The Myth of the American Dream: Reflections on Affluence,

The Myth of the American Dream: Reflections on Affluence, Autonomy, Safety, and Power This book is a gift to the church More specifically, it s a huge gift to white, American Christians like myself I grew up homeschooled, surrounded by well meaning homeschool parents who were eager to make sure their kids had a safe, good, Christian upbringing They were doing their best But, as Mayfield s book powerfully argues, there is something far greater than that best nothing less than a commitment to seeing all of God s children in every neighborhood flourish.This isn t an easy book This book is a gift to the church More specifically, it s a huge gift to white, American Christians like myself I grew up homeschooled, surrounded by well meaning homeschool parents who were eager to make sure their kids had a safe, good, Christian upbringing They were doing their best But, as Mayfield s book powerfully argues, there is something far greater than that best nothing less than a commitment to seeing all of God s children in every neighborhood flourish.This isn t an easy book to read But it s an important book If you ve ever had a feeling that there must beto life than the script many of us are handed at birth go to college, get a good job, get married, buy a house in a nice neighborhood, send kids to a good school, etc , then this book is a must read this is what we should fear what our own desperate desire for safety might end up doing to those who are beloved in the eyes of God If you are a white North American, you ll find much of this book relatable and probably discomfiting at times Mayfield writes a critique of commonly accepted American values, and observes the ways that these values exclude and oppress, the way that the American dream is actually a burden built upon the bodies of people who are invisible to us, people who we ha this is what we should fear what our own desperate desire for safety might end up doing to those who are beloved in the eyes of God If you are a white North American, you ll find much of this book relatable and probably discomfiting at times Mayfield writes a critique of commonly accepted American values, and observes the ways that these values exclude and oppress, the way that the American dream is actually a burden built upon the bodies of people who are invisible to us, people who we have overlooked or ignored This critique is timely, full of challenging questions, and hinges on hope that God loves the world and is propelling us all into a community that isspacious and tender than any American dream thanks to Netgalley and IVP for this ARC of this book Summary A collection of Christian reflections chronicling the author s awakening to the ways the American dream neither works for everyone nor reflects the values of the kingdom Jesus inaugurated.D L Mayfield reminds me of Tara Westover, author of Educated Both were homeschooled in strongly religious backgrounds, albeit farhealthy and functional in the case of Mayfield What distinguishes them are their very different awakenings, Westover to a love of learning that led her to Harvard a Summary A collection of Christian reflections chronicling the author s awakening to the ways the American dream neither works for everyone nor reflects the values of the kingdom Jesus inaugurated.D L Mayfield reminds me of Tara Westover, author of Educated Both were homeschooled in strongly religious backgrounds, albeit farhealthy and functional in the case of Mayfield What distinguishes them are their very different awakenings, Westover to a love of learning that led her to Harvard and Cambridge, and Mayfield to an awakening to how the structures of the American Dream neither reflected her Christian commitments nor worked well for many in the north Portland neighborhood where she and her husband lived.Mayfield describes this American Dream in terms of four concrete values affluence, autonomy, safety and power She recognizes that the proclamation of Jubilee of Jesus in Luke 4 speaks to people whose lives are characterized by just the opposite the poor, the captive, the blind, and and the oppressed.Perhaps the most winsome aspect of these essays is that the author takes us through the deconstructing of these American Dream values in her own life Teaching English to immigrant women, she learns by the annoying ringing of phones what it means to live from paycheck to paycheck in an affluent society She watches the struggles of her neighbors to meet rising rents in gentrifying Portland She finds her autonomy challenged by Maryan, whose magic pot gets shared around the community and is preferred by her and all to the Insta pot Mayfield thought would make her life better andself sustaining Instead of the free range educational experience of her youth, she understands the critical important of her neighborhood public school to her community.Perhaps at no time in history has a concern for safety been greater It has led us to close our borders and fear of the other Yet we have a 1 in 6 chance of dying of heart disease, 1 in 7 of cancer, but 1 in 3.6 million of dying in a terrorist attack Yet the reality of the refugee experience turned Mayfield s perspective around as she came to understand the dangers these people had endured She describes how she and her mother experienced the welcome of Muslim families, and found herself hoping for her children that they would so learn in these experiences the love of Christ that they are known and valued and love She speaks trenchantly of the deleterious effects of American power on the evangelical faith of her upbringing Empire focuses on ideological sameness make the narrative easy, make it clear Pharaoh will save you Caesar will put bread in your belly The president will make our country great again This leads to small, deformed imaginations I see it in how White evangelical Christianity has been tangled up in the same pull toward greatness, toward power, toward viewing ourselves as specially anointed by God to rule the world, to hold and be in charge This leads to a sense of scarcity, a hallmark of pharaohs throughout the centuries the all consuming fear of losing power I have seen it in the fights for religious liberty that excludes those who aren t Christian, in the narrative that says we are losing the culture war and must fight with every tooth and nail to hold our ground But most important is the belief that exile is a reality to be ignored and feared at all costs, a strange ideological position for those who claim to follow the God of the Israelites p 147.Mayfield challenges us in another essay in this section to learn from the exiles, including exiles from the American Dream like Ida B Wells, black anti lynching crusader who had to flee her business and home in Memphis because of threats on her life She reminds us that Christians are aliens and exiles in the world enthralled with the vision of our coming King, who look for its coming, not in affluence, autonomy, safety and power, but through the cracks in the sidewalks, the neglected yet joyful schools, poor and yet interdependent neighbors, all anticipating the New City to come.The phrase that characterizes Mayfield s writing for me is raw elegance It is raw with the realities of her city and elegant in the depth of reflectiveness that looks beyond failed myths, and the poverty of her community, to glimpse the dream of a greater kingdom It is a time where the flaws and inadequacies of the American dream have been exposed in its dependence on excessive consumerism built on systemic inequities, and where our impregnable safety and power has been riddled by a microscopic virus Voices like Mayfield s are needed to point us to a better dream one large enough to encompass the poor, the captive, the blind, and the powerless all of us really Will we fight to cling to what we must ultimately lose, or listen to what will save us Disclosure of Material Connection I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher The opinions I have expressed are my own This book wasn t what I expected I thought it would be clinical and analytical but instead it runs deep with conviction, unveiling the darkness that hides under the guise of the American Dream It made my heart heavy to read, I felt the weight of injustice that the author encounters every day and I felt the hurt and frustration rolling off each page She rightly points out that the American dream carries a cost so high it means that those who suffer for it will always be those on the edge of so This book wasn t what I expected I thought it would be clinical and analytical but instead it runs deep with conviction, unveiling the darkness that hides under the guise of the American Dream It made my heart heavy to read, I felt the weight of injustice that the author encounters every day and I felt the hurt and frustration rolling off each page She rightly points out that the American dream carries a cost so high it means that those who suffer for it will always be those on the edge of society It s the same in the UK, although there are some differences There was a lot in the book that really challenged me, particularly what community looks like how we truly love our neighbors neighborhood But the one thing that it lacked was talkingabout how Jesus offers a better dream This is what I had hoped the book was about,of a comparison to how the gospel holds out a better hope The author rightly calls out white evangelical churches their lack of loving their neighbors embracing power, but a better hope needs to be held out to people and that hope can only be found in Christ I felt quite conflicted about this as the challenge of the book struck me hard and there were glimmers of gospel hope scattered here and there but I wanted and needed One of the most important books of the year, filled with poetry and fire and the call to imagine a world that is holy and whole. The Myth of the American Dream by D.L MayfieldFor the past 3 4 years I have had a book on my heart to write Not ever having done a writing project, and being deathly afraid of critiques, I took notes, blogged a bit, preached a series with the beginning ideas of the book, and generally avoided doingI grew up in the 70s and 80s My college years were the mid to late 80s I grew up in a fundamentalist Pentecostal church and went to a denominational school to study the Bible, theology, and The Myth of the American Dream by D.L MayfieldFor the past 3 4 years I have had a book on my heart to write Not ever having done a writing project, and being deathly afraid of critiques, I took notes, blogged a bit, preached a series with the beginning ideas of the book, and generally avoided doingI grew up in the 70s and 80s My college years were the mid to late 80s I grew up in a fundamentalist Pentecostal church and went to a denominational school to study the Bible, theology, and missions I also found the writing of Chuck Colson in the late 80s and was constantly challenged by his thinking He wrote of a post Christian America and how we needed to shift paradigms My thinking from that point on never fit with my upbringing exactly My formation early on happened in the Reagan years and being pro life was IT But in the late 80s, something changed I began to SEE the poor I studied thoroughly in Scriptures, making a years long study of the poor and marginalized In all of that, even as a pastor, I did not speak out nearly as much early on By the time I was ready to my denomination had radically shifted to an even harder right wing stance and I knew I was on my way out Even without any sort of audience I still feared writing what needed to be said Enter D.L Mayfield From what I gather in her personal insights in her latest book The Myth of the American Dream I would guess she is about 10 years younger than me And she writes with the ferocity I have felt The book I was going to write had a working title of Living in Babylon It was about the cultural shifts and how ill prepared the American conservative church was for this shift ala Chuck Colson and how we needed to prepare NOW for those shifts Mayfield has written that book She has worked to bring down the curtain and expose, with fierce passion, the desperate situation we have in the American church Walter Brueggemann, an Old Testament scholar, calls the prophets poets Mayfield gravitates to the term poet for her life She s right AND she is a prophet She raises the prophetic voice I need in my own life This book goes directly at main pillars of American myth Affluence, Autonomy, Safety, and Power In each section she raises awareness how each of these dreams work well for the majority culture which is white spoiler alert and is still a fantasy for people of color In her work, she has spent years with immigrants, so a lot of the stories are with immigrant families The beauty of Mayfield s work is she is not writing to simply tear down America She is seeking the Kingdom of God and quite often finds the principles of the Kingdom among the marginalized I could write another review of her book with just her quotes, but here are few to raise your body temperature a bit White evangelicals like myself are uniquely unprepared to engage in issues from an institutional or systemic perspective.The myth of the American Dream comes in many forms, but its most basic iteration goes like this anyone can make something of themselves if only they try hard enough.The antidote to these myths is to consciously remember those who are not writing the history textbooks This last one stood out because just in the last few weeks Attorney General Bill Barr was asked in an interview how history would look back on the Trump administration and he said, summing up, history is written by the winners So, pretty favorably We need the voice of D.L Mayfield Her writing is passionate She seeks the Kingdom of God and challenges what gets in the way She is here to tear down strongholds and her words are taking no prisoners It is May 2020 when I write this and I can easily say this This book is one of the best books I will read this year I wish I had her gutsiness I am grateful she wrote the book I needed to write because this one is far superior Summary Is the American Dream and Christianity compatible A couple of years ago, I learned that the word ambivalent means having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone I realized that I have been using the word wrong before that Since then, it keeps coming to mind I have contradictory ideas about The Myth of the American Dream It is a great book I exported my notes and comments on it, and I have 66 pages, 1 3 of the book that has a comment or underlined section Summary Is the American Dream and Christianity compatible A couple of years ago, I learned that the word ambivalent means having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone I realized that I have been using the word wrong before that Since then, it keeps coming to mind I have contradictory ideas about The Myth of the American Dream It is a great book I exported my notes and comments on it, and I have 66 pages, 1 3 of the book that has a comment or underlined section.The narrative structure spoke to me because while I have never met DL Mayfield, she puts voice to many things I have felt I have been following her writing for years, her cover story at Christianity Today on Lynching, her Washington Post piece on the revolutionary nature of Mary s Magnificant and too manyarticles to list The Myth of the American Dream, like following her on twitter or reading her work, is about putting out her pain and desire for the world to be different,like the kingdom of God, on display to stir up something, anything in the reader.The Myth of the American Dream I can t think of apart from the coincidental trilogy of books I read along with it Along with this book, and Good, White Racist is Having Nothing, Possessing Everything It is a couple of years old, but it has a similar structure of telling the story of how ministry, as traditionally done, doesn t work Both books point out the weaknesses of unfettered capitalism, and individualistic consumerism contradicts with care for the other They have different settings, Possessing Everything is about urban Indianapolis with mostly Black and Hispanic poor communities Mayfield s lives in suburban Portland, with refugee communities struggling to find a place in the midst of gentrifying liberalism Both bring up education and the problems of white saviors and real introspection about how we can harm as we attempt to serve.With both the writing was excellent and the focus on how traditional White Protestant ministry often seeks to do for or reconstruct communities to look like we think they should instead of how God sees them I do not know how to write about this book because I have far too much to talk about How do I summarize nearly 70 pages of notes and highlights At the beginning of the book, she says, this is a book about paying attention And that is probably the best summary The American Dream is about not paying attention to those who are not doing well ignoring protests or poverty, or the systems that allow some of us to have much and many others to have almost nothing It is not about who is working hardest I can assure you that my work is not hard, but the essential worker making minimum wage is working hard.Mayfield brings to mind the many comments of the Old Testament prophets that remind us of how we treat the poor and marginalized and how that relates to those that are now poor and marginalized What I appreciated about both Possessing Everything and The Myth of the American Dream is that they are focused not on ministry to, but being neighbors to the poor and marginalized Asking people to do good, to give, to be charitable, becomes easy in these kinds of societies asking them to be neighbors with those they most wish to help is not since it points out an inconvenient truth that most of us try hard to forget all the time some of us have worked hard to make sure we are only neighorrs with certain kinds of people, and now we have to live with the results Mayfield cites Lisa Sharon Harper, who reminds us that the American Dream wants us to pay attention to the wrong thing Scripture tells us to, train my eyes and ears toward those who have been saying consistently that all is not well The American Dream wants us to pay attention to the rich and powerful, the good life and to ignore others, if not outright condemn them for their poverty and weakness.One of the significant strengths of The Myth of the American Dream is that Mayfield is not telling the reader what to do This is not three steps to solve global poverty or five steps to bring about justice in your community book Mayfield shows us how to lament what is wrong, her role in it, and the inability of many Christians to even notice Under much of the book is the reverberations of racism and xenophobia Many White authors share dumb White guy stories or condemn those that just don t get it, Mayfield does not, she laments Lament is a very biblical idea It isn t about shame or spinning our wheels, trying to ask what we can do now Lament is about crying out to God, and even better, crying out to God in community.The Myth of the American Dream is not what I would call a feel good book But it is a hopeful one It is hopeful not because with God s strength all problems will be solved but because the is awareness of God s kingdom and the very upsidedown methods that God tends to use.All of this brings me to the ambivalence that I feel about this trilogy of books These are excellent books, among the best books I have read about these issues But I have read many of the same books these authors have I know where the ideas behind the quotes are coming from In large part, there are Black and Indigenous People of Color BIPOC that have done the background thinking Or they have done the individual mentoring that is required for almost every White person that is writing in areas like this All three of these authors are citing their sources, highlighting the work of others that has helped them to see what they did not see before They are telling good stories that hopefully will be read and help change other White people as well But each time I read one of these books and many others as well I am reminded that generally, White people read other White people and the standard books being cited among these types of books, the BIPOC authors and ministry leaders that have done the background work, will not be read as much as these White authors will.The Myth of the American Dream is a great book But so was Twelves Lies that Hold America Captive and Unsettling Truth or dozens of other books that have not gained a widespread audience Buy and read and learn from DL Mayfield s book And then read the many books that she cites and has learned from so that we can start communicating to publishers and bookstores that White readers will read books that were written by people that are not White. It is a weird experience to read D.L Mayfield s The Myth of the American Dream Reflections on Affluence, Autonomy, Safety, and Power while hunkered down alone in my three bedroom home located in one of the rougher areas of Indianapolis s Eastside Not quite in my mid 50 s, I m a paraplegic double amputee who has far outlived my life expectancy with spina bifida and who only recently spent 3 months off work due to amputation of my left leg above the knee I work full time I own my home I d It is a weird experience to read D.L Mayfield s The Myth of the American Dream Reflections on Affluence, Autonomy, Safety, and Power while hunkered down alone in my three bedroom home located in one of the rougher areas of Indianapolis s Eastside Not quite in my mid 50 s, I m a paraplegic double amputee who has far outlived my life expectancy with spina bifida and who only recently spent 3 months off work due to amputation of my left leg above the knee I work full time I own my home I drive I m an activist here in Indianapolis in the area of violence prevention and have helped raise upwards of a million bucks for charities worldwide Yet, the lesson I learn time and time again in life is that I m disposable A Catholic priest told my mother shortly after my birth that it was God s will that I die No kidding Time after time after time in my life, my greatest efforts have still often led to exclusion and separation and segregation and somehow always being less than others I have had relationships end because I could not be the man they wanted me to be I ve, quite literally, lost body parts because mine were deemed of lesser value I have, I am embarrassed to admit, spent most of my life pushing myself to the point of self harm simply trying to be enough Yet, I am never enough I am told this time and time and time again I sought the American Dream, or at least some version of it, but consistently found myself sitting in my wheelchair outside what felt like an impenetrable chain link fence with the American Dream somewhere out of reach up some inaccessible stairway With The Myth of the American Dream, Mayfield explores what she perceives to be the central values of the American Dream Affluence, Autonomy, Safety, and Power Writing essays wrapped around each of these values, Mayfield delves into an examination of whether or not these values, or better spoken The American Dream, is truly compatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ It should be no secret the conclusion that she reaches The Myth of the American Dream is a critique of what has become known as the American Dream and of what has become, far too often, recognized as the contemporary Christian journey It is also, however, a critique that Mayfield turns within as she s never hesitant to turn that societal microscope on herself and to point out her own mistakes, flaws, weaknesses, and inconsistencies The Myth of the American Dream will most resonate with those who appreciate aprogressive Christian theology, though red letter Christians will also find much to embrace here Those who follow a prosperity theology, think Joel Osteen, will likely reject the thoughts put forth here while others will find both food for thought and bristling conflicts The Myth of the American Dream is a weaving together of biblical teaching, personal testimony, and a probing, not particularly gently, of the systemic ways in which living the Christian life can and should conflict with attaining of affluence, autonomy, safety, and power Mayfield, a pastor s daughter and acclaimed author of Assimilate or Go Home, has spent much of her adult life living within Muslim communities abroad and,recently, working with Muslim refugees here in the U.S Along the way, she has observed the myriad of ways in which the American dream is rigged and exclusive of those who don t fit within the majority culture As a middle class white woman, Mayfield is acutely aware that she is both part of the problem and part of the solution It is a powerful experience to read The Myth of the American Dream in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic that has, indeed, derailed the American dream for thousands of citizens We are learning first hand about the inequities of the system, some of which we knew and some which are far greater than we d ever imagined While I ve long experienced that sense of being disposable, we re caught up now very much in this conflict between those who want to tread lightly as we learn about the virus and deal with its impact and those for whom the risk is lower and the desire to open America is greater Almost without exception, or so it seems, those supporting opening up are those for whom the socioeconomic system is naturally biased toward quite intentionally Refugees are not being welcomed in order to protect America while those already at great risk in the U.S are having their concerns disregarded or are simply being regarded as disposable They re going to die soon anyway, we so frequently hear At times, I longed for Mayfield to delve deeper into the issues being presented While she writes about those refugees seeking safety and fleeing violence or corruption or poverty, there s little time given to those who come simply seeking their own piece of what they perceive to be the American Dream At times, it seems like Mayfield practically idolizes the cultures of others yet fails to recognize their own flaws, weaknesses, and even those things that contributed to people fleeing their birth homes Every culture, I would counter, struggles with the balance of some sort of dream and every culture struggles with affluence, autonomy, safety, and power yet Mayfield spends most of her time writing about why the American dream has become misdirected yet, somehow, the cultures from which people come are somehow preferable There are, of course, legitimate observations to be made In fact, for the most part I agree with a good majority of Mayfield s conclusions I simply wish she d spenttime in exploring why people leave a culture that would seem to be muchtheologically sound for a society that she is claiming is not What s the difference Even for those forced to leave due to war or violence, why do they choose the U.S At times, as well, I thought the debate became somewhat muddled between whether the true concern is the American dream itself or the lack of equity to pursue it Mayfield makes it clear that Jesus himself benefited from those who had wealth and certainly was known to party, yet there are times when The Myth of the American Dream seems to admonish the actual dream while later arguing that the real problem is equity in moving toward it She confesses that the perfect community is one where everyone has the opportunity to pursue the American dream, essentially the opportunity to have enough, yet she often responds guiltily when she realizes that she has wanted or attained somethingindividualistic in nature as if somehow want is inherently bad I wrestled with The Myth of the American Dream I wrestled with it mightily and that s a terrific thing I agreed with it I disagreed with it I laughed I cried I exclaimed I researched I learned I felt admonished I felt convicted I looked inward I did pretty much all the things one should do after reading a book like The Myth of the American Dream and I wrestle with these words still Truthfully, I ve changed my rating for the book several times even while writing this review, always vacillating between 4 and 5 stars and desperately wanting a 4.5 rating to be available because I can t help but think this is a book everyone should read precisely because it will lead to self examination, open discussions, and lots of necessary learning Ultimately, The Myth of the American Dream Reflections on Affluence, Autonomy, Safety, and Power is a book I loved, though it s also a book that I wished had gone deeper and a book that, at times, revealed an unacknowledged privilege from which the writer writes and shares perspectives Nevertheless, this is a beautifully written book that I will undoubtedly read again and will undoubtedly encourage others to read It s likely a book that will continue to inform my theological life and my own personal beliefs and practices as a disposable adult with a disability who both understands the oppressive nature of the socioeconomic system here in the U.S and the ways that even within my own challenges I remain privileged by it The Myth of the American Dream will be released by InterVarsity Press on May 5th Affluence, autonomy, safety, and power These are the central values of the American dream But are they actually compatible with Jesus command to love our neighbor as ourselves In essays grouped around these four values, D L Mayfield asks us to pay attention to the ways they shape our own choices, and the ways those choices affect our neighbors Where did these values come from How have they failed those on the edges of our society And how can we disentangle ourselves from our culture s headlong pursuit of these values and live faithful lives of service to God and our neighbors ✫ Fisica 1 - Principios y Problemas Books ✭ Author Paul W. Zitzewitz – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk autonomy [BOOKS] ✬ The Beautiful Disruption By G.G. Renee Hill – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk safety ➸ [Read] ➳ Games Rednecks Play By Jeff Foxworthy ➽ – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk and power These are the central values of the American dream But are they actually compatible with Jesus command to love our neighbor as ourselves In essays grouped around these four values [PDF / Epub] ☁ The Magic Cottage By James Herbert – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk D L Mayfield asks us to pay attention to the ways they shape our own choices [PDF] ✪ Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby: An Agile Primer (Addison-Wesley Professional Ruby Series) 1, Sandi Metz, eBook - Amazon.com Par Sandi Metz – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk and the ways those choices affect our neighbors Where did these values come from How have they failed those on the edges of our society And how can we disentangle ourselves from our culture s headlong pursuit of these values and live faithful lives of service to God and our neighbors Mayfield is a deep feeler and thinker whose writing sometimes comes across asthan weighty, heavy, to me but this very reason is why I ll keep reading her words, because this same weightiness stays with me long after the fact That being said, I m also so glad the epilogue ended on a lighter note because some things, for me, apparently never change.


About the Author: D.L. Mayfield

D L Mayfield lives and writes in Portland, OR with her husband and two small children Mayfield likes to write about refugees, theology, and downward mobility, among other topics She has written for places as varied as McSweeneys, Christianity Today, Image journal, and the Toast Her book of essays, Assimilate or Go Home Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith is forthcoming from HarperOne in August 2016.


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