In an effort to understand more about American culture and history, a Polish priest asked a group of parishioners why American Catholics were reluctant to rely on God.
Was it something in our history, our Constitution? What took place that changed our Christian attitude?
After some discussion, two reasons became apparent.
First and foremost, our proud American history is full of examples of “self-made men.” Early on in this country’s history, the “grit” of every man and woman was tested by settling in the new country. The history books are chock-full of the stories of people such as Davy Crockett, Lewis and Clark, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin.
Our American history teaches us that these people did it all themselves.
We are proud of our heritage and strive to emulate those examples. The frame of mind is, “I can do it myself!”
In turn, this attitude becomes the second reason that Americans often fail to rely on God. Because we are a society of self-made men and women, we have determined that we need no one else, that no one else can do the job as well as we can.
Popular TV shows as The Apprentice and Survivor showcase the American grit, the American spirit of the self-made man. They reflect the “I-can-do-it-myself” mentality.
But as with most history, some of the story gets left behind.
Davy Crockett had a family, and
after his first wife died, he remarried. It was his second wife who raised
Davy’s children while he was absent. In reading the Pulitzer Prize-winning
biography of Benjamin Franklin by Carl Van Doren, the
Examples are not hard to find in
Although it seems he’s bigger than life, Donald Trump didn’t make it without the help and support of others. It may look that way from the media, but in reality Trump surrounds himself with those he feels will help him be the “most” he can be. History has a way of leaving out the details.
For example, many of the founding fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence were Christian.
But you don’t find that information in general history books. Back then, it was one of the main reasons why these men all wanted freedom. Everyone wanted the freedom to practice their religion as they saw fit. The Church of England at that time was oppressive and persecuted those who did not practice religion as the government thought it should be practiced. An extreme example is St. Thomas More.
It is easy to forget that our country was founded on Christianity and that our laws reflect that founding. History books are all too happy to accommodate us. It’s not nearly as interesting to read about someone’s faith as it is to read about their strong character traits, their struggles and their victories.
Our proud American heritage celebrates those accomplishments and tends to diminish the reasons that made those people so strong — their religion, their beliefs. But we can’t leave out part of history just because it makes others feel uncomfortable.
In times of prosperity it is easy to forget that our blessings come from God. Our country is so wealthy, so rich that we tend to forget what got us here. But Deuteronomy reminds us of something else.
“Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth” (Deutoronomy 8:17-18).
Dominican Father Marie-Dominique Philippe points out in his book, From the Worship of God, “Only in so far as he recognizes his Creator’s sovereign rights over him can man fully realize his own nature. If he does not discover God and does not recognize God’s rights, but looks at himself as his own master, he fails to discover the source and object of his being, and then he is like a traveler who has lost his way, knowing neither where he comes from nor where he is going to.”
The link between wealth and prosperity is the façade of control. That control leads to the false sense that we have power over our own fate that leads us to believe that God is not in control. Ultimately, we don’t want him to be in control because that would mean we would have to relinquish our façade of control. But that’s where freedom, true freedom comes in. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines freedom as “the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not act” (No. 1731). It goes on to say, “The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘the slavery of sin’” (No. 1733).
So what can we control?
“God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions” (No. 1730). When it comes down to it, we can control one thing — our own actions. That’s it.
So what of the Survivor and The Apprentice winners?
Without the “alliances” on the island or the “team members” who helped make the project a success, there would be no winners. Without each other, and most of all, without God, there are no winners.
Loretta Oakes writes