We are choking on our consumption of the American Dream

The Title of this post is taken from a T-Shirt that I was given at last year's Purple Door Arts and Music Festival by a guy running a business called Fake Life.  As I reflected on the book "Radical: Taking Back your faith from the American Dream" by David Platt, I couldn't help but think of the quote from Fake Life.  As a member of Blogging for Books, I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.  This book was definitely challenging, interesting, and a call for me to see where I have bought into the American Dream without thinking about it.

I would say, for the most part, this book challenged my faith and encouraged me to take a hard look at my life, my finances, my time, my commitment to Christ, and my commitment to justice in the world.  It wasn't an "easy" read meaning it challenged my assumptions, my lifestyle, and what kingdom I am truly living for.  I found myself wondering what my family and I might do to live a more radical, Kingdom of God focused life.  I thought back to many discussions that I have had over the last year and half, since launching Veritas, with my wife about the possibility of selling our house and moving into a smaller house, and possibly to the city of Lancaster.  What it has come down to for me is this quote found on page 45, "The question for us, then, is whether we trust in his power.  And the problem for us is that in our culture we are tempted at every turn to trust in our own power instead.  So the challenge for us is to live in such a way that we are radically dependent on and desperate for the power that only God can provide."

There are many great sections and quotes from this book.  And I wanted to share the ones that stood out to me the most.

"Our attempt to reduce this gospel to a shrink-wrapped presentation that persuades someone to say or pray the right things back to us no longer seems appropriate."

"Do we really believe he is worth abandoning everything for?  Do you and I really believe that Jesus is so good, so satisfying, and so rewarding that we will leave all we have and all we own and all we are in order to find our fullness in him?  Do you and I believe him enough to obey him and to follow him wherever he leads, even when the crowds in our culture- and maybe in our churches- turn the other way" (Ouch..this hurts.  God has been asking me lately if he is enough.  He asked me if he was more important than Veritas and whether or not it "failed" and lately, unfortunately I have been answering no, you aren't enough.  I've spent some time praying and confessing that and want to give everything, including Veritas, over to him to do what he wants with my life and the life and ministry of Veritas).

"And I want to be a part of a people who are risking it all for him.  For the sake of an increasingly marginalized and relatively ineffective church in our culture, I want to risk it all."

One of the things that struck me the most was his take on what makes a "successful" church today in the US.  He wonders if what we call successful is actually successful in the eyes of God.  He says this is what you need for a successful church, "Clearly, it doesn't require the power of God to draw a crowd in our culture.  A few key elements that we can manufacture will suffice.  First we need a good performance.  Next we need a place to hold the crowds that will come, so we gather all our resources to build a multimillion-dollar facility to house the performance.  Finally, once the crowds get there, we need to have something to keep them coming back. "

I also found his Radical Experiment at the end of the book helpful for applying what he wrote about in the rest of the book.

I could quote some more great quotes as there are many.  And for the most part I felt that this was a very helpful, encouraging, challenging book and I'm glad that I had the opportunity to read it.  There was only two things that I struggled with while reading the book.

First of all, I found that it seemed like Platt was missing or underemphasizing one  part of the Gospel Story and overemphasizing another part.  I believe there are 4 parts of this Grand Narrative.  The four parts are Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.  I believe Platt underemphasized the Creation part of the narrative, each person in the world created in the Imago Dei, the Image of God and he overemphasized the Fall.  It seemed like, and maybe I'm wrong, that we are nothing but sinners (wondering if his neo-calvinist theology around Total depravity informed this point?).  I admit that I am a sinner, but I am also a saint, created in the Image of God to do good works, as the Scripture says.  For me, I believe, to know that I am created in the Image of God, makes me desire to be on mission and be the hands and feet of Christ, because I can truly reflect Jesus.  It's truly possible.

The other issue is related to the idea of social justice.  It seemed like, to me at least, that he was trying to convince people that social justice was in deed part of the gospel and it wasn't only about evangelism.  In fact he would say that Social Justice and Evangelism go hand and hand, the opposite sides of the same coin.  I totally agree with him, but I realize that maybe the "intended audience" was such that they only saw evangelism as the outgrowth of the gospel and not living out the kingdom by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner, and tending to the sick.

Other than those two issues, I still highly value the work that Platt has put forth and I'll be encouraging others that I know (in my core group, and others) to take some time to read and reflect on how they might live a more Radical, Kingdom of God faith and I'll also encourage everyone (myself included) to see if we are indeed choking on our consumption of the American Dream.