The Catastrophe of Success and the Quest for Greatness

Sometimes when you’re short of words, you need someone else’s to bail you out. How cool to hear Cornel West riff on Jesus, Tennessee Williams, John Coltrane, and Anton Checkov – among others.

What does it mean to be a Christian, and to attain “greatness”? And is it possible that the catastrophe of success is in some sense a national disaster? How do we distinguish “cheap American optimism,” from real Christian hope?


Would love your thoughts – and any suggestions for any other video grist for our mill.

In Christ,

Jeff V. (who is off for a couple weeks from the Pulpit – just in time to cram for my DMin studies!)

PS – A reminder that Cornel will be the Friday evening keynoter for Revive!


  1. John MacDonald says:

    Hmmm.. I like part of what he is saying about the general conflict between the materialism of the “American Dream” and Christianity, but juxtaposing “Christianity” with “greatness” is absurd. “Great” people don’t wash other people’s feet. The Meek, not the Great, shall inherit the Earth.

  2. Amen and amen! I think indeed that’s what Corn is talking about in his riff on the “downward mobility” of the gospel….

    Keep ’em coming!

    And this also inspires me to get back to the blog-stone!

  3. John MacDonald says:

    Then I have accomplished something useful!

    Yes, keep the blogging going. More blogs get more hits, etc.

    PS: I don’t think Christ meant to dumb us down, or to preclude natural talent, etc. He didn’t say “knowledge” or talent is bad – the way he condemned material wealth. Though I would be fascinated to know what he would think of spending money to acquire knowledge. My guess is (based on the comments on the brids and lillies, etc.) that he would not have approved of using wealth to acquire knowledge/skills beyond the basic agrarian level. Like Ghandi, I think he would have envisioned a kind of agrarian utopia. This conflicts a bit with Presbyterian notions of self-improvenment through education and “honest” commerce. Or am I way off base here?

  4. No, I think you’re way on. The Bible seems pretty clear: Money isn’t the problem. It’s the “love of money”. It’s the bowing down to Mammon part that screws people up. If we were to put him in his proper place (chauffeur perhaps?), Mammon could be (and indeed IS!) quite useful to the building of the Kingdom.

    We can use our money to be damned, or to celebrate our salvation. Education – sure, that’s a good thing, but raises the question: can that become an idol too?

    Anything can become either the means for getting us into heaven, or tumbling into hell, seems to me. Just about how we approach it.

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