What is America?

In a previous post, I discussed the need for us as Orthodox ministering in the U.S. to begin to understand what America is so that we might incarnate Orthodoxy in American clothes.

I need to clarify some things. I don't envision Uncle Sam presiding over the Divine Liturgy or jumbotrons with rotating icons. This is not about becoming politically American or adopting our Hollywood/entertainment culture. Our liturgy, doctrines, and lifestyle have stood the test of time and are trans-historical and trans-generational.

My intention is regarding ministry and how we take the gospel to the streets and neighborhoods of our countrymen.

So back to the question that I asked in the last post: What is America? What are the true, good, and beautiful characteristics of America that should be adopted as we take the gospel throughout our country? It is easy to pick on the sins and excesses of our country. By now, they should be obvious to all, but can we identify what we love and what is good?

Here's my list:

America is:

1. Entrepreneurial: The more I have thought about this, I believe this is our overriding characteristic. We are risk-takers, innovative, future-oriented, creative, and progressive. Because we are a country of immigrants, this naturally follows. Anyone, regardless of whether it was 1600, 1800, or the 2000’s, that is willing to leave something behind to make a better way has this characteristic. This is ingrained in who we are.

2. Individualistic: This can be negative, but let’s look at the positive portion of this. Individuals are radically responsible for their behavior and freedom. Individual achievement is celebrated. We tend to emphasize individual over community, but community is not ignored. De Tocqueville, in his Democracy in America, mentioned that America loves the individual but cooperates well.

3. Competitive: This flows out of our democratic ideals. If speech and religion are free and not enforced, then for ideas to be accepted they must win out in the marketplace. This makes everything competitive in America, even religion.

4. Generous: In spite of our materialism and wealth, in times of crisis and need we step up and are generous. This generosity is not just internal but can extend around the world.

5. Evangelistic: There is a belief that what we have is the best, and should be spread throughout the world, not in the sense of old-school colonialism, but by the acceptance of our ideals. We believe they are applicable to all and should be embraced by all. I am sure there is a correlation between this and #3 (I could not resist the picture below).

6. Transparent: Our ideal is that leadership, government, business, churches, etc. should be transparent. Bribery is not an accepted part of the system. There is no divine right of leadership that places anyone above the law.

7. Optimistic: Even in our deepest depressions, and conflicts optimism always bubbled up because we tend to believe that better days are always in front of us.

8. Orderly: We love organization, systems, and efficiencies. Didn't we invent the day-timer and time-management?

There you go. What do you think? Am I right? Does this change the way we reach out and do ministry? How?

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