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Keith Wishum: Living the dream

The American dream is alive and well — in China!
At least that’s the impression given by a suburban development an hour’s drive from the heart of Beijing. Built in the lead up to the 2008 Olympic Games at a cost of nearly $60 million, it features 250,000 townhouses and houses selling for over $1 million. It’s actually called Orange County and the homes look like — well, like they came from Orange County, California.
A brochure for the development touts it as “Pure American.” It was planned by Americans, designed by Americans, and uses only American products. A model home even includes a photo of Andy and Opie. How American!
And the Chinese apparently love it; all 143 units of the first phase sold in one month. I can’t help but wonder if some of the income used to pay for those houses was made exporting Chinese products to America.
What’s the allure of the American Dream to Chinese? According to Xiao Qingchun, who bought a $300,000 model home, the advantage of the development lies in being “set apart from the lower orders.” He likes being separated from the masses.
Maybe we all do. We enjoy strokes to our ego. We like feeling that we have risen above others. We tend to think that distance from the “lower orders” will bring us joy. So we work extra hours to get ahead of the Joneses. We jockey for promotions. We drop hints in conversations about our accomplishments. We make sure the designer name is on the outside of our clothes.
Is this the path to the good life? Does happiness come from having more than someone else?
If so, Jesus missed out. With no house to call his own, no designer clothes, and no luxury car, he dared to claim that he came to bring abundant life. With no prestigious degree, he spoke boldly but simply about how to attain the good life. Not surprisingly, his way stands in stark contrast to ours.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” said Jesus. Fortunate are those who don’t seek to rise above, but who place themselves below the masses. The good life comes to those who are low on ego. “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
Will we spend this day fighting for the American Dream, or surrendering to the Heaven Dream? One is a mirage and will never quench our thirst. The other is a cool spring of life-giving water. We must decide which is which.

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus.