and there was help, that many of the benefits which were meant to help people who were unfortunate—" It is all right. We joined together and we have these insurance schemes to look after it" . That was the objective, but somehow there are some people who have been manipulating the system and so some of those help and benefits that were meant to say to people:"All right, if you cannot get a job, you shall have a basic standard of living!" but when people come and say:"But what is the point of working? I can get as much on the dole!" You say:"Look" It is not from the dole. It is your neighbour who is supplying it and if you can earn your own living then really you have a duty to do it and you will feel very much better!"

There is also something else I should say to them:"If that does not give you a basic standard, you know, there are ways in which we top up the standard. You can get your housing benefit."

But it went too far. If children have a problem, it is society that is at fault. There is no such thing as society.[fo 2] There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate. And the worst things we have in life, in my view, are where children who are a great privilege and a trust—they are the fundamental great trust, but they do not ask to come into the world, we bring them into the world, they are a miracle, there is nothing like the miracle of life—we have these little innocents and the worst crime in life is when those children, who would naturally have the right to look to their parents for help, for comfort, not only just for the food and shelter but for the time, for the understanding, turn round and not only is that help not forthcoming, but they get either neglect or worse than that, cruelty.

How do you set about teaching a child religion at school, God is like a father, and she thinks"like someone who has been cruel to them?" It is those children you cannot … you just have to try to say they can only learn from school or we as their neighbour have to try in some way to compensate. This is why my foremost charity has always been the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, because over a century ago when it was started, it was hoped that the need for it would dwindle to nothing and over a hundred years later the need for it is greater, because we now realise that the great problems in life are not those of housing and food and standard of living. When we have[fo 3] got all of those, when we have got reasonable housing when you compare us with other countries, when you have got a reasonable standard of living and you have got no-one who is hungry or need be hungry, when you have got an education system that teaches everyone—not as good as we would wish—you are left with what? You are left with the problems of human nature, and a child who has not had what we and many of your readers would regard as their birthright—a good home—it is those that we have to get out and help, and you know, it is not only a question of money as everyone will tell you; not your background in society. It is a question of human nature and for those children it is difficult to say:"You are responsible for your behaviour!" because they just have not had a chance and so I think that is one of the biggest problems and I think it is the greatest sin.
Interview for Woman's Own ("no such thing as society") | Margaret Thatcher Foundation
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