Acton Institute Powerblog

Should Christians Oppose the ‘American Dream’?

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AmericanDream1The concept of the American Dream can cause a fair amount of tension within the church, says Drew Cleveland. Some have gone as far as to make the American Dream a concept against which the church ought to be opposed:

The concern that this dream can be misused is not wholly invalid. Even Smith acknowledges that “this dream easily slides towards idolatry,” and yes, it is often true that a good thing can become an object of worship if not enjoyed in moderation. For many affluent and educated Americans, including some Christians, the American Dream is a materialistic desire for not only a job, a family, and a house with the white picket fence, but also a beach house, two SUVS, exotic vacations, big-screen TVs, the latest fashions, $5 lattes, etc. It is easy to see why other Christians oppose this perversion of the American Dream, which simply promotes the acquisition of treasures on earth or social privilege solely for self-glorification. But many of those who still long for the best of the American Dream are the marginal, the poor, the working class – those for whom education, steady work, and home ownership are life-long goals.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Annie Daniels

    The American dream in itself is not all together a bad thing. However, I have noticed that many Christians who are living the American Dream are very selfish with what they have. They do very little to help the poor. I am a poor Christian but rich in Christ. I have several very wealthy Christian friends. They know my situation, (I live on Social Security and an elderly person) But they do nothing to help me. Sometimes I wonder why we have a friendship. Do they just want me around so they can feel better. One sat in my living room and bragged that she and her husband spend $700 a month eating out and drinking coffee from Starbucks. She wasted the amount of money I live on. Another friend complains about how poor she is. However, her and her husband own 40 acres and live in a beautiful home and go on several vacations a year. Another family tells me how they live from pay check to pay check but go on very expensive vacations. I drive a 1989 Acura with that needs a muffler and many other repairs. One of my friends who is wealthy and goes on cruises laughs when they hear me coming. Because of the noise my car makes. You tell me is this what Jesus taught. I could go on and on with examples. Yet I say nothing because if I defend myself it will sound self serving.

    • Annie Daniels

      It would be nice to know if people actually read these comments. I am so tired of being looked down on because I am poor. My own family looks down on me. It is very discouraging. If it weren’t for Jesus being here would be the last place I would want to be. I can’t afford Christmas for my grandchildren and can’t afford birthday gifts. Sad but true. I have to watch while the other grandparents take them on vacations, give them money, and buy gifts on holidays and birthdays. It sucks! My rich friends tell me that it isn’t the gifts that matter but who I am. Nice saying! But it does not help.

      • Annie,
        I just saw a notification of your comments. I can’t say anything that will relieve your suffering, I can say that you need to do your best at keeping faith in Christ. Realize that it is possible that your rich friends are not doing that when they treat you the way they do.

        It is so natural for any of us to conflate our culture with the Gospel. After all, it does make us feel special or shields us from guilt.

        I would also add that you need to find friends who care about you and who will emotionally and physically support you and who do this while respecting you as an equal.