Wednesday, October 3, 2007

OUR GREATEST EXPORT -- September 22, 2007

What is America’s greatest export? I’ll give you a little time to ponder this… dah, dah, dah, dah…. DAH! DAH! DAH! DAH! Dah. Dah. Dah.

OK! What’s your final answer?

When I ask GOOGLE this question, I got 1170 hits, and what I found was quite eye-opening—sometimes encouraging, sometimes disheartening, and sometimes shocking. After searching just seven pages of hits, I discovered a diversity of responses:

· Most frequent responses: music, the American dollar, freedom
· Most comprehensive arena: commerce and finance: the American dollar, services, fast food, American jobs, junk debt, the disease of consuming, intellectual property, Capitalism
· Culture: jazz, blues, rock and roll—and Bob Dylan himself, arts, entertainment, fame, the culture of hip, Hollywood, our image
· Patriotic: the Constitution, freedom, security, democracy, Manifest Destiny
· Most inspiring: dreams, creativity, ideas
· Most pessimistic: weapons, war, bombs, death, exploitation, mediocrity
· Most unique: The expression "O.K."
· Silliest: Clowns
· Most shocking: a Godless culture
· Most encouraging (to me): the nonprofit social sector

Did your answer make the list? What surprised you? If you had to choose just one export from this list that you believe represents what the average Joe and Jill America think, what would it be?

I was inspired to ask this question by a true story recounted by Tim Kimmel in Grace-Based Parenting. Kimmel attended a luncheon where the question, “What do you think is America’s most strategic export?” was being discussed. Among the many responses was one given by a WWII recipient of the Medal of Honor (which had been presented to him personally by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a White House ceremony): “The greatest commodity we have to offer the world,” he said, "is freedom.”

When I surfed the web, I truly expected to see this same answer come up repeatedly, but as you can see from the above list, freedom is wedged into the list like a tiny volume of wisdom misplaced in the more popular paperback sections of romance or sci-fi.

Kimmel used this story as an illustration to set the scene for another question he wished to invite his reader to explore. Several Englishmen, in the mid 1900s, were deep into a discussion on comparative religions when one diner asked, “What separates Christianity from every other religion in the world?” Again, how would you answer this question?

Answers were proffered by these learned men of academia: the Incarnation, the resurrection of Christ… Walking in on the debate of his Oxford colleagues late, none other that C.S Lewis declared, “Oh, that’s easy! It’s _______.”

While Tim Kimmel acknowledges Jesus as the very core of Christianity, he challenges us to dig deeper with yet another question: “What is it about Jesus that inclines us to cast our lot with a simple carpenter from an obscure, ancient village?”

Both Lewis and Kimmel are in agreement:

“Oh, that’s easy!” says Lewis. It’s grace.”

“It’s because of His grace,” offers Kimmel, “grace He has shown us by first purchasing us from the depths of our lost condition. It’s His grace that loves us when we’re being foolish, or stubborn, or selfish or mean-spirited.”

Imagine what the world would be like if every Christian imported grace into their hearts—and then exported it to even just one other person. Music, money, and freedom are life-enhancing, God-given gifts, all usually attainable, if we work hard enough—and yet, all can be snatched away or lost. Grace, however, is a unique and priceless gift, one that we cannot earn, or buy, or attain on our own, no matter how hard we try—a gift that is eternal, and always available. With grace, there’s an endless supply, more than enough to go around, no coupons needed, no limits on how much you can take, no restrictions, no small print, no lines, no waiting,.. Grab grace with gusto and go!

We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment
that he has already thrown open his door to us.
We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—
out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory.
Romans 5:1 The Message

What is your greatest export?

Kimmel, Tim, Grace-Based Parenting, W Publishing Group (division of Thomas Nelson, Inc.), 2004, pp. 27-30

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