462: Where do you see America’s Spirit? Take a look at what others are finding!

WE’RE SEARCHING for glimpses of “America’s Spirit”
with the big July 4 weekend looming, so we enlisted a creative group of college and grad-school students to kick off our pilgrimage this week.
     This is a great week to ask a friend to read along at ReadTheSpirit—and at the OurValues.org Web site as well, where Dr. Wayne Baker is welcoming a vigorous conversation with readers about what unites and divides Americans, starting with a hot-button political issue.
    HERE at ReadTheSpirit, we’re taking a more spiritual look at these critical issues facing millions of us in the U.S.—and billions of people around the Earth who look to America as a beacon.
     A dozen college and grad students from a half dozen schools met in Ann Arbor on Sunday to tackle a tough spiritual assignment: Hit the city streets and come back with snapshots of “America’s Spirit.”
    Today, we’re showing you a handful of the images they brought back—published here (and there are two more over at the OurValues.org Web site)—to get you thinking about this big, important question yourelf.
    PLEASE—TELL US WHAT YOU THINK—and if you’ve got a photo you’d like to share, please send that along as well. Let’s take this opportunity to showcase some creative ideas about America. Please, help us out—12 college students worked hard on Sunday to get you started!

    WHEN the dozen students returned to home base to show their collections of “American” photos, the group started off on a pretty critical tone.
    “A lot of people may have had a spiritual life, but it’s old and not very useful and may be almost empty,” said the young woman who captured the empty, cast-off wrapper from Air Heads candy on a grassy lawn. “For a lot of people right now, spiritual life is kind of like this empty wrapper.”
    A friend showed this photo of a popular gift shop. “Look—The Peaceable Kingdom’s ‘CLOSED.'” She said, “I think that’s a good image of where we are.”

    WHY? Well, there are lots and lots of reasons. (Follow OurValues.org this week if you want to tackle some of the nitty-gritty political issues that unite and divide Americans.)
    But the best big-picture spiritual response to that question from these students involved this image (at right) of the “Goddess of Traffic Signals,” a mural along a busy street in Ann Arbor.
    The young woman who photographed this image said she wasn’t quite sure of the artist’s original intent, but—in the midst of the students’ search for images of American Spirit—the problem jumped into sharp focus: “People expect their faith to serve them—instead of seeing their faith as a way to serve others. Instead of trying to know and follow God, too many people want something that’s like a tool to work for them—like a goddess who’ll run the traffic lights for them.”
    I think that young woman is onto something. How about you?

    BUT, WAIT! There’s more … A young man came back with an image of a historic brick fire hall—juxtaposed with the steel girders of new construction.
    “The Spirit of America really is in the contrasts—like the Old and the New right here. This is a historic fire station and rising right across the street from it is a new government building,” he said. “Contrasts. This is Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, and a block away we found a flagpole flying a Michigan State flag. What makes the American Spirit strong is contrasts.”

    He wasn’t finished. “Then, I took this picture, which is where I think we are in some ways. We’re in this kind of tunnel—we’ve got all these problems around us—but we still can see the natural world down there at the end. We may not be in a good place, but we can see where we should be going.”
    Hmmm. A lot of wisdom! What do you think?

    WHY DOES THIS MATTER? Well, over at OurValues.org this week you’ll see the big political and social concerns—the real bricks and steel of why American culture matters all around the world.
    But here—there’s a final spiritual issue to consider. It came from a line in a street mural, photographed by one of the students on Sunday. “In the end,” she said, “we all need hope. Can’t live without it.”
    And she showed us this image …

BIG “THANK YOU” to the people of the First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor, who hosted the gathering of college and grad-school students on Sunday!


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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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