Reflecting on Competition, the (Christian) American Dream – Post 2

I received a couple of emails and encouraging words of the USA Today post and competition as being part of the problem with our teen-agers.  I’d like to go a little further (which usually only ruins a good point and becomes the blog equivalent of smashing your guitar at the end of the set).

What would it look like if we didn’t put as much pressure on our students?  Before I delve in, here are a few qualifiers:

I am not against competition as a whole, there is fruit in it. 

I believe in personal responsibility and am trying to avoid being overly sympathetic to teenagers and see them as victims.

But I do want “us” (“us” = all from parents, to youth workers, to teachers, to politicians to rock stars, to baristas…) to be faithful to our callings and responsibilities.

I see a couple of questions:  What would it look like if we didn’t put as much pressure on our students?   What kind of dream are we encouraging our students to pursue?  Are we actually leading them (and ourselves) to good, healthy, meaningful lives?  Oh, and how about one more – what is the meaning of life?

My main problem is the “dream” that we sell our kids.  As you know, it goes something like this:  If you get good grades, and are balanced with music, sports, theater, you can gain entrance into a good college, and if you do well there, you can land a great job, marry a great person, get a nice home, vacation wherever you want, and do whatever you want to do.” 
In our Christian homes, we add “and make a commitment to Jesus …” making it the Christian dream. 

I don’t know anyone, literally, who does whatever they want to do.  Even rock-stars don’t do whatever they want.  (Not even if it appears that way on stage).

The dream is a mirage and you can feel free to deconstruct it.  And while I value education and encourage our students to meet their potential, and think SAT prep classes are a good idea, and believe there are many lessons learned in sports, theater, writing in the school newspaper, editing the yearbook, and the numerous other extracurriculars, most of us know that there is more to life.

Though it’s preached in churches, it also makes it’s point in movies like, “Family Man”, “Braveheart”, and even in “Spiderman” (and many others).  And the point is life must have meaning.

If I can transition from our students to “us” as a whole, I’d like to wind down to some kind of conclusion.    Though I believe the aforementioned pursuits and extracurriculars are worthy, important, necessary but only to an extent.  I value education but I also value love. I love athletics but also need the pursuit of peace.  I enjoy being entertained but desire the call to justice. 

Of course, being a youth pastor, I am expected to finish this with a commercial justifying the existence of my position and work.  Don’t fault me too much, I do believe in what I do. 

But this post isn’t intended to convert anyone.  This being a post on the internet, I do not want to presuppose my faith and values on you.  But can we agree that life must have meaning and that our world would be better if we encouraged ourselves and those that come after us to pursue a better dream?  I know as this conversation expands we would have different ideas of that dream and this is among the reasons why we have millions of books, but can we at least agree that the present dream is flawed?


  1. I think this is my favorite post of yours ever. Death to the American dream. All Hail the dream of chasing after King Jesus wherever that leads us.

  2. Great questions… important! I don’t know anyone who has followed the good grades, good college, good spouse, good job, good home track and found the gold at the end of the rainbow.

    The idea of a pain-free life has been placed disproportionately high on the value scale.

  3. @ Adam, thanks for the kind words.
    @ JasonB, yes, the pain-free life is the other carrot that’s dangled in front of people.


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