Wednesday, December 08, 2004

owning property is another goal of the citizen. With this final idea, the American Dream was complete.
The American Dream, with itself, Manifest Destiny, Transcendentalism and Utopianism, fueled generations of Americans to prosperity and America to global dominance. Americans must keep in mind the enormous responsibilities of wealth and worldwide power. If we do not America will become corrupt.
Cultural Flow

So how do ideas like Manifest Destiny become accepted in a culture? Ideas have consequences, and cultures are clearly based upon certain trains of thought; but how do those thoughts get into the culture’s mind? How can philosophers in their Ivory Towers create ideas that become automatically assumed by Joe Blow on the street corner? The road followed by ideas involves philosophers, authors, artists, musicians, scientists and architects before it is accepted by a culture.
The path traced by an idea begins with philosophy. The elitists who have little experience with the normal person’s life sit at their universities and ponder bizarre ideas. These ideas don’t have to make sense to anyone except the elite, and often don’t really make sense to them either. Washington Irving is a perfect example of this. He would write on the virtues of the West (a place that he had never been to) from his comfortable fireside. So culture-building ideas start with the philosophers.
After the philosophers have created an idea, authors write books about it. Books try to sell an idea to you. A good author can embody ideas in characters and scenery. If an author is embellishing an idea that says the world is dull, the author writes a story with a dull world. But during this time period writers like James Fennimore Cooper wanted to portray the West as a great place where great people did great things. He and his fellow novelists succeeded extremely well at doing just that.
The graphic artists get their turn with the idea after the philosophers and writers. It is probably easier to tell what the painters are saying than either of the others. In America’s case the painters under question would be those from the Hudson River School of art. These men drew realistic, but entirely romantic pictures. (Grant) Everything was bright and shiny with no dirt to be found. But most importantly, it was in the West, just over the horizon.
Up to now cultural ideas have survived from origination with the philosophers, getting fleshed out by the authors, being painted, and now getting sung. Musicians rarely sing the idea straight out, but the music definitely shows it.
After the thinkers, the writers, the painters, and the musicians work: the culture becomes permeated with the idea and technology reflects it. Of course, whether technology advances or retreats has to do with that idea. In third world countries hard work in the name of progress is not encouraged, and poverty continues. But in America, the ideas under question required American and personal greatness through hard work. This mindset catapulted America into the forefront of technology.
The inventions made in America were simply amazing and intrinsically fulfilled certain demands of Manifest Destiny or the American Dream. Such things as the Conestoga wagon allowed people to move into the coveted West. The telegraph provided for the linking of the many States. Advances in steam machinery allowed business owners to achieve their dreams. So amazing progress facilitated the realization of certain ideas in America.
Other aspects of science and technology, such as architecture and economics, reflect and assist the idea. Architectural forms like the skyscraper are distinctively American. Why would a big business want to spend the money to build up? It has the clout to displace other people so that it could build a warehouse-style office. No, they build up because the business wants to leave a mark on the world.
Finally, after the philosophers, authors, artists, musicians, scientists and architects have played with the idea, it becomes popularly accepted. It is extremely difficult for an undiscerning citizen to fight something that assaults him constantly wherever he turns. After many years that idea will have become so deeply ingrained in the culture that no one even thinks it exists. To look at the world an individual sees what the idea lets him perceive. In other words, the idea of some thinkers can become the worldview of a culture. This information can be both a warning and an advantage.
Now that the topics of Manifest Destiny, the American Dream and Cultural Flow have been made clear, several important lessons can be pointed out. The lessons are that ideas have consequences, Americans have great responsibilities and that people can change culture. These lessons may seem obvious, but they are very important
The first lesson is that ideas have consequences. The beliefs of a nation can make or break it. The beliefs of a certain person can make or break him. Ultimately, God’s ideas hold a lot of weight. If God hadn’t had the idea of creating the universe, people wouldn’t be around. When formulating a personal or cultural idea, it is best to check if it squares with God’s Word.
The second lesson is that American’s have an enormous responsibility not only to themselves, but also the world. Both individual prosperity and worldwide power are tremendous liabilities. When prosperity is seen as an ends in itself, instead of a means for building Christ’s kingdom, it can have disastrous results. The same goes for America’s worldwide clout. A power hungry president could wreak havoc on the world. However, a Christian that is trained in stewardship can do great things with his prosperity and his nation.
The third lesson is that people can completely change a culture’s course by changing the worldview of that culture. This can be a warning to Christians, or it can give us a decided advantage. It is a warning because America will crash and burn if we let pagan philosophers have the table. But if Christians will be good witnesses and place Godly ideas everywhere, America will become a truly great nation in God’s eyes.
To conclude, the study of Manifest Destiny, the American Dream and Cultural Flow teach us important truths. With an understanding of America’s basic ideas, we can minister to our neighbors and world better. So, what will you do now that you have a basic idea of American Culture?


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