What it Means to Be an American – 2013 Edition

by Andy Wood on July 3, 2013

in Ability, Consumers, Esteem, Five LV Laws, Insight, Leadership, Life Currency, Love, LV Alter-egos, Money, Photos, Pleasers, Principle of Freedom, Time, Words

American 1Of all the nations who have drawn some borders and set up shop, perhaps none has a shorter and more mixed (some would say mixed up) pedigree than the United States.  If the planet was populated by nothing but dogs, we’d be the mixed breeds – the hardy, loveable mutts who may not be able to point to a long pedigree, but will probably live the longest, love the hardest, and fight the fiercest of anybody in the pound.

To be an American is to be a delightful, maddening mix of contributions and contradictions, possibilities and problems.  We’re a living demonstration of what can happen when you let “the help” run the kingdom.

To be an American is to believe in the power of the people.  Your people, that is.  It is to believe that authority resides in the will of the majority, even though at any given time the Commander-in-Chief was elected by less than 21% of the population. Or if that doesn’t work, maybe power can reside in the rulings of some Federal judge who can see things your way until the majority gets with the program.

To be an American is to embrace life in the land of opportunity. It is to inherit the dream of men and women who came from many other places in order to pursue a better life, including property, wealth, independence, and a better standard of living for their children. It also means being bafflingly unprepared for retirement, a little suspect or jealous of people who have made their fortune, and convinced it’s some institution or corporation’s fault when you’re broke or unemployed.

American 2To be an American is to assume – secretly or otherwise – that you are somehow superior to the most all the other nations. Yet it’s also the feel the angst of realizing that Niger has a lower national debt, Mexico has a lower divorce rate, Bulgaria has a lower tax rate, South Korea has a higher rate of college graduates, and nearly every other country in the world has a lower crime rate.

To be an American is to understand the extraordinary power of the word “United” – recognizing that any challenge, any attack, any crisis can be met decisively when people come together around a common, ennobling cause.  It also means saving that “United” concept for the really tough situations – preferring instead to be divided along political lines, by age groups, by regions of the country, or by lifestyle preferences.

To be an American is to empower individuals to feel confident, bold, and accepting – first by accepting ourselves, then by accepting others. It means living in a land that espouses concepts such as honor, liberty and justice for all. It also means sparing our precious children from anything that resembles losing, failing, rejection or disappointment – leaving them entitled and completely unprepared for adulthood.

American 4To be an American is to approach the world as a neighborhood, and to be among the most generous people in it. It means showing up when a neighbor-nation needs a helping hand, to risk the lives of young men and women to set others free, and to be there when disaster strikes at home or abroad.  It also means expecting government bailouts, retirement income and healthcare with the understanding that somebody else should pay for it.

To be an American is to be in a hurry, because time is money and time’s a wasting. It means getting things done quickly, efficiently and precisely.  It also means narrow attention spans, rude impatience, and heartfelt communication in 140 characters or less.

To be an American is to hold fast to the power of words and the freedom to use them. It’s a place that guarantees you the right to state your viewpoint, question authority, and stand behind pulpits in church houses, bars or street corners to speak your mind.  It also involves the painful reminder that something you may have said 30 years ago can hunt you down and destroy your life or livelihood if somebody decides to make an issue of it.

American 5To be an American is to be blessed – greatly blessed – and to know it. It is to stand on the shoulders of Founding Fathers and spiritual Pilgrims who appealed to “nature’s God” as Creator, judge, and giver of every good gift. It also means the freedom to abandon nature’s God and assume we’re still entitled to the blessings.

To be an American is to be proud… when we’re not ashamed, that is. To be free… when we’re not in bondage. To be courageous… when we’re not taking counsel of our fears.  And to be reverent… when we’re not blinded by our own arrogance.

But to be an American is to see problems as solvable, people as redeemable, and the future as hopeful, regardless of the agonies of today.

I’m grateful to be an American – knowing that God doesn’t need us, but can still use us – if in our celebrations of independence we can remember our ultimate dependence on Him. And on this day of gratitude, I will remember again that to whom much is given, much is required.

I, for one, am up for that challenge.

How about you?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha Orlando July 4, 2013 at 9:18 am

I couldn’t have said it better myself, Andy!
Happy and blessed 4th to you!
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N. Rupp July 5, 2013 at 12:17 am

This is such a great topic and I love the way you presented it. Understanding my American identity had for a time been problematic. After really coming to Christianity as an adult I began rethinking what it meant to serve God and love all people across national, cultural and religious boundaries. It became evident that my country’s enemies were not God’s enemies and therefore could not be my enemies as they too were people Christ had died for and even in their sin were/are of unsurpassable worth to God just as I had been. However, letting those around me know about my new convictions drew harsh criticisms many of which suggesting I take sides or think about moving to another country or some other variation on the nationalistic theme.

The problem is I did not hate America or my fellow Americans, nor did I ever want to take for granted the opportunities and liberties I have, but I no longer could see myself or my nation as an imperialistic people who should set itself over and against others (even those threatening it). It was at this I made the decision to live thankful for what we have using it prayerfully, humbly and responsibly to further God’s Kingdom, but at the end of the day remember my trust is in God and my freedom came from His work. Therefore if the pleasures I am privileged to enjoy today are gone tomorrow the place my hope rests will not be shaken.

Andy Wood July 5, 2013 at 9:48 am

This is a great point and very well said, Nathan. I think every serious believer at some point struggles with the role that patriotism does or does not play in our worldview. I am deeply grateful for all this country has given me and forged into me, and frankly don’t have much patience for people who would want to attack it (via criticism or any other means) from without. However, I believe it is my privilege and responsibility to speak to it from within as one who loves the nation and the people in it, and to do so from a Kingdom perspective, shed of rose-colored classes.

LOVE your parting sentence: “If the pleasures I am privileged to enjoy today are gone tomorrow the place my hope rests will not be shaken.” Awesome!

Cora Stillwell July 7, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Great article. Please help me understand what you meant to convey here: “We’re a living demonstration of what can happen when you let “the help” run the kingdom.”

Andy Wood July 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Hi Cora,
Thanks for the article and for the question – I thought someone may ask about that.

America in its founding was based on the idea that leadership wasn’t the entitlement of a few wealthy noble families or a royal line of succession. All people – regardless of their “pedigree” or income – were entitled to exert leadership over the country, and that is even more true today now that the Senate is directly elected (not always true) and more people than ever have the right to vote (women and slaves, even freed ones, were not allowed to vote early on).

While we take those ideas as pretty common today, when they were first established, they were a radical idea to a world run by kings and a landed gentry.

That said, people tend to vote their self-interests, which is a mixed bag. That’s one of the reasons there is so much back-and-forth in politics.

Anyway… long answer to a short question. “The help” means all of us… not just kings and nobility. “The Kingdom” means the nation.

Cora Stillwell July 7, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Thanks for clearing that up! I was sweating a little over here. 😉

Richard Faulkerson March 2, 2016 at 1:28 am

I doesnt matter what anyone says about our country or our culture, we are still a great country, no one in the history of the world has been a more successful country than ours and we are still a very god fearing country.
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