This past weekend would have been our third Brave retreat with the young adults. As the canceled weekend came and went, I think the theme of that retreat is more relevant than ever. I want to take a few moments to reflect on where we find ourselves, especially as we stare another round of lockdowns.
It can be scary out there. Uncertainty and hurt feelings left over in the political environment, the return to lock-down before Thanksgiving, the anxiety of wether or not your job will furlough you, and the ever present drumbeat of Covid contamination (among a litany of other fears) can wreak havoc on your emotional and spiritual health….
Fear not however! The message of the Lord is this, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:6-7.
In our first Brave retreat, we talked about being brave in a world of darkness. It can be hard to live life, especially a life of faithfulness. At Brave II, we broke open the story of Peter being called out of the boat and into the storm, to trust Jesus and call for help when we fall (Matthew 14:22-33). We know the Lord will be there with a hand but it is important to know to keep our eyes on Him, even when it seems impossible.
Be brave. Trust the Lord. Do not be anxious.
We’re always called back to relationship with Jesus. Use this time to do so. Even as churches return to live-streaming, your prayer life can flourish. Open scripture. Break out your rosary. Join the live-streamed Mass. Zoom with faithful groups. This whole era is a call back to prayer. Hear it. Respond. We’ll be back for Brave III when we can. When we do, we’re going to celebrate and give some praise. Until then… Be brave. Trust the Lord. Do not be anxious.
Adam Jarosz is the Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry at St. Gregory the Great and the owner of Righteous Co.. His vocation involves loving his wife Ani and two babies (and one on the way), Isabella and Wyatt.
He also enjoys being active outdoors, getting gym time in, and writing. Yes.. tacos too.
This is a wild time in our nation. Not to be colloquial but society is in a wilderness right now. The story of race has been cut open new again and everyone is trying to figure out what to do with it. I’ve been listening, praying, and reading the various voices in the conversation of race. Left, right, and holy. The 1619 Project, Thomas Sowell, MLK, The Breakfast Club, Candace Owens, BLM, Larry Elder, Kimberly Jones, and Allen West amongst others. I’ve listened to black voices in the Church about their experience around this issue, including a “Coffee Talk” conversation I had with Fr. Moses, you can find it here.
What this article is, a commentary and challenge to get back into a place of dialog and debating of facts. To think as an individual and break from whatever narrative you are immersed in is the foundation of civil discourse. That means educating ourselves beyond the spheres we frequent. We have carved out idealogical lines with our families, friends, social media, and news outlets. Made tribes armed with spears. This closes our minds. Let your fingers loosen and defang yourself. A return to prayer softens the heart and clears the mind. We need a lot more of God if we’re going to solve the problems we’re facing in the 21st century.
What this is not, a full treatise on the topic. I’d be kidding myself if I thought I could solve or dive into all of the facts or perspectives involved in a quick read blog post but I would like to encourage you to tune into the various links and sources in the post for more reading. There are much smarter people engaged and my perspective is limited but what I will rely on are some of the black voices advocating in the scene.
While discerning my way through the conversation, something has become abundantly clear. There is a struggle of message in 2020. I think everyone can agree what happened to George Floyd was a terrible and ugly moment for the country and it was. Nobody cheered. Nobody celebrated. But the following month would have made it seem that the opposite was true. The nation exploded with fervor. The country took hold of passions and ran with them.
A loud collective voice took over and led what should have been a peaceful movement of solidarity turned into chaos. Riots and destruction in the streets, proclamations that the nation is systemically racist, that police need to be defunded, and our history should be torn down. And you have advocates stoking the fire saying that it’s legitimate. I disagree.
As a white man in America, I find that it is a little intimidating approaching the conversation, not because I have a problem with talking about tough conversations or that there is any shame, but there is a pressure out there to think a certain way, to tow a line. Cancel culture is very real and limits discussion and opportunity. In a free and liberal society, free speech is one of the most important pieces of our heritage. This is the most difficult article I’ve written but my nation, my voice.
First off, if you are judging someone based on the color of skin, you need to check yourself. As Americans and Christians, that is not who we’re called to be. Judging on race is cheap and thin-skinned. It’s dehumanizing and embarrassing. It is important to remember to love one another, to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus told us this as the second greatest commandment (Matt 22:38-40).
Our history is steeped in our racial divide. Slavery and the proceeding hundred years before the overturning of Jim Crow was terrible. As history, it’s important to read and learn about where we came from and have fought to overcome. It’s important to also know the history so you are not fed lies. It’s important to remember that it was blacks and whites who worked together to solve these problems. This isn’t an us versus them game as common narratives would claim. It’s going to be a just us mentality to bring healing and better opportunity for all.
I want to provide some contrast. If you’ve been observing, a lot of voices are saying that we need to listen. As President Obama has challenged lately, “make people uncomfortable.” Challenge: to listen to the other side. I’ve put down just a few samples of some of the most intriguing voices at work right now. The challenge here is for you to break outside of your tribe for a moment and pick another side below and listen to the argument. Go ahead. Hear it through. Is it convincing? What about it do you disagree with? Is there a common ground? Stretch a little.
Next level is to compare and contrast, who do you align with, and why?
I haven’t heard one argument that claims that black lives don’t matter. The phrase “black lives matters” is something everyone can get behind. Black people and culture of course has a place in this nation and should be protected and invested in. Yes, they matter.
Then there is the Black Lives Matters Movement, an ironclad identity that you would be foolish to oppose, because how could you ever get away with saying you don’t support Black Lives Matters? But here I am and here’s why I stand on this…
The ironclad wordplay is very clever, however there is much to BLM that I cannot get behind. First of all is in their mission, the disruption of the nuclear family, the unit on which society is built on. We know by stats that families that stay together have higher incomes, better health, and are overall happier. In a time when fatherlessness is at an all-time high for black families, why would we encourage otherwise?
Secondly, Patrisse Cullors, the founder of BLM, claims the ideological framework of the movement is Marxist. That they are trained that way. Marxist? The same ideology that is responsible for over 100 million deaths in the 20th century? That sought to enslave the world in an unjust economic system where liberty and opportunity are snuffed out? I’ll have more to say on this in the fourth installment in this series, “Socialism the Great Enslaver”.
Thirdly, one of the founding members, Shaun King is openly advocating for the destruction of Christian property and holy imagery. He’s not the only one. Aside from the fact that nearly every society has portrayed the Lord in local imagery, including Black and Asian Jesus, the Lord is someone who we are made in the image and likeness of. Christian art reflects that. The removal of national sites should be a democratic process with a vote where people in a community have a say, not the roving bands of brigands with an ax to grind. Most importantly, we need to recognize this for what it is, a hate crime against religion. You have no right to the destruction of other’s property and this level of incitement to violence to a specific faith, is actually a crime. There have been reports around the country of churches being vandalized. The St. Louis reports of Catholics being assaulted by praying by the statue of St. Louis himself is terrifying. They didn’t fight back. This is Marxism.
I’m all on board with the fact that black lives matters. If you think BLM is worthy of a knee, look again.
The greatest thing we can do as a country is to pray. If we’re going to solve anything, we need to put away our swords and do it together. If we are one nation, under God then let’s call ourselves back to that. Ourselves. Before we point out the splinter in someone else’s eye, we better work on the log in our own. For some reading this, you might roll your eyes at the God thing, but one thing is clear, we certainly don’t get our rights because of man.
It doesn’t matter what side of the lines you find yourself, this is a good time to check and see how you treat people. It starts in us and at home before we can ever go and change the world. If you have struggled in the past with seeing others who are different, through skin or ideology, gut check yourself. No, you don’t need to make a pressured social statement, just work on it. Stretch and learn. Lead with love. We have one home, let’s live up to what the country has set as our mission statement, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
If I can boil every conversation I have heard down to one point, it’s this. I hear a black community in desperate need of fair and fearless opportunity. We’ve been trying to solve this problem for the last sixty years through a liberal/progressive government ideology with terrible results, beginning with the Great Society. As Lyndon B. Johnson, a true racist, was heard saying, “I’ll have those $#% voting Democratic for 200 years.” I highly recommend Thomas Sowell, famed economist and advocate, to hear what he has to say about that experiment.
It’s time for a free market and entrepreneurial approach. Everywhere the free market principles are executed there is a rise of opportunity to those people. England, America, post-war Germany and Japan, South Korea, Israel, and more. We are the land of opportunity and we don’t need to burn it to the ground, we need to turn it up around the country in places like Chicago, St. Louis, and Baltimore. Let’s give more opportunities to support black small businesses and incentivize raising families and communities. Let’s teach free-market principles and entrepreneurship at young ages and inspire and encourage the vision through.
In addition, perhaps the most insidious is the long-running scourge of abortion in low-income communities. Planned Parenthood, founded by eugenist Margaret Sanger, is still targeting minorities with two out of every three surgical abortion sites in black/minority communities. The mindset of the Confederacy and White Supremacy, eugenics is the disgusting discipline of selective breeding. It is sadly still alive and well-disguised as women’s rights today. When black women represent 13% of the population and receive 30% of the abortions, there is a problem. As of 2008, that was over 1,000 babies a day. Over nineteen million since Roe v Wade. However, you won’t hear this on the news. If there has been a single effort at keeping the black community a minority, it’s this. I highly recommend you read Sanger’s words and read the abortion stats and not ignore this. This needs to end.
Lastly, we don’t need to defund the police and remove key protections for at-risk communities. What we need to do is have reform and better equip our police with the right training and accountability so they can do a better job at protecting justly. The vast majority of police are good but we do need to hear the fears of innocent people whose trust has been broken. Police do good work. Oversight, training, outreach, and reform can help rebuild relationships with police and the communities they serve. If we learned anything from CHOP/CHAZ, it’s that lawlessness is a disaster. We need to protect our communities because we’re only hurting ourselves. I’ve seen too many interviews where black business owners had their lives ruined because of lawlessness.
The benefit of hearing all sides of the situation and educating yourself is that you don’t just hear what one narrative is trying to sell you. There are so many problems facing our black brothers and sisters in society. It’s all of our jobs to make sure that we all rise together. This isn’t a black versus white issue. This is an us issue. We the people won the Civil War together. We the people beat Jim Crow and segregation together. We the people beat redlining and exclusionary banking together. And as we pursue the goal of “a more perfect Union”, we’ll beat our next hurdles together too.
Adam loves living out the vocation of marriage with his wife Ani, and proud father to Izzy and Wyatt. He loves God, getting outdoors, doing work that matters, and writing about things true to the heart.
There is a lot going on in this country. While I’ve been busy raising a family, building a ministry and a business, I’ve been away from advocating for Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness. There is a lot to say about what’s going on. That’s why I’m going to stand up and share my thoughts about this year, but not only that, it’s time to stretch and get active.
And a year it has been.
Big things are happening and “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
Racism, Marxism, Desecration of the Faith, Desecration of our History, Vice over Virtue…
It’s time to get busy.
As a Catholic American man I don’t want to stand by and watch our country burn. Enough. This is has been a call to action. As a part of the effort; my daily rosary, phoning my legislature and executives, writing in this blog, and more.
This is the introduction of a six series stretch, focused on this year, about six topics that we need to talk about. I’ve listened and read enough over the last few months from all sides, it’s time to share and challenge the narratives wrecking our country and faith. On the schedule…
Race & Racism
America the Great Liberator
The Great Hypo-cracy
Socialism the Great Enslaver
I hope you read along and share but more importantly pray and get brave.
No, we’re not looting but we are getting busy.
Adam loves living out the vocation of marriage with his wife Ani, and proud father to Izzy and Wyatt. He loves God, getting outdoors, doing work that matters, and writing about things true to the heart.
This is a adaptation of a reflection I gave yesterday online for the parish. As I’ve been personally reflecting on the environment we find ourselves in, I’m drawn to the lessons of history to find a way through. Old Testament, New Testament, and history since, the Lord is always calling us to pray and fear not. A timeless lesson.
The Lord moves through history, after all it’s HIStory. I love history. Especially listening to podcasts about it. Right now I’ve been digesting What We Saw: The Cold War and my favorite over the years, Revolutions. There is so much to pull from the tides of history, lessons learned can save us heartache. What I would like to do here is highlight how the 20th century can reflect us in the 21st.
I’m going to start in 1917, just over 100 years ago. Our Lady appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal. The signs and wonders that came from her messages revealed three things I would like to highlight,
1. Recite the rosary everyday for peace in the world and for the end to WWI. However if people don’t continue offending the Lord there will be a second and more deadly war.
2. Establish a devotion in the world to her Immaculate Heart
3. Consecration of Russia, otherwise she will destroy nations and oppress the faithful.
The requests fell on mixed ears. People were already praying for the end of the Great War, so adding more was a natural inclination. Dedicating Russia? Fell on deaf ears and didn’t happen. Later that same year, the Tsar was overthrown and the Communist regime took power. We’ll set that aside for now, and let it simmer. Or fester if you will.
The very next year on November 11,1918, known then as Armistice Day or as we call it today, Veteran’s Day, ended World War I with much rejoicing. That is unless you were Germany in which you were saddled with crippling reparations that would later breed resentment and the rise of the Nazi’s.
Two years later however, we enter the decade of the “Roaring 20’s”! Life was improving as the modern era took hold with electricity, cars, and planes arriving across society. Literature like the Great Gatsby capture the imagination in this fast paced decade with flappers, prohibition, and high flying stocks. Interestingly enough we see the start of our own decade with memes and social posts reflecting the same title of the “Roaring 20’s” here and now.
What tends to happen when things go well in society? We get distracted. We get busy. We lose sight of our relationship with God. Materialism and hedonism tend to rule our time and imaginations. It isn’t the Lord that walks away from us but we who walk away from Him. During this time, people became distracted and didn’t hear the call from Fatima.
Black Tuesday, 1929. The market crashed. This launched a decade of poverty and desolation across the world. Food lines and high unemployment along with failing crops in the Dust Bowl are reflected in works such as Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath.
I remember my grandma telling us stories of the Great Depression and living frugally her whole life. She would share tales of being out in a field in Springville as a kid, picking beans to bring home a little money for the family. I was a witness to one of the last times she, my mom, and aunts canned for the last time. I never liked canned tomatoes. A skill obtained from the time that was necessary. I wouldn’t know where to start today, never needed to because you can just grab it at the store. Stores never fail.
One of my grandma’s favorite scripture quotes, that has since become one of mine as well, is Psalm 91. Fittingly it seems to fit times such as these as the Lord is always reaching for us. Hard times always seems to be an opportunity for us to hear him more clearly.
Thankfully the Great Depression eased. Only for the price of the second Great War. The Great Depression fueled resentment in Germany as normal people carted wheelbarrows of marks for bread. The rise of the Nazi’s fed off of this and seized power from a weak and unsupported republic. The Soviets consolidated their power and crushed dissension in their motherland.
World War II killed over 75 million people. People raised in this age knew fear. They knew anxiety. Real fear was marching into a death camp or staring down the hull of your landing craft approaching Omaha beach. Fear was wondering if your loved one was coming home or if you were coming home in a pine box.
The world went from World War II straight into the Cold War, marking peak of the communist, atheistic, Soviet regime behind the Iron Curtain. The Nazi’s were notorious for a methodological and industrial process in exterminating over 11 million in camps that I had the honor of walking in myself. The Soviets however. Over 27 million perished because of their reign, inside the motherland and reaching across the world. The close ideological brethren in China, killed over 45 million in the Great Leap Forward.
Fear and anxiety now covered the world because of the reaches of the Atomic Age. Rocketry and splitting of the atom was sure to deliver a sun at anyone’s doorstep within twenty minutes of the press of a button. Only thing you could do was pray and hide under the desk.
Headlines from this era consisted of the Berlin Airlift, The Korean War, Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the brutal Vietnam War. From the Bolshevik takeover in 1918, atheistic Communism, started in Russia, claimed over 100 million lives.
In the midst of all the fear and evil in the world, there was certainly hope. With great fear comes the Hope and Love of the Lord. In desperate times comes great Saints who rise to the occasion not because of some chemical or program but cause of great faith. Just to highlight a few humble 20th century Saints below who lived a relationship with the Lord and let Him guide them in dire times…
1930’s, Sr. Faustina shares the message of the Divine Mercy, along with that is the famous image and chaplet of the Lord. She passed away from an illness, tuberculosis, in Poland at 33 years old, the Jesus year, just before the outbreak of the War in Europe.
1941, Fr. Maximillion Kolbe gives his life in place of a father at the death camp at Auschwitz, Poland.
1978, Pope John Paul II in his inaugural address, stared down the communist leaders in Poland and the Soviet Union and told the people to “Be not afraid!” as he led the Poles and the world in faithful fortitude.
Since the failure of consecrating Russia in 1917, the Church rallied and not only consecrated Russia but the world. By 1989, the iron grip of the Soviets was spent and outmatched. In the end, they couldn’t stomp out the flame of faith and hope. The hope for peace prevailed. By the power of prayer, martyrdom, and the blessings of ingenuity of the free world, the predicted Russia terror was over.
Now we as the free world are asked by Saint John Paul II, “Yes free, but free to do what?”
We’re just twenty percent into our own century but by this time in the last, those Saints were already walking, working, and living out a mission. They were youth and young adults. Who are the Saints of the 21st? They could be you. You just have to decide to be one. It starts with an invitation of the Lord. Difficult times gives us pause and a chance to reflect on our relationship with Him. How do we heed the call to prayer? More time. Less distractions. Clarity. He has only been calling for us for all of history. HIStory.
I’ll leave one last reflection below, just simply an except from Saint John Paul II’s inaugural address I referenced earlier. I think you may find hope and a timeless relevancy in it…
“Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “what is in man”. He alone knows it. So often today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.“ JPII – inaugural address October 22, 1978
Adam Jarosz is the Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry at St. Gregory the Great and the owner of Righteous Co. Adam loves living out the vocation of marriage with his wife Ani, and proud father to Izzy and Wyatt.
You can follow his work at stgregsym.org and righteousco.com.
Virtue: behavior showing high moral standards.synonyms: goodness, virtuousness, righteousness, morality, ethicalness, uprightness
How often do you consider virtue in your leadership role or organization? Not a lot? Let’s talk about how it can actually build up the core strength of your culture by intentionally giving it a home. I’ll be revisiting the various virtues and their application overtime but for now I’d like to give a broad overview for you to consider beyond your old college ethics class. If you’ve taken a personality test like the Meyers-Briggs or Enneagram, you may find these virtues helpful in shoring up your shortcomings.
Let’s start with the Cardinals or “hinge” virtues, four prime virtues that all other virtue hinges off of. Prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. These four have long history starting with Plato, working their way through time being refined by great thinkers such as Aristotle and Aquinas. Fascinating reads of course but these classics are just as relevant in the 21st century as they did in antiquity. Why? They speak to foundational character that is timeless.
Prudence: In other words, wisdom, taking knowledge and using it correctly. Are you making wise decisions as a leader? Are you giving permission to your staff to make wise decisions? Better yet, are you allowing and showing patience to your team so they can grow in wisdom, even if they fail. One of the greatest teachers is experience. Are you allowing yourself and/or your team to make mistakes that come with earned experience? If we don’t have that permission, albeit within control, then outside of the box thinking and creativity can be stifled. We lose depth and can stagnate.
Temperance: How are you temperate or reasonable in your work flow. If you’re an Enneagram 7 like me, you can chase ideas on a whim and get scattered pretty easily. Maybe you can get angry quickly as a 4 or 8. Working on your temperance strengthens your ability to control outbursts and time. Staying level and having self-control is important to leading stability.
Justice: Think about your team. Maybe they are staff, maybe volunteers. How are you treating them? Naturally, you’ll like some more than others but are you being equitable? Are you giving fair time and attention to each or are you punishing someone with unfair demands or even dialog? Maybe a hard working team member needs a justifiable raise. Maybe that failing or toxic member needs to be released? Communicating expectations and working on how you deliver justice helps build respect from your team.
Fortitude: Be brave. Leaders are faced with tough and sticky decisions or actions everyday. Creating vision, large investments, hiring/firing, accountability, etc. Indecision can slow down your progress and make organizations clunky. Bravery is action, even when you are afraid. Sometimes you need coaching or practice to move forward. If you’re a Enneagram 9, you might want to think this through.
Using the Cardinals is an easy way to check yourself as a leader and gives a little scaffolding to work from. Add these to your planner and ask yourself, how are you doing with them. You’ll find that by building off of this foundation of virtue, you’ll be leading a healthier team and more important a healthier you.
Adam Jarosz is the founder of Righteous Co. His vocation involves loving his wife Ani and two babies, Isabella and Wyatt. He also loves writing, hitting the weights, and building people up. Need advice on how to use your skills? Shoot him a message AdamJ@RighteousCo.com.
By Church, I mean you and me, the Body of Christ. This means the faithful of course but I specifically want to address the youth and young adults out there. You’re not the Church of tomorrow, you’re the Church of today. Here is the field we are playing in and we need to get at it…
2019 A.D. in Buffalo, NY, the Church is taking a beating. Of course the Church has been through worse in history. Christians aren’t being fed to lions or lit on fire to illuminate the roads. But we have been better. What’s more, we can be better.
A few decades of erosion have been working on our foundation. Lack of engagement, uninspired faithfulness, relativism, and scandal have given our Church a weathered attitude. This is not the story of being Catholic. It’s time to snap out of it.
The Church which includes our parishes and Diocese as well as charities, schools, and ministries are sagging under the pressures. I want to use this moment of your attention to call you to arms. We can’t run from the fire, we need to run to it.
It’s time to get in the game. Ask not what the Church can do for you, but what you can do for the Church. If we are the hands and feet of Christ, how are we moving? If our Body isn’t in motion, then we don’t move forward.
Here is how you can help us win the fight for a better Church.
1. Pray: Make the time to get back into the pews (or chairs if the church is under repair) on Sunday. Be a part of the community prayer in the Mass. Show up, participate, listen, sing, learn, and reconnect. Pick up your bible and start with the Gospels or visit Jesus in Adoration. Pray for one another.
If you’re not registered at a parish and young adults are notorious with this, go to a parish and commit to the community. Stop bouncing around or leaning on the coattails of your parent’s registration. Belong and commit.
Get in the game.
2. Time: There are plenty of roles that need to be done that just require some time and not a lot of training. Find them, commit to a time slot in a ministry that needs help. Greeters, core teams, catechists, money counters, Eucharistic ministers, and so on. Follow your strengths. Pick up the bulletin or look it up online and see a role that could use some hands.
Try things out. Find what clicks and stay long enough to be a leader and make changes if needed. Just don’t go in like a bull in a china shop. Be humble and learn from the role and the leader in place.
Get in the game.
3. Talent: In addition to roles that need to be done, the Church needs your talent. You have skill. You’re good at that one thing. What is it? How can you use it in the Church? Ask someone how you can plug it in. Can you donate that skill? Can you apply that full-time?
Are you in banking or finance? Marketing and design? Build websites? IT? Barista and can make a good coffee? Set designer? Corporate trainer? CRM specialist? Chef?
Get in the game.
4. Treasure: Yes the Church needs money to run. It especially needs funds to grow. I know, I know, you don’t want to pay for the scandal but let me put your mind at rest.
Your donation in the envelope doesn’t go towards that. Upon This Rock doesn’t go towards that. Catholic Charities and Fund for the Faith doesn’t go towards that. The bishop sold his residence and some investments to do so. We’re also covered in insurance. If you’re running from the fire, it’s giving people on the front line less to work with. That’s us going backwards.
Give your first fruits and be regular. Can you commit to 10% of your income? Shoot, can you commit to $20 a week? Lights need to be on, youth ministers need budgets, and the Church needs tools and people.
“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered” Proverbs 11:25
Roll up your sleeves, get in the game, and let the Lord use you and your resources. Come with a servant’s attitude. Take a bit of that drive you have for school and workplace and bring it to God’s House. Give your first fruits of prayer, time, talent, and/or treasure.
Collections and participation are down around the Diocese by 10-20% this year alone. The older generation that has been supporting the Church is dying off. Imagine what we would look like if we brought our talent and resources back into the game? Run to the fire. Take this to prayer with you. Ask the Lord how you can help. He’s knocking.
Franklin: Because the people, on tasting the dish, are always disposed to eat more of it than does them good.
What happened at the Capitol last week was dangerous. But perhaps not just for the reasons you think. We’re living in perilous times and if we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves at war with… ourselves. You can certainly feel the tension. You would have to be sleeping under a rock if you are now just becoming aware of it. It didn’t start here however as some will have you believe. We’re seeing a Great Hypocrisy run wild in our Democracy (ok Democratic Republic, but the line was too good to pass up).
President Trump was impeached for the second time, only days from writing this. What is remarkable, is that the case could actually be made for this and be reasonable, unlike the first, but politics being Kabuki theater, was rushed through. Up to this point, his team had every legal opportunity at their disposal to prove malfeasance. The media would say the assault of the Capitol was the Rubicon.
I’d argue differently, the President has every right to gather people wherever and whenever, peacefully. I don’t think he intended to storm the building with violence. He is more of a WWE showman than revolutionary in attitude. A smaller portion of supporters split off from a largely peaceful rally, with agitators from the left embedded as well and overran security. You would think however according to the popular current, that 74 million people did. Every one of those perpetrators who broke in should be prosecuted in court, and rightly, are being pursued. It was all a failure. An embarrassment for our country. We’ll know more as details unveil themselves.
I don’t think that was President Trump’s perilous move however. While a black eye to the country and we were blessed that it wasn’t worse, his real failure was the pressure of Vice President Pence to give himself powers he didn’t have. That is dangerous. That is where he failed. When we anchor ourselves as we do to the Constitution, it becomes clear when tyranny comes in. The tyrannical move here, wasn’t President Trump’s lack of wisdom in his end game but the direct move to usurp powers that were not granted. The electoral game should have been won long before that if he had a chance at winning the election but this isn’t commentary on Republican electoral strategy. To be fair, I’m simply calling out the right’s failure.
The left is not off the hook for responsibility of the state of our country. Upon this sad moment, I’ve taken notice of the reaction. I’ve noticed the rage and anger, justified, at the sight of the besieged Capitol. I’ve also noticed commentary in media and in friends feeds giving victory laps, show-boating that we should have expected this, as if innocent themselves. I’ve noticed a swift censoring and the calling of “deprogramming” of conservatives, who unjustly are swept into one broad dustbin and straw-maned.
I’ve also noticed tyrannical fruit from the leftist tree in the form of collusion between large companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon, banks, PGA, among others and Democratic messaging to silence opposing viewpoints. It’s easy to shut down someone who isn’t popular like Trump. A dictator isn’t the loud mouth, it’s the one silencing it’s opposition.
The great hypocrisy here is two fold: 1. Where was this outrage when violence ran through the streets this summer? 2. Where is the outrage for the overt tyranny that is now taking place?
Because I don’t remember the same groups, outlets, and friends having the same standard when applied to earlier this year. Actually it is eerily reflective of group think. (Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when a group of well-intentioned people makes irrational or non-optimal decisions spurred by the urge to conform or the belief that dissent is impossible (psychologytoday).
As I watched the vote count of the Electoral College after they returned, a Congressman commented about a false equivalency between what happened at the Capitol and this summer. Another said that these hallowed grounds are the tabernacle of our democracy and this was a desecration. I would agree that watching the seat of our national governance under siege is terrible, I think most rational people would. What I don’t understand is how you can watch as businesses and homes burn, statues undemocratically get toppled, people beaten and killed in the streets, sections of cities claimed autonomous and turn a blind eye, and not feel the same pain. As if violence and insurrection is only terrible if it’s the other team’s players.
The right isn’t rallying behind the Air Force woman who was killed and telling you to say her name. Or blacking out social media to dissenting voices. Or intimidating people to kneel before them to show support. Or using the private sector to censor ones ability to communicate. That is happening on the left.
Everyone has their cause and justice should be blind. The left and right should beware of group think and consider their own hypocrisy before pointing out someone else’s. If President Trump’s charge of incitement is punishable, should not the actions and promptings of the Congressional leaders who advocated for violence last summer? Or perhaps the same application of fairness when the Bernie Sanders supporter who shot up the Republican baseball game, critically wounding Congressman Scalise and garnering crickets? Can we not get on the same page and equally say that we want peaceful rallies, that we want fair justice, that violence in the street is not a good thing, that free speech is imperative – even when we disagree, and lastly that liberty is not shutting down others ability to think openly? What I’m afraid of, is that the answer to that, is no, but that’s not American ideal.
We need to be careful and reject tyranny within ourselves. We all have a right to our own viewpoints. You don’t have the right to silence or intimidate others. Vigorously fight for your belief but violence isn’t the way. Follow and consider facts, even if it’s not popular then live it out so it’s so attractive someone else would want to see what it’s about.
I’ve been to D.C. a number of times and seen many things but what I’ll never forget is the Holocaust Museum. There is a poem that is engrained in my mind upon the walls as you leave written by a survivor…
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me
If censoring is allowed to happen to one group, you better believe it can happen to you. Don’t let groupthink settle you into the the great hypocrisy. Let freedom ring for all.
1492, began a radical change in the world’s history. Aside from brief excursions like that of the Vikings, Old and New Worlds remained separated for millennia. Columbus’ voyage opened a collision between two worlds that have not engaged with each other since the Bering land bridge flooded over fifteen thousand years ago. I highly recommend the book “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond for commentary on the disparity between the worlds.
My purpose with this post is to highlight the darkness of human governance pre-America and how our formation helped break much of the norms up to that point. It would be impossible to cover the depths of this history, so I will cover broad strokes. The formation of the United States wasn’t an act of evil and certainly didn’t form an evil nation. I will argue the opposite, that the U.S., despite the scars of slavery and Native warfare, has served the world as a net positive overcoming the stains of a world through the struggle to serve as a catalyst for change.
Proceeding the ignition of the Age of Exploration and the landings of Columbus, a few European powers took advantage of the disparity between worlds. Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, then England and France raced around the world building a mercantilist world economy that served to feed the mother countries. The slave trade became lucrative with willing accomplices based in Africa, happy to make a buck (or doubloon for you Spaniards) and not be a victim themselves. These empires toppled other empires such as the Maya and Aztecs in North America and were happy to edge out the competitive Ottoman, Chinese, and Mughal Empires.
1619, with last year marking 400 years since the beginning of slavery in the English colonies, was an anchor point for our history. While the history is not clean-cut, with many slaves and indentured servants being of a variety of races from African, Indigenous, and even European populations earlier than that, it marks a point on the timeline that we can point to as a starting point for what the U.S. was born into. Slavery was not a uniquely European quality however. Despite thousands of years of separation, the North American Indigenous Empires still developed the flaw of slave ownership before the Europeans arrived in the 15th century. This as well as the Ottomans and Moors, among others, used human capital for economic gain. This was a human issue that went unresolved even as the clarity of human rights through Christianity spread throughout the world in thanks to missionaries like the Jesuits. Those who prospered under the financial gain simply turned a blind eye to that which Christ taught in the Gospels.
As the dominant empires grew and established colonies, there was little respect for even these settled populations. This elitism festered. In the darkness of this time period of tyranny, there was also light. If this was an environment, it wasn’t all a dark canopy or a lightless cave. The sun did shine and there was a flourishing even in the midst of this hyper-competitive age. A hunger began to build through the heritage of the English colonies and the Enlightenment for freedom. Not freedom for whiteness, but freedom for all man. While theologically messy, this period set up in the New World a powder keg to dismantle the Old.
1776, The American Revolution was the spark to begin that dismantling with the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” We were designed by our Maker to be free and that no man has the Right to take that away. Even the deist fathers recognized this. Our founders were unable to shake the scourge of slavery engrained from mercantilist England in their time. It would have been impossible to win both the Revolution and Civil War at the same time in 1776. Step by step in our history, we walked closer to the aim of “a more perfect union.” The framework the Founders set up would be a framework that would create an environment where tyranny would have no home and that freedom was our national pursuit. The envy of the world. What millions of people, even to this day will leave their homes behind for a new opportunity.
1861, compromise was impossible. Making two systems work to keep the House together, the slave states decided that a framework of liberty for all was incompatible for their future in the union. They broke away. A terrible war ignited across our land as we fought to keep our people free and keep us together. Whites and free blacks fought in the grizzly Civil War which resulted in the Emancipation of slaves. We would spend the next one hundred years wrestling for equal rights for all and those wounds are still healing today.
The lessons and technologies developed from the Civil War prepared us as an emerging power in what would be the greatest fights in human history. While the scale of competition between the empires of the 19th century was truly global, it wasn’t until the 20th century when we experienced not only one but two World Wars followed by the Cold War. Our rebellion against the Old World made us a force to return back and strike the heart of the truly brutal philosophies of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, Imperial Japan, and the worst of all, the Soviet Union and her allies. An even greater foe to liberty than slavery or monarchy, Marxist powers sought to enslave the world. Now that is for an upcoming post. As our history and people continue, we strive and fight for liberty. These powers cost the world over an estimated 200 million souls. Our efforts freed hundreds of millions from the clutches of evil and poverty.
By bringing a freshly united, reconstructed, and powerfully industrialized U.S. in support of and then leading the free world, humanity stood a chance in the face of extreme evil. Our supplies and fresh troops in WWI tipped the balance to victory. Our bravery, ability to fight two fronts, and industrial might in WWII created a decisive alliance. Our technological leaps because of our economical forte matched by the contrast of Communism vs Free Market sealed the Soviet destiny to doom.
Our default human condition is tyranny and human history is dark with it, shading parts of our own. What makes us different is our governmental DNA. Our foundation from 1776 stages our future, sets our aim, to create an environment to raise our children, grow our culture, and to prosper. This sets the rules, architecture, and bounds for how the culture wars play out. Just a hint for the next post. This is what it means to be American, for us to pursue Happiness is to agree on our shared identity. As Americans. Under God and indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Left and right. We’ve struggled together to fight tyranny here in our Union. First to overthrow the Old World and create a new. Second, we had to work hard to make sure all Americans were included. Third, we brought the weight of what that liberty can create to fight the tyrannical monsters of the 20th and now 21st century’s.
The actions in our history have been that of a liberator. No, it’s not as pretty as a 1940’s reel but through the gritty real force of a people endowed by their Creator, the foundation of our Nation has created immense opportunity around the world because of the blood of those who fought for freedom. When we can agree that what we are fighting for, liberty and justice for all, we’re not our own enemies. When we stand for our flag, all of this is stitched into it. Our nation and our history is nothing to be ashamed of. We should be proud of our shared history. We have progressed greatly towards a more perfect union but not as political progressives would have us running away from it. Humanity’s default is tyrannical. We should be wise of what we hear these days or we will risk it all. As it’s been said, we’re always one generation away from throwing away our liberty. To stay true to our mission we need to use God, the virtues, and our founding principles as a compass and you can’t steer a ship without one.
Adam loves living out the vocation of marriage with his wife Ani, and proud father to Izzy and Wyatt. He loves God, getting outdoors, doing work that matters, and writing about things true to the heart.
Dreamers and doers, you know what is difficult? Maintaining the fire.
It’s been a tough month with juggling time and fatigue. The full time job has been consuming. The babies, not sleeping. Home projects falling behind. The entrepreneurial side-hustle? Coals cooling.
If I’m going to use the locomotive as a metaphor, you can’t pull a train when the coals are cold. As I’m looking at my train sitting on the tracks, I know what it’s going to take to get it moving. I need to re-apply myself. One-step at a time, picking up where I left off. While it’s important to break and rest, the train needs to get to it’s destination.
What’s going to get the steam moving? Fuel. What’s my fuel? My purpose. What’s my purpose? My faith and family. Both of those get me up in the morning. I wake up alongside my wife and the kids act as an alarm clock, at 4am, 5am, or 6am and anywhere in between. That’s ok. I know I’m here to serve my purpose, the rest is nuts and bolts. Sometimes, you just need to remind yourself of that to get the fire going again. All the other stuff that slows you down is smaller and inconsequential. You just need to get the fire going again to blow through to the next train station.
As we dig and build out our visions using the various tool belts at our disposal, it’s important to feed the engine that drives it all. What is your purpose and are you feeding it? Are you stoking the fire?
The 3Tips Series continues with financial planner, firefighter, and fellow former Disney cast member, Greg Smith. Greg joined me over good Mexican food and cerveza for a conversation about what tips he would share to leaders getting up and at it. As a go-getter himself, Greg provides some excellent tips to ground yourself with as a leader. Consider applying these to your routine. Here is what he had to say…
Be mindful with your time. “Success does not sleep. When you look at the successful person, the day starts with a solid morning routine. Wake up early, hit the gym, eat a hearty breakfast all before getting into the office. That starts each day on the right foot so you can get at it.” After sipping a Corona he continues, “Be intentional with your time and plan out the day. You always need to be on too. You’re always on even outside of the office because you don’t know who you are going to meet and influence. Opportunity could be everywhere.”
You are never too old to learn. “If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards. You need to make the necessary steps to grow everyday, be the best you can be; continuing education, counseling, podcasts, reading, etc. You are never too old to learn.”
Always put others interests ahead of you. “Whether volunteering or working, God’s blessings keep coming. Good people put others interests ahead of their own. As a firefighter, we have a duty towards all of our brothers and sisters in the community. Whoever you serve, you have the duty to them. Remember, even as a leader, you still serve your team.” Stopping to chew on his burrito bowl and think, Greg looked around the busy restaurant. As if catching inspiration from the hustle he continued, “An example of this is from Luke where Jesus left the ninety-nine for the one. We can apply this in any role we find ourselves in. The most vulnerable can get lost and we should keep an eye for that individual and work to find them. We need empathy towards their situation. The fruit of this will show in your work. It’s habitual and that habit grows like a seed.”
To wrap up, we caught up over life, family, and jobs. Before we polished off our food and beer Greg had one final thought, “Sometimes you’ll slow down and be tempted to stop. When you have a bad day, keep going. When you have a good day, keep going. Not all bad days last, just keep going.”
Greg Smith is a financial consultant for AXA Advisors and a Williamsville, NY volunteer firefighter. You can catch Greg out doing what he does best, serving others. Interested in finding out how Greg can help your finances? You can reach him at his email here.