October 2017: When Was America Great?

October 2017 Inter-Belief Conversation Café

When Was America Great?

Monday, October 16, 2017
7 – 9 p.m.
Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105 (View Map)

When running for president, Donald Trump promised to make America great again. So when did we stop being great? We speak of the Greatest Generation which overcame the Great Depression and fought World War II? Is overcoming adversity greatness? Is it in our ideals but which ones? A Christian nation with a touch of secularism? A shining city on the hill beckoning with the torch of the Statue of Liberty? A land of plenty with jobs and consumer products for all? Is one person’s greatness another person’s nightmare?

Is overcoming adversity or major challenges greatness? Looking back on our history the trials and struggles of the past seem most remembered. The Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock and give Thanksgiving after a harsh winter, Washington survives Valley Forge, Lincoln guides the country through Civil War, FDR beset by polio tackles depression and war, and Martin Luther King, Jr. has a dream and overcomes (in part). Are there no more mountains to climb and dragons to slay? To make America great again must the country face adversity never before imagined?

Of modern nations, America is one of the most religious with Christianity the dominant faith. When we sing “God Bless America” do we really mean it (and what DO we mean)? But few of the Founding Fathers seem like candidates for the Moral Majority. They wrote what has been called a Godless Constitution with religious language limited to a ban on religious tests and a First Amendment excluding a state supported national church. With non-Christians elected to almost all offices except maybe President, do we have a Christian government? Or was the vision of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, etc. a pluralistic one with “In Diversity United (E Pluribus Unum)” the guiding principle?

Some see America as an example for the world. Is it Ronald Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill of virtue, prosperity, and freedom? Are we the melting pot welcoming all nations? Should all countries desire to be just like us? Would we be happy if they all attained our levels of material wealth? Do we welcome the stranger anymore? Do we see a world full of terrorists, the impoverished seeking a handout, foreign powers economically exploiting us, smug Europeans mocking us, and messed up countries expecting us to bail them out? Wouldn’t the “tempest-tost” prefer to go to Canada or Norway?

What happened to the dream of a two parent family with two cars in every suburban garage? Did the Beaver Cleaver, Father Knows Best, or even Archie Bunker household really exist? Was the concept of work hard, follow the rules, and have a happy retirement surrounded by grateful children a pipe dream? Why do foreigners make our cars and computers? Can America ever be a blue collar paradise again? Did our leaders and the rich betray us, did we lose our faith in our country and ourselves, or was prosperity only possible until other countries caught up to us?

Are we in a malaise? Is the answer a reaffirmation of religious values? Is it going back to the non-religious secular ideals of some Founding Fathers? Do we need to look to humanistic concepts or become global citizens? Or do we just need a new economic model or to defeat one or more of our outside enemies?

On Monday, October 16 from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation will try to make America great again or maybe figure out what greatness really is. Agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality may let us achieve more than we thought possible. Succeed or fail; we will have treats!