Acton Institute Powerblog

When Life Has Killed the American Dream

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When I talk about my time growing up in Los Angeles with my mother, I often describe her motivations for going to Hollywood like this: “She wanted to be a movie star…which means she was a waitress.”

That’s a pretty common experience in an industry as competitive and grinding as film. But increasingly these kinds of challenges are faced by women in less glamorous and more mainstream industries. As a recent BusinessWeek piece put it, “You Can Have Any Job You Want, as Long as It’s Waitress.”

Of course there’s nothing wrong with being a waitress. Indeed, there’s something deeply meaningful in the service rendered by those whose hands provide others with material sustenance. In a stunningly moving interpretation of the prophecy of the sheep and the goats, Lester DeKoster describes how Christ “waits in the hungry man or woman or child, longing to be served.” And those who satiate that hunger include those who work in restaurants.

It’s just that you don’t go to Syracuse University and study political science in order to wait tables. That’s the reality that Victoria Honard is living, though: “There are two ways of looking at it. I could be extremely frustrated and be bitter, or I can make the most of it, and I’m trying to take the latter approach.”

But as young women’s attempts to enter the professional workforce in their preferred field are increasingly foiled, there is a more serious risk of long-term disaffection, disappointment, and disillusionment, a phenomenon already well underway in Greece, for instance. What will happen when life kills the American dream?

The current socio-political system is increasingly not working for those who work hard and smart to achieve. That will mean the need for a change, hopefully for the better, for a system that works for the people, not against them.
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Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action)

Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action)

Addressing topics ranging from the family to work, politics, and the church, Jordan J. Ballor shows how the Christian faith calls us to get involved deeply and meaningfully in the messiness of the world. Drawing upon theologians and thinkers from across the great scope of the Christian tradition, including Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Abraham Kuyper, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and engaging a variety of current figures and cultural phenomena, these essays connect the timeless insights of the Christian faith to the pressing challenges of contemporary life.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty, where he also serves as executive editor the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary. He has authored articles in academic publications such as The Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, and Journal of Scholarly Publishing, and has written popular pieces for newspapers including the Detroit News, Orange County Register, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 2006, Jordan was profiled in the book, The Relevant Nation: 50 Activists, Artists And Innovators Who Are Changing The World Through Faith. Jordan's scholarly interests include Reformation studies, church-state relations, theological anthropology, social ethics, theology and economics, and research methodology. Jordan is a member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), and he resides in Jenison, Michigan with his wife and three children.

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