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The Land of Opportunists

If it's true that America is the "land of opportunity", then those of us whose families came here to seek out those opportunities (that means nearly everyone) are born of that strong American pragmatism — Go for what works, never mind what happens, take care of yourself and good things happen.

It's actually a maxim in economic theory — when the individual does what is best for himself, it is ultimately what benefits the entire system. Why? Because it rids the system of inefficiencies. Opportunity is alleviating inefficiency. By this definition, tradition and culture can prove to be impediments to efficiency, obstacles to opportunity, and resistance to working out some good for the whole. And yet, to leave behind tradition and culture seems incredibly difficult to do, some would say, near impossible. Even if you forsake the traditions and culture of your own, wouldn't you be taking on the traditions and culture of another?

While the economic theory contributes much to "free trade" arguments and the explanation of other market behaviors, the end goal to this theory is unilateral – fulfillment of monetary needs. Using this sort of pragmatism cannot apply to our notions of culture and church, because the target is completely and utterly different. While there are certainly differing opinions as to what the goal of culture is, it can be said that the goal of culture is to pass along a narrative of history and our place in it, a context for worldview, and in short, a self-identifying marker. If nothing else, I am _____ (insert Asian, American, Korean, Chinese, Indian, etc.).

Church, nowadays often sublimated into spirituality and faith, was supposed to be a refinement to our culture. Faith was supposed to be the universal thread that weaved together the strands of our material life and the uncanny gravity of the intangible and abstract. It was supposed to balance the need to survive and the drive to succeed, the tendency to exclude and the need to belong, and the callousness of the bitter and the wonder of renewal. Church was supposed to be the crowning of any culture, not a culture unto itself. Insight that would have added to the identification of one's self has been cast of as a constraint. Church could be a culture at its very best and yet, the church has succumbed to saving itself and not the culture, to fulfilling monetary ends and reducing inefficiencies, all the while creating its own.

The Church must be strong enough to step back and say, "We are not opportunists. We are not pragmatists. No culture will be threatened here. No greed will be satiated here. We are here to show you that the Savior lives and because of him, we have no fear — not of death, not of poverty, not of abuse, not of evil, nor of any threat. We are willing to suffer the insufferable because Jesus has redeemed me, my culture, and the opportunist in me. My love for you is the greatest inefficiency that will change this world."

About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

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