Liberating college students from the American Dream

Faith & Inspiration
by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2007, at 5:10 pm

My heart goes out to over stressed college students. If they were raised in American evangelical churches, infection with "American Dream Christianity" (ADC) is highly likely. ADC is the religion whose principal tenet says, "Man's chief end is to glorify himself and live in comfort and ease forever." Sadly, many students who want to "learn the language and literature of Babylon" are sadly discouraged by fears of future income potential, thus creating anxiety and family strife.

What is so powerfully deceptive about the idolatry of ADC is the imbedded guise of wisdom. ADC wisdom suggests that one must guarantee future income potential to "provide for a family." College is no longer a place to learn about God's world, it is now a tech school-a place to train for a well paying job.

'Success idols' have created a new definition for "at-risk" youth. Dr. Madeline Levin, in The Price of Privilege (2006), summarizes new national data saying, "America's newly identified at-risk group is preteens and teens from affluent, well-educated families. In spite of their economic and social advantages, they experience among the highest rates of depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, somatic complaints, and unhappiness of any group of children in this country."

The Bible never teaches that the point of life is flawless grades, college scholarships, a well-paying career, and a safe, materially comfortable life. After 13 years of youth ministry I continue to be saddened by conversations with students who say, "I want to study sociology but my parents want me to major in business so I can get a job." I wonder which majors please God?

Perhaps one day college students will be free to "seek first the Kingdom" in all sectors of society, with true wisdom, without pressure to serve the idols of the American Dream.

Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

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