Social Stratification and the American Dream

Social stratification plays an intricate role in American society. Through social stratification Americans are categorized into specific categories. These categories are then divided into different sections and statuses. In America, social stratification can be seen in someone’s socio-economic status, determined by their geographic location, occupation, or education. Divisions like this can be harmful by those who are negatively affected by social stratification. For example, many poor people are negatively affected by social stratification. The poor are of low socio-economic status and limited quality of life compared to their middle and upper class counterparts. In this way, social stratification can work to further harm the people negatively affected. The effects of social stratification on American society makes one consider the concept of the American dream. With division among social classes, is the American Dream a real possibility for all Americans or is this only a myth? By understanding the concepts of social stratification, it becomes apparent the American dream is not a reality for all Americans.

Many people are familiar with the concept of the American dream. The American dream describes the individual who goes from rags to riches. This is someone who is poor or disadvantaged, and through diligence and hard work is able to become prosperous and successful. “A romantic ideal, it provides hope for those who struggle not only with adversity but with prejudice and exclusion on a daily basis”, (Marin, 2008). The image of the American Dream is portrayed throughout American culture and can be seen in movies and media. Through this understanding, all Americans are able to become rich and live happily ever after. However, how can one become successful and reach the American dream when America is socially divided among class lines? Social stratification implies division among society that is based on social inequality. Many of these inequalities are related to someone’s socio-economic class.  Therefore, there are inconsistencies between people who are rich and those who are poor. People who do not fit into these two castes are recognized as middle class. Although socio-economic status differs from household to household, many researchers and experts suggest that everyone can become rich and live the American dream.

 

ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THE AMERICAN DREAM

There are a number of published experts and enthusiast who insist that anyone can make it rich if they just follow a list of specific rules. However, does this strategy apply to all Americans? When reading the books, the Automatic Millionaire and 9 Steps to Financial Freedom, it was easy to see that having the American dream may not be easy for all Americans. These books provided great and useful advice to money management, investing for the future, and obtaining wealth. Although it gave ideas for future financial decisions, the author’s recommendations do not apply to all Americans. This can be seen as the authors made general assumptions about Americans and American society.

In the book, 9 Steps to Financial Freedom (2000) the author Suze Orman made many assumptions about Americans. These assumptions can make it difficult for some to identify with the book and apply financial advice to real life situations. For example, Orman offers advice to her readers to help them gain financial freedom. The book “covers everything from wills and trust and what insurance you need (and don’t need) to new ways to think about debt and your 401k or retirement plan to how to invest and what to invest in”, (Orman 2000: iix). Orman’s book covers useful information that can be helpful to many people. However it is not helpful to all people. From Orman’s perspective, to gain financial freedom, the individual must have these assets listed. This includes medical insurance and a 401k plan. These are benefits that come with fulltime employment and people working in their career for several years. However, there are some people who work fulltime and have neither a 401k nor medical insurance. It also assumes that all Americans have assets. People who do not own property or business may not have a will or trust fund. Without these basic requirements, assets and fulltime employment, some Americans are unable to achieve the financial freedom that Orman encourages throughout her book.

The Automatic Millionaire Workbook (2005) is another book that help people obtain the American dream. However, like Orman’s book it also makes many assumptions about Americans and their finances. In this book, the author David Bach states, “money isn’t why people fail to reach their financial goals… you almost certainly make enough money today to become an automatic millionaire”, (2005, p. 11). Here, Bach assumes that all American’s make enough money to become rich however are making the wrong decisions with their finances. This general assumption is not true for everyone. Families dependent on social service programs like welfare and disability may not make enough money to sustain themselves. Another example is observed in President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union speech. In his speech Obama recognized that fulltime American’s working for minimum wage live below the poverty line. So, although some people are employed fulltime and hardworking, they may not be in the financial position to become a millionaire if he or she does not have enough money cover their basic household expenses, let alone to save or invest their money.

When comparing the assumptions of these two books, Orman’s book makes more assumptions about the American public and the American dream. Orman states that the goal of her book is to, “make you independent from financial advisors” (Orman, 2000). However, the average American does not have a financial advisor. For different cultures and subcultures, a financial advisor is taboo or unheard of. This is true for African American’s where many do not talk openly about their debt and finances nor do they seek advice to reduce debt except to borrow money to eliminate debt. The assumption that Americans are dependent on financial advisors to sustain themselves is a broad statement and does not apply to some considered middle-class. Although Bach makes assumptions about American society, many of the assumptions are related so sustainability. While Orman assumes that her readers are dependent on financial advisors, Bach assumes that all Americans are financially independent. These assumptions make it difficult for the author to reach out to the average American. It also creates an example of the social stratification system evident in American society. Their assumptions demonstrate the division between lower and upper class society and the difficulty for lower class society to move up the social ladder.

THE AMERICAN DREAM AND SOCIAL CLASS

The ideal of the American dream is that someone who is poor can become rich and successful with hard work and dedication. The financial freedom and millionaire status implied in these get-rich books are based off the ideals of the American dream. However, the authors did not address people who are in poverty and low socio-economic class. This only stresses the division between the rich and the poor and the importance of social status.  “An emphasis on status and status aspirations is linked with occupation and features personal achievements and success rather than family heritage, the importance and accident of birth”, (Encyclopedia, 2008: n.p). The authors only recognize middle class and upper class individuals, people who have reached specific milestones in life. This includes occupational, professional, and educational achievements. According to the authors, these are the people who have the potential to become a millionaire or have financial freedom. Although these books provide tools and strategies for middle-class individuals to become upper-class, they do not include lower-class or impoverished citizens to help them reach this American dream. Thus, they lack the inclusion of all Americans in to their strategy to financial success.

By excluding lower class citizens and their financial circumstances, Orman and Bach are emphasizing the social stratification system. They are doing this by ignoring the problem of poverty and not providing a path for these individuals to become financial free or millionaires. In this way, they are continuing the social disenfranchisement of poor people through exclusion. An example of this can be seen in the real life situations Orman gives people in need of financial freedom. She describes Suzanne who has no debt but has not saved for her financial future and Andy who saves his money but afraid to invest (Orman, 2000: 17). In many cases, there are people who consider themselves middle class and are not in these financial situations. Some middle class families live paycheck to paycheck and live in financial poverty. “The more a majority discriminates in social intercourse against a minority, the smaller is the discrepancy between the majorities lower and the minorities higher rate of intergroup associations”, (Blau, 2002: n.p). Despite the social intercourse that occurs between the different socio-economic classes, upper class citizens continue to discriminate against lower class citizens continuing the system of social stratifications found throughout American society.

HORATIO ALGER MYTH AND THE AMERICAN DREAM

Horatio Alger was an early American writer who wrote stories honoring the ideals of the American dream. In his stories, as long as a man was diligent and hardworking he can become prosperous and successful. “Alger… projected the view that success goes to those who exemplify correct values”, (Steinberg, 2008: 134). This is true for many Americans throughout history and today. American idol is a talent show searching for America’s next undiscovered singer and the Pursuit of Happiness is a movie depicting a true modern day story of rags to riches. So, in many ways there is truth to the Horatio Alger myth and the legend of the American dream. However, achieving the American dream maybe easier for some people than others. This is seen when reading 9 Steps to Financial Success and the Automatic Millionaire Workbook.

In his book, the Automatic Millionaire, Bach suggests that the number one secret to the American dream is to make your financial plans automatic (1998: 14). “All you need to do is take full advantage of the technology that lets you make automatic payments to everything from your mortgage to your 401k”, (Bach, 1998: 14). Yet, this may be difficult for some people to do. Many people living in poverty do not have a computer. Others do not have access to the internet at home. In addition to this, people in poverty may not be able to do this because they do not have a bank account and do not use a debit or credit card. Others may not be able to pay their rent or mortgage with one pay check. Therefore, this simple rule is not as simple for poor people who live under such circumstances. As a rule to becoming a millionaire, it excludes lower class citizens. It suggests that poor people cannot become millionaires. The strategy Bach gives us in his book is opposed to the American dream and Horatio Alger’s myth. Instead, is only provides a current example of the social stratification system found in American society and ways that it continues to disenfranchise people of low socio-economic status.

Orman and Bach make financial success look easy. Orman determines that financial freedom can be found in 9 steps while Bach concludes that people must change their mind frame to achieve financial gains. He suggests that by asking yourself some simple questions, someone can determine if they have the mindset of a millionaire. However, in his book Bach admits that “today the American dream is on life support” (2005: 9). He goes on to blame lost ideals on the growing consumer culture and the desire to buy things we don’t need. From this perspective, he is identifying with all Americans and the framework of our American culture. This is because many people are driven by the image of wealth, despite the cost it takes to have these things. However, throughout his book he continues to make assumptions about his readers suggesting that the American dream can be achieved only if you are financially stable and independent- a middle class or upper middle class citizen.

Orman is able to reach out to ideals of the American dream and Horatio Alger’s myth by rationalizing the need for financial success. She states that “we need money to live as surely as we need air to breath and this need cuts across all races, both sexes and all income brackets” (Orman, 2000: 4). Her statement is true for many Americans. However when we really start to think about this statement, people really do not need money to live; people only require life to live. Yet the need to have money to sustain oneself is required to live the American dream. She admits that money does not make the person, but because there is a need for money, people should use their money well to save for their future. Although Orman takes such an assertive stand on the ideas of wealth, she does not provide a financial method of success for those impoverished. In her book, the layout for the American dream includes a fulltime job with full benefits and the lifestyle of middle class Americans.

 

THE AMERICAN DREAM?

A sociology researcher tells us that, “status distributions are nearly always positively skewed with a majority of the population occupying less than average status and small numbers occupying status that is far above average”, (Blau, 2002).  This statement implies that lower and middle class citizens make up the true majority of the American population. This true majority make up the American society. These are people disenfranchised by their socio-economic status, they live pay check to pay check, and are examples of the social stratification. Authors such as Ozman and Bach have developed strategies to help individuals reach financial success. Although they have good intentions, they exclude poor and some middle class citizens that can benefit from financial advice. From reading these books, the authors imply that only people living in a certain socio-economic class can achieve the American dream. In many ways this is true. Because of the system of social stratification found in our society, people who are lower and middle class may find it difficult to achieve financial success. Despite the difficulties, it does not mean that it cannot happen.

There are many success stories found both today and throughout history that tells us that there is no myth to the American dream. From athletes and performers, business owners and professionals, many Americans began their life poor or disenfranchised only to become a success story either by talent or luck. Social stratification is a system of inequality and division that categorizes people. In America, the social stratification system can be observed through socio-economic status. Someone’s status is not only determined by their income, it also is determined by their education or occupation. “The relations between classes are an important aspect of social process in complex societies and the various social classes and their relations are significant components of social organization” (Encyclopedia, 2008: n.p). Authors Orman and Bach want to help people achieve wealth and the American dream. However the approach used to help reduce financial strain for their audience, only continues poverty and social stratification found throughout American society.

 

            References

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The Relationship between Wisdom and Philosophy: Socrates and Aquinas

Wisdom is defined as, “accumulated knowledge, insight, and judgment” (Marriam-Webster 2013). Ironically, the definition of wisdom reflects the concept of philosophy, the science of the nature of thought. Marriam-Webster dictionary goes further, defining philosophy as “the pursuit of wisdom” (2013). By dictionary definition the two terms are interwoven. Through philosophy, individuals think past themselves and reality. It allows us to ask questions and entertain conclusions based on what we know. Rather than accepting things as they are, philosophy opens the mind to new concepts that help us to better understand the things around us. The things we learn through thought –philosophy- can be applied to human nature or even biology and science. However, great philosophers such as Socrates and Plato argue that one cannot gain intimate knowledge and wisdom. Despite this, philosophers continue to search for answers to some of life’s most difficult questions. This presented an apparent contradiction. Although wisdom and philosophy are related by definition, according to Socrates there is a distinct difference between the two terms. This raises two questions, (1) are philosophers wise, (2) are wise men philosophers?

Great thinker, Saint Thomas Aquinas, used philosophical insight to identify faith and God. He offers his Christian beliefs for the basis of the argument. Plato, through his teacher Socrates, raised interesting questions concerning wisdom of the soul. He determined that man cannot become wise due to human nature and the need to satisfy the desires of the body. It may be true for some, however not all. There are many men including Aquinas, Socrates, and Plato are considered wise. The same is said for people today, from Maya Angelou to the Dalai Lama. Although philosophers such as Plato limit the amount of wisdom that can achieved by man, great thinkers continue to study, utilize, and apply philosophy all the while obtaining wisdom.

Plato helped to create the science of philosophy by detailing the life and teachings of Socrates. Socrates analyzed human nature and the human experience, introducing ethics and addressing problems through reason and logic. As early as, 500 BC, man was heavily contemplating human thought. In the piece, Phaedo, Socrates argues the human nature of thought. He describes how people think best, how to think when in deep thought, and the natural nature of man. He states that people think best, “as far as possible free from communication and contact with it, aspires to that which is”, (Plato 16). This is apparent to many people today. When faced with a problem people go to a quiet place to collect their thoughts. This is also true for students when studying. They require a place that is quiet so that can reflect, think, and take in knowledge and gain insight. Knowledge, from this understanding, is the consequence of thought. Socrates encourages people to think deeply. Day dreaming, worrying, and tallying bills do not constitute philosophical thought. Phaedo suggest that deep thought “includes everything for instance greatness, health, strength, and in a word, the reality of everything else that is to say, what each things really is”, (Plato 17). The ability to think, and to do so logically and thoroughly, allows people to begin to think philosophically. However, if he thinks in this manner, does he inevitably become wise?

Socrates introduces the reader to the platform of philosophical thinking. He does this by asking questions, providing an explanation, and then a reply. There is a since of an argument which includes a reply or rebuttal, however it is presented as dialogue. Concerning the wisdom of the soul, the replies are simple agreements with the argument. In the piece, Summa Theologica, Aquinas utilizes this same format to present his argument regarding faith and world creation. He presents a dialogue between to people with opposing beliefs, one believes by faith that God created the world and the other who believes the world created itself. Sometimes the antagonist agrees and sometimes he does not. It mimics that style of Plato however it is a divided argument with additional segmented structures. “For each question (article) theme deals with a number of objections to his own view to which he offers replies and then lays out the reasons for his own position”, (Howe 1). It is evident that Aquinas was familiar with the great philosophers including Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. He referenced them throughout the work and mimicked their argumentative platform for thought. By structure of his argument and the thorough analysis he puts it to reason. It is clear that Aquinas was a deep thinker and philosopher.  He read the philosophical ideals of the people before him to obtain knowledge. He further applied this knowledge into his own works proving not only his knowledge, but also his ability to apply it to his own beliefs. In this way, Aquinas is not only a philosopher but also wise by apply philosophy to theological concepts.

In his work Aquinas asks the question: “Weather it is an article of faith that the world began?” (246). Although this is an argument about God, the true subject addresses the idea of faith and the world’s creation. Aquinas argues that by faith alone people assume the world began. Because faith is required to believe the world began, faith is then required to believe the existence of God. Aquinas lived during the 13th century in Europe. He was a Dominion monk and a Christian. He believed in the Bible and bases his argument on Genesis 1:1 which states that, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. The foundation of the argument is that, the earth began. He provides many examples of how things are created in life. He used the analogy of a craftsman who creates a work, compared to the birth of life through lineage. Although the rebuttal made legitimate claims concerning the beginning of the world, Aquinas was able to maintain his argument through logic and reasoning. “To say that the world was made by God, it must therefore have been made from nothing, or from something. But it was not made from something; otherwise the matter of the world would have preceded the world” (Aquinas 247). Through this simple concept, Aquinas is able to stir thought into nonbelievers. He lived in a world without the science and technology that we see today. Even so, his reason can still be applied today. While astronomy tells us that the world was created from the big bang, it does not account for the universe. If the big bang was the “something” that created the world, what is the originator and explanation of the big bang? By utilizing this logic and knowledge of philosophy, Aquinas is able to further prove himself to be not only a great thinker, but also a man of wisdom.

To gain knowledge, insight, and wisdom, philosophers often draw back to the basic question of, what is. Confronted with the question of wisdom and the soul, Socrates associated the soul with the body. The body is observed as an enemy because people react to the needs of the body. Through philosophical application, Socrates came to the conclusion that, “freed as far as possible from eyes and ears, and so to speak from all the body together, because he thinks it only disturbs the soul and will not  let her obtain possession of truth and wisdom when it is in communication with her” (Plato 17-18). He clearly asserts that wisdom has limits, it is difficult to obtain if at all. Aquinas himself was aware of the works of Socrates and Plato and influenced by this. Therefore, Aquinas was aware of this insight regarding wisdom. Despite this, he and other philosophers continued on their quest on the science of human thought. It was not to obtain wisdom, however to understand the world and the people who live in it. Socrates assumes that philosophy only comes with thought. Through these concepts, one can learn more about the world without opening a single book, however by asking questions and applying reason to the knowledge that is already known. “The principle of demonstration is the essence of a thing. Now everything according to its species is abstracted from here and now; whence it is said that universals are ever and always. Hence it cannot be demonstrated that man, or heaven, or a stone were not always”, (Aquinas 248).  Accordingly, Aquinas was not affected by Socrates concept on wisdom and soul. He made philosophical arguments not only proving him a great thinker but also wise. With insight, knowledge, and judgment he is observed as a man who obtained wisdom through the science of philosophy. It can easily be assumed that men who practice philosophy will also obtain wisdom. It can even be said that wise men are philosophers. Just as long as they think thoroughly and apply reason, one can generate a better understand of human nature and existence.

 

Works Cited

Aquinas, T. (1912). The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, Part I. Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. R&T Washbourn LTD. Paternoster Row, London. Retrieved from: http://books.google.com/books?id=OTkNAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA246&lpg=PA246&dq=weather+it+was+an+article+of+faith+that+the+world+began+summa+theologica&source=bl&ots=vCbxW0Lk5L&sig=dVrBbxfPki2Su5OhuT4PwAS21R0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=omr3UaaOFYm-igKAuIGoBQ&ved=0CEYQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=weather%20it%20was%20an%20article%20of%20faith%20that%20the%20world%20began%20summa%20theologica&f=true

Howe, R. (2003). Two Notions of the Infinate in Thomas Quinas’ Summa Theologica 1,        Questions 2 and 46. Retrieved from: http://www.richardghowe.com/infinite.pdf

Plato. (1875). Translated by E.M Cope. Phaedo. Cambridge Warehouse 17. Paternoster Row, London. Retrieved from: http://books.google.com/books?id=ZLxCAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=phaedo+wisdom+of+the+soul&hl=en&sa=X&ei=tmb3UaWUNeKniQLv1oH4CA&ved=0CDAQ6wEwAA#v=onepage&q=wisdom%20soul&f=true

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Worldview Comparison: Islam and Christianity

Islam represents the Muslim religion and faith. It is recognized as the second largest religion in the world believing in one God (Allah), a faith with monotheistic principles. The Islam Worldview has the ability to answer fundamental questions regarding life, beliefs, and meaning that offer guidance regarding the human experience. In addition, the Islamic worldview answers fundamental questions of humanity:

Question of Origin can be found throughout the Islamic teachings of the Qur’an. It states that, “surely, your Lord is Allah who created the heavens and the earth”, (Yunus 10:3). It goes on to state that Allah also created man from dust and all of humanity. With this knowledge, Muslims understand that they were created by Allah and come from Him.

Question of Identity can be found within the prophet Muhammad who is the messenger of God Allah. However, identity is also in humanity, creation, and belief in Allah. Through Allah, Islam represents one people united. In surat Al- Emran 103 is says, “And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah (i.e this Qur’an), and do not divided among yourselves. And remember Allah’s favor on you, for you were He joined your hearts together, so that by His Grace, you become brethren (in Islamic Faith)”.  In this way, they are undivided by nationality, region, or ethnicity. Their identity stands with their faith in Allah.

Question of Purpose is discovered in the Qur’an where it explains the purpose of life please Allah and grow closer to Him. This reveals the importance of developing and maintaining a relationship with Allah. This can be seen where is states, “I have created the jinn and humankind only for My worship”, (51:56). Life’s circumstances and situations are observed as a test of obedience to Allah’s will. People are given choice and fee will to act according to their wants, wishes, and desires. Despite this, they are encouraged to live by the will of God. Thus, the purpose of man is to “cultivate, maintain, and rule the earth”, (Elnaggar, 2007). Man should do this with responsibility and honor according to Allah. In this way man is encouraged to “follow not the footsteps of the devil”, (Al Bagarah, 208).

Question of Morality in the Qur’an encourages people to choose good over evil using Allah’s teaching for guidance for good and morality. This is because Allah is moral order providing obligations and law regarding the cause and effect of moral misgivings. In this way, “Allah is the lofty moral governor of the universe”, (Davis, 2010). These moral standings are listed in the 5 Articles of Faith and the 5 Pillars of Islam, which are significant to Muslim life and society.

Question of Destiny describes the afterlife of Muslims and the Day of Judgment. According to the Qur’an people are judged according to their good deeds and works on earth. The bad deeds are then weighed against the good to determine one’s place in heaven or hell. In this way, “Man is honored with the promise of Paradise”, (Elnaggar, 2007).

The Islam Worldview is very similar to the Christian Worldview. This is because Muslims carry many of the same beliefs as Christians, studying the same holy prohets and scriptures. This includes parts of the Old Testament including the creation story, Moses, the psalms of David, and the gospels of the New Testament. Specifically when understanding the Questions of Origin, the teachings of creation are the same. Both the Qur’an and the Bible state that the world was created in 6 days, in which God Allah created the heaven, earth, and man. In the Qur’an man was made from the dust and water where Allah “created man of clay like the potters”, (Ar-Rahman 55:14). The only difference in this creation story of the Bible is that Christian teachings describe man being created in God’s Image with soul from His breath. The purpose of life is similar in both Islamic and Christian teachings. Both are encouraged to be of good will and to follow the teachings of God Allah. Man is encouraged to enjoy life, work the earth, and prosper. Prosperity can be obtained through family and living according to His will. In this way, both Islam and Christianity can answer questions of Morality. However question of morality are observed differently in Christianity when compared to Islam. While Islam follow the moral standings in accordance with the 5 articles of Faith and the 5 Pillars of Islam, Christians find moral standing in the 10 Commandments. For instance, the 5 Pillars encourage morality through faith, prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage. They are also encouraged to be giving towards others by displaying compassion. Christians, on the other hand, have direct list of rules that must be observed in order to maintain a good moral standing. It also provides understanding between good and evil.

Both Islam and Christianity have strong belief in life after death. Those who are good and faithful are able to enter Paradise or Heaven while those who are bad with evil intentions are cast to hell. However, there is a vast difference when it comes to beliefs regarding judgment. The Qur’an teaches that men are judged according to their works both the good and the bad. In order to reach the heavenly paradise one’s good deeds must outweigh the bad. However, in Christianity this is much more complicated. Through fait, Christians are exonerated against their bad deeds through repentance and acceptance of Christ. Although Christians are also judged according to their works, these works are not weighed against each other. It is these differences that create the separation of Christian identity and Islamic identity according to one’s worldview. Christians find their identity through Christ and his teachings. This includes themes of love and humanity that is related to God’s image. Islam’s on the other hand, find their identity through Muhammad and unity, acting as one faith and brothers with one another in faith.

References

 

  1. Davis, D. (2010). The Test. WinePress Publishing. Enumclaw, WA. Retrieved from: http://www.clr4u.org/assets/files/TheTest.pdf

 

  1. Elnaggar, M. (2013). Man…Vision and Mission. Onislam.net. Retrieved from: http://www.onislam.net/english/ask-about-islam/islam-and-the-world/worldview/166315-man-vision-and-mission.html
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The Christian Worldview

Worldview

In simple terms, worldview is described as “an intellectual perspective on the world or universe”, (Funk, 2001). It is a term used throughout philosophy that underscores the critical thinking applied to the human experience. Worldview reflects one’s outlook of the social environment. This includes useful principles and values. Personal worldviews can solve problems and answer questions based on interest or special circumstances. These beliefs and feelings then structure individual behavior, character, and actions. In this way, worldview is a “system”, (Funk, 2001). It can be seen in its association among socio-demographics, groups, organizations, and subcultures. As such, worldview can often be unconscious thought or understanding. With 75% of the American population identifying as Christian, Christian worldview impacts individuals and can have an influence the world around them.

Worldview is fundamentally based on “thought as the basis for action”, (Funk, 2001). Thought is the first requirement. The thoughts considered in worldview are thoughtful. They are in depth thoughts with reasoning. These are articulate, questioning, comprehensive, hypothetical, and philosophical. They entail reflection, judgment, and critical thinking. Thoughts when applied to a worldview can answer questions regarding social issues such as abortion and prostitution and other questions pertaining to life, death, and the human existence. Generated though knowledge and growth, thought is based on what is believed. Thought becomes action, which transferred into the real world experience.

 Christian Worldview

The Christian worldview provides guidance and support to the human experience. It helps individuals understand and answer philosophical questions of life. This creates “stability of thought, a unity of comprehensive insight”, (Dockery, 2012). Through Christianity, Christians are provided tools, information, guidance, answers, and a path to righteousness.  This is observed through the principles provided from biblical teachings.

Christian worldview answers questions of origin, where do people come from? Everyone knows they are birthed by their parents. However, the breath of life is substantial to the human experience. Through the Christian worldview questions of origin are provided in the Bible. It is understood that human existence was created by God. This is described in Genesis where it provides the story of creation, that God created the heaven, Earth, and all living creatures. Stated in 1:27- “God created man in His own image”. In 2:7 of Genesis it goes further saying, God breathed life into man and gave him a soul. The story of God and creation provides guidance. It gives structure to the relationships with others, Christ, and the heavenly father.

The Christian worldview answers the question of purpose, giving understanding to life’s meaning. . In Revelations 4:11, the Bible iterates that God created all things for his pleasure. It is observed in the meaning behind the God Image- to live life according to his will and purpose. This means to, love God and put him first. It is expressed in the first of commandment. Christians express God’s love through actions such as worship and praise. Throughout the Bible, the purpose of life is expressed such as to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), to “eat, drink, and be merry” (Ecclesiastes 8:15), and “whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:5). With purpose, Christians strive to achieve peace from within and live inline of Christ’s teachings. Purpose is the force of life and part of God’s plan. This provides “an energizing motivation for godly and faithful thinking and living in the here and now”, (Dockery, 2012).

The question of destiny is answered within the Christian worldview. It relates to death and afterlife. It provides an understanding of what happens when humans pass from this world to the next. For some, this is the world of uncertainty. However, Christians are affirmed in their destiny as God reveals the future and what comes after death. The most popular scripture describing Christian destiny is, those who believe in Jesus Christ will not die but have everlasting life in heaven, (John 3:36). For those who do not believe and live in sin outside of God’s purpose are destined for hell or the second death. The faithless, murders, immoral, and other sinners suffer in the lake of fire, (Rev 21:8).

Christians find questions of identity in Christianity and faith. In this, Christians learn about humanity and what it means to be human. Going back to the God image in 1:27, Christians identify with God, Jesus Christ, and his teachings. With this worldview, Christians are in line with God. Believers see themselves as the children of God, the children of Abraham, disciples of Jesus and heir to God’s promise. “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14). Thus, Christians see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Christians find their identity in God, the creator of man. “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:15). In this way, Christ resides in the heart of Christians and receive God’s mercy and blessing, (1 Peter 2:10).

Questions of morality address sin and the Christian lifestyle. Morals are provided to Christians in the Bible seen in the 10 commandments, (Exodus 20). Here the significant difference between good and evil is addressed. It gives individuals a guidelines regarding decisions, right and wrong, and maintaining God’s favor. As people have free will over their life and decisions, Jesus provides moral guidance of goodness and faith when living life in the here and now. Romans 13:8-10 says, “owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law”. Thus, no matter what Christians do it should be done for the Glory of God and to honor Him, (I Cor 6:19 & 10:31).

Influence of Worldview

It is important to understand how belief in Christ and Biblical teachings can impact life and the social environment. It reflects personal morality, understanding, purpose, and identity among others. Feelings individuals have regarding the afterlife, family, and spirituality demonstrates the relationship worldview has with life and society. A Christian worldview provides guidance and support throughout life. It answers fundamental questions about the world and navigate the human experience. Even scripture stresses the importance of a Christian worldview and aligning this with God. This must happen when individuals become Christian or born again, as they enter into God’s covenant. Christians are vowed to bare the cross the follow him and to learn the path of the way, truth, and light, (John 10:27). In this way, Christian worldview is given great description and detail. Not only does it provide rules and commandments it goes further to offer guidance to basic life questions. From how to raise children, treat your neighbor, or judge others the Christian worldview is not just a worldview but a lifestyle. It is a system of beliefs that belong to a group of people, dictating the path to righteousness and God’s glory. Thus, it helps make sense to the world. This can be seen when understanding the Christian Worldview through questions of Origin, Purpose, Destiny, Identity, and Morality. It remains directly linked with God, Jesus, and the Bible. “We can find the answers to life’s questions in the Books of Books. Truth is meant to be the focal point of one’s life. We are to know the Truth and to live it”, (Butin, 2004).

Through Moses, God gave commandments for Christians to live by. These are fundamental to the Christian worldview as it helps Christians navigate through life’s experiences. Not only does God encourage us to Love Him, He encourages Christians to love one another. Through the love provided by God, Christians are provided the foundations of the worldview. People should cannot murder, lie, steal, commit adultery and others as it is considered sinful. Even still, He encourages Christians to make this truth not just a worldview but a lifestyle. He encourages followers to follow the commandments in their hearts and pass them down to their children. Furthermore, the worldview must be encouraged in others, “talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up”, (Deut 6:4-9). In this way, the worldview is not only thought, it is action and commitment to God’s word and this teachings.

 

 

References

Buntin, C. (2004, June 30). The essential Christian worldview: What is the truth? Why are we alive?.Christian Basic Training, Retrieved from https://bible.org/seriespage/essential-christian-worldview-what-truth-why-are-we-alive

Dockery, D. (2012). Shaping a Christian worldview: An introduction. Informally published manuscript, Integration of Faith and Learning, Union University, . Retrieved from http://www.uu.edu/centers/faculty/resources/article.cfm?ArticleID=364

Funk, K. (2001). What is a worldview. Informally published manuscript, Humanities and Philosophy, Oregon State University , . Retrieved from http://web.engr.oregonstate.edu/~funkk/Personal/worldview.html

Posted in Humanities | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Epidemiology of Obesity: An American Epidemic

Obesity continues to be a growing epidemic in America. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one in three adults are considered obese, (2015). Obesity is associated with numerous risks to physical, mental, and emotional health. Those suffering from obesity are susceptible to depression, diabetes, and even cancer. It reflects social constructs such as socioeconomic status, isolation, and discrimination. “Being extremely obese means you are especially likely to have health problems related to your weight”, (Mayo Clinic, 2015). As a result, obesity remains a significant issue within the healthcare field to be addressed. This includes understanding the various dimensions of obesity such as its definition and presence in society. By reviewing current methods, diagnosis, cost, and characteristics of obesity, heath care agents can implement a plan of action to promote change.

Overview

Obesity is most commonly defined as an “access of body fat”, (US Surgeon General, 2010). This is when weight is above normal relative to height and age. More specifically it is defined as, “weight that is higher than what is considered as healthy”, (CDC, 2015). When one’s weight becomes a contributing factor for poor health, the individual is considered overweight or obese. As a result, health is strongly associated with obesity. Obesity is recognized by the Surgeon General as an epidemic in American society. This is because 35% of adults and 17% of children are obese, (CDC, 2015). However, the rates of obesity continue to change from state to state. California is only one of seven states with obesity rates well below the national average. In this region, 24% of the general population is obese. (See Table 1).

There is a significant difference between being overweight and being obese. Alarmingly, 60% of Americans are overweight. When the percentage of body fat reaches a certain percentage, he or she is considered obese. Men must have a percentage of body fat greater than 25% and 33% in women. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies overweight and obesity into 3 grades: overweight (BMI of 25-29 kg), obesity (BMI 30-39 kg), and morbid obesity (BMI 40kg +), (Hamdy, 2015). It is most often the result of limited exercise and poor nutrition.  In the medical field it is recognized as a comorbid condition. This means that obesity is a disease that has co-occurring disorders and implications. The list of comorbid conditions is long and extensive. Obesity has negative consequences which affects individual mental and physical health. So much so that is can significantly limit one’s quality of life and life longevity. Obesity is associated with poor social experiences such as discrimination, isolation, and stigma. It affects mental health such as depression and anxiety. Obese individuals have limited physical functioning and prone to medical conditions including the following: diabetes, mellitus, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, sleep disorders, hypertension, dyslipidemia, stroke, gallbladder disease, hyperuricemia, gout, osteoarthritis, cancer, and death, (CDC, 2015). (See Table 2).

Epidemiology

Some people are more susceptible to obesity than others. These represent several disparities and inequalities found within American society. It relates to the “racial and ethnic socioeconomic and geographic disparities in obesity rates”, (CDPH, 2014). This is seen in California and mimicked throughout the nation. African Americans, specifically African American women are more likely to suffer from obesity than Latino and White adult females, (CDC, 2015). Disparities can also be found within the Hispanic population where 33% of Hispanic men are obese compared to 23% of White males, (CDPH, 2014). Other ethnicities with a predisposition to obesity include, Pima Indians of Arizona, American Pacific Islanders, Mexicans Americans and Puerto Ricans. However, race is not the only association to obesity. There are also disparities found within low income and high income households. Low income communities have limited access to healthy foods which are often found at higher cost. For this reason, those who are low income are more likely to be obese than those from higher incomes, (CDPH, 2012). Research found that, “low income persons who were assigned to live in higher income neighborhoods gained less weight over time and had a lower risk of diabetes than did low income persons who remained in predominately low income neighborhoods”, (Hamdy, 2015).  Obesity continues to impact other social factors including health and age. Those between the ages of 40 and 60 are more likely to be obese; they are also more likely to have negative outcomes, (Surgeon General Office, 2010). This includes death. Research indicates that 18% of individuals will die as a result of obesity, (Hamdy, 2015).

Obesity has a negative effect on society as observed in rising health care cost. It attributes to $150 to $200 billion in medical spending, (CDC, 2015). This is because those who are obese account for an additional $1,500 per person in cost compared to individuals of a healthy weight.  “California has the highest obesity-related costs in the United states, estimated at $15.2 billion with 41.5% of these costs financed through Medicare and Medi-Cal”, (CDPH, 2014, p.4). Obesity accounts for health related conditions, trips to the emergency room, and other hospital charges. This significantly impacts greater society. Individuals who are obese have limited mobility and physical functioning. Due to disability, mobility, stigma, and discrimination obese people are limited economically due to work and/or disability. “Obesity has linked with reduced worker productivity, chronic absence from work, and medical expenditures that total 73.1 billion per year for full time employees”, (CDPH, 2014, p.4).

Diagnosis

Obesity is diagnosed by calculating the BMI or Body to Mass Index ratio. The BMI calculation determines the level of obesity, health risks, and treatment, (Mayo Clinic, 2015). It does this by measuring excess fat stored in the body. This is calculated by dividing body weight in kilograms by height in meters squared, (US Surgeon General, 2010). Once the BMI is determined professionals can assess morbidity and mortality. Obesity is related to cardiovascular disease. Those with a BMI between 25 and 28 are likely to suffer from heart disease. Those with a BMI greater than 33 are at an increased risk of stroke and heart failure, (Hamdy, 2015).

BMI has become the national standard when diagnosing obesity. It is also used throughout reports to classify individuals and group populations as obese. Although it is used to measure the amount of fat stored, the BMI is applied to youth where the age and sex of the child must be considered. Along with this information and the BMI, professionals determine obesity using a percentile. However, when assessing obesity in children the BMI cannot be used as a sole factor for diagnosis. This is because BMI changes are significant during child growth and development. It causes BMI to be higher in younger people. For this reason the CDC implements a growth chart to provide further guidance for health care professionals. Researchers and scholars recognize that diagnosis through BMI works for some, and not all. This is because the BMI fails to consider background, such as obesity severity, onset, waist circumference, cardiorespiratory fitness, comorbidities, clinical assessment, and other markers. “It may overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have a muscular build. BMI also may underestimate body fat in older people and others who have lost muscle”, (National Institutes of Health, 2015).  Despite the setbacks, BMI is useful tool to determine obesity, especially when used with other diagnostic measures. It is free and easy to use by applying simple equations and comparisons.

Surveillance and Reporting

There are several national and state surveillance systems that monitor and report on obesity. It includes individuals from all regions and populations across the country. These include: the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS), National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), and the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR), (CDC, 2015). These national surveillance systems are conducted regularly to observe the obesity trend and its effect on public health. It tracks obesity rates, but also examines obesity over time. This allows researchers and healthcare providers to compare and contrast obesity throughout demographics. States across the country uses these same surveillance systems to monitory obesity in their region. This can be seen in California where officials use the BRFSS system to examine obesity trends. The only surveillance system in use for Californians is the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). This system, “provides adolescent obesity rates for youth ages 12 to 17”, (CDPH, 2014, p.8). BRFSS and CHIS are similar in data collection. Both BRFSS and CHIS conduct randomized telephone surveys. Survey participants self-report height and weight information. The only difference between BRFSS and CHIS is age. The California survey system only gathers information on obesity seen in adolescents and teens. In addition, the California Department of Publish Health (CDPH) has developed a system to evaluate surveillance and communicate data between the state and community partners. This helps healthcare services develop and implement assessments and evaluations of obesity for a plan of action.

Obesity and Practice

The Centers for Disease Control and the California Department of Public Health agree that obesity is a multidimensional problem. Obese individuals are affected by their location, ethnic background, socioeconomic status, mental health, and age. Due to the complexity of the problem, there is no single approach or solution. The CDC and CDPH plan of action to reduce obesity requires assistance from community partners, government agencies, changes in infrastructure to promote exercise, and making healthy foods affordable and accessible, (2015). These actions offer little help from the health care professions. The common denominators of obesity include “inactivity, unhealthy diets, and eating behaviors”, (CDPH, 2014, p.7). To implement action and make an effort to reduce obesity in this country, care providers must educate, educate, and educate. This means to educate about lifestyle changes, educate about risk factors, and educate about weight loss options.

To help reduce rates of obesity health professionals must educate patients on risk factors. The first step is to diagnose individuals as overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. “Patients who received a formal diagnosis of overweight/obese from a healthcare provider demonstrated a higher rate of dietary change and/or physical activity than did whose condition remained undiagnosed”, (Hamdy, 2015). This can be used as a scare tactic to promote change. By giving an analysis of comorbid disorders and risks, this may motivate individuals to improve their life expectancy. It can be especially helpful for families, parents, and children. Educating individuals and their families about mortality as it relates to obesity is especially significant. This includes the fact that “overweight and obesity were associated with nearly 1 and 5 deaths among adults”, (Hamdy, 2015). Along with other health consequences such as endometrial cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer, gallbladder cancer, and liver cancer, there are other risk factors including stroke, heart disease, poor respiration, and fertility, (Hamdy, 2015). The reduced health and increased risks of sickness or death, individuals are likely to make lifestyle changes to extend their life for family and loved ones.

Healthcare professionals must also educate patients on the lifestyle changes required to lose weight and improve health. This includes making resources and information available to patients. Weather this is brochures providing information on physical activity and balanced nutrition, or encouraging patients to make an appointment with a nutritionist or dietitian. Many different things can be done to encourage physical activity and balanced diet. It is important to help patients and professionals understand that weight loss does not occur over night. It is a long and enduring process. Professionals do not take into account the environmental or social factors which stimulate obesity. For this reason, professionals should practice patience and understanding when helping individuals make positive choices to promote good health. Encouraging individuals to drink water instead of soda and sugary drinks are simple measures that people do for change.

Lastly, health care providers must educate individuals on their options for weight loss. This includes traditional methods of weight loss and alternative options such as medication or surgery. Some may be against weight loss surgery. This may be due to stigma, myths, or fears regarding the procedure. Providing individuals with resources and information on surgery can improve their confidence in the procedure. Others may require information on ways to lose weight the traditional way such as by improving nutrition and exercise. Dieting is helpful to some people but not all. Patients should be educated and provided relevant information on diet and nutrition. This includes healthy foods, unhealthy foods, and maintaining nutrition balance. Listing the options and resources for weight loss can help educate patients on obesity prevention.

Conclusion

Obesity affects nearly 40% of American and is associated with poor health. It is the leading cause of various conditions such as heart failure, diabetes, and stroke. It also remains a contributing factor to hypertension, diabetes, mellitus, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and sleep disorders, (CDC, 2015). It includes comorbid conditions, incidents of mortality, and reduced quality of life and life expectancy that have driven public health concerns, especially considering that more than half of the population is overweight. Obesity and overweight not only puts one’s health at risk, it also accounts for high medical cost throughout the healthcare field. One study indicates that by the year 2030 medical costs related to obesity will rise above $1 trillion, (Weigntraub et al, 2011). However, obesity is a multidimensional problem. It is associated to different aspects of society such as nutrition, environment, education, economy, and community. It goes further to reflect the limited access to recreation and reduced nutritional options in underserved communities. Changes in public health and obesity can only occur with the collaboration of health communities and community partners working together.

 

References

  1. (2015). Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. Atlanta, GA: U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/strategies/index.html

 

  1. (2014). Obesity in california: The weight of the state, 2000-2012. Sacramento, California Department of Public Health Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch. Retrieved from: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/cpns/Documents/ObesityinCaliforniaReport.pdf

 

  1. (2012). California state nutrition, physical activity, and obesity profile. Sacramento, CA. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/stateprograms/fundedstates/pdf/California-State-Profile.pdf

 

  1. Hamdy, O. (2015). Obesity: Drugs and Disease. In Medscape. Boston, MA: WebMD Journal of Medicine. Retrieved from: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/123702-overview#showall

 

  1. (2015). Obesity: Diseases and Conditions. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obesity/basics/treatment/con-20014834

 

  1. (2012). Explore overweight and obesity. Alexandria VA. National Institutes of Health Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/diagnosis

 

  1. Office of the Surgeon General (US). (2010). The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation. Rockville (MD): Office of the Surgeon General (US); 2010. Background on Obesity. Retrieved from:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44656/

 

  1. Weintraub, W., Daniels, S., Burke, L., Franklin, B., Goff, D., Hayman, L., Lloyd-Jones, D., & Pandey, D. (2011). American heart association policy statement. Circulation, 12(4), 967-90. Retrieved from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/124/8/967.long
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