Crossroads Pursuit – Crossroads Initiative https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com The #1 Source for Catholic Resources Tue, 16 Feb 2016 23:48:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2 Advent: The Season of the Wild-Haired, Crazy Man https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/advent-the-season-of-the-wild-haired-crazy-man/ https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/advent-the-season-of-the-wild-haired-crazy-man/#respond Mon, 28 Nov 2016 14:03:22 +0000 https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/?p=5440 Isn’t Advent great? Welcome to the season where the only song we sing for four weeks is O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! It’s the best! Advent is my favorite season, and not just because, as a music minister, I get to play more songs with minor keys. Advent is my favorite...

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Isn’t Advent great? Welcome to the season where the only song we sing for four weeks is O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! It’s the best! Advent is my favorite season, and not just because, as a music minister, I get to play more songs with minor keys. Advent is my favorite season because it is the season of the wild-haired, crazy guy. Advent is summed up in the following words: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight his paths.’” Matthew 3:3. That voice of the one in the wilderness? That’s John the Baptist.

Locusts and Wild Honey, anyone?

John the Baptist, as we all know, was clearly not your typical Christian preacher. We’re accustomed to bank manager-type priests. You know who I’m talking about. The “my dear friends,” perfect comb-over, big-wide-welcome-outstretched hands, no controversy, I-collect-stamps-in-my-free-time, normal type.

YOU KNOW, THIS GUY.

We like that priest in America. We like him because he doesn’t challenge us. We know what to expect with him. He’ll keep mass short, won’t push us to take Jesus seriously, and lets church stay in church. So, what does the American sensibility do with John the Baptist? Just listen to this guy Matthew’s description:

“John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. –Matthew 3:4

Here’s a question: Would YOU go get baptized by this maniac? Or better yet, would you go to a Catholic conference if the keynote speaker looked like a homeless dude? But the shock value doesn’t stop at his appearance. Listen to what John the Baptist says to the Jews when they come out to see what this homeless-looking prophet is all about:

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. –Matthew 3:7-10

I can only imagine his first disciples hearing that and saying: “Woah, that just got a little too real, man. Chill out, John, why do you have to say things like that? You’ve got to meet people where they are.” But that’s not John’s approach. He doesn’t do the “My dear friends,” wide-welcoming arms thing. He cuts right to the heart. The Jews took their salvation for granted by virtue of the fact that they had descended from Abraham. They felt entitled to God’s grace, and he told them how much that entitlement was worth: “Out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”

That’s why I think his words to the Jews are so profoundly meaningful to us entitled, American Catholics. According to John, God’s got sons but no grandsons; he’s got daughters, but no granddaughters. In other words, you don’t get into Heaven because you went to Catholic school and learned your prayers and go to church on Sundays. You don’t get in because your parents were Catholic and their parents were Catholic.

So how do you get in?

Repentance Fruit!

Bear fruit of repentance. That means your life has to CHANGE. The fruit of repentance is change. How much is an apology worth if you don’t change the action that caused the offense? Nothing. That is what Advent is about, my dear dear dear dear friends: bearing the fruit of repentance. John the Baptist’s words to his disciples say it all:

“He must increase, but I must decrease. –John 3:30

During Advent, we spurn comfort, we turn away from our old ways, and prepare the paths for Christ to enter in.

John the Baptist is a shocking figure. He stands in stark contrast to our modern sensibilities and tendency toward comfort. During Advent, God calls the people to come out of the comforts of their homes, out of the safety of their city walls, back to the one place where they learned long ago to rely solely and completely on Him: the wilderness.

Let’s go into the wilderness together this Advent, let’s let the Lord remove from us the selfishness, the entitlement, and the lethargy that so often characterizes our inner lives. Let’s say with John the Baptist, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

For more great resources for the Advent Season, visit the Crossroads Initiative ADVENT RESOURCE LIBRARY

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3 Crazy Ways Christianity & Islam Are Totally Different https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/3-crazy-ways-christianity-islam-are-totally-different/ https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/3-crazy-ways-christianity-islam-are-totally-different/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 15:06:13 +0000 https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/?p=5564 Most Americans tend to think of religion as something rather fluid. It’s very common for us to say things like “all religions are basically the same,” and “we’re all just pursuing god on our own path.” What a religion ACTUALLY BELIEVES is just not seen...

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Most Americans tend to think of religion as something rather fluid. It’s very common for us to say things like “all religions are basically the same,” and “we’re all just pursuing god on our own path.” What a religion ACTUALLY BELIEVES is just not seen as that important. But, as some famous person somewhere once said, “you become what you believe.”

It was most definitely Oprah

It is also very common for the American media to talk about “Muslim extremists,” by which they refer to the small, fringe group of people who actually believe in orthodox Islam. Muslims who follow what Islam actually teaches are not “fanatics.” They are simply Muslims, and the same goes for Christianity.

Maybe you don’t believe that specific tenets of faith are important at all to salvation. Perhaps you are one of these “many paths up the mountain,” people. That’s all well and good. I wish you luck on your journey. However, even if you think that beliefs are unimportant to God, perhaps you can concede some small ground. At least let’s all agree that if one applies belief to life, belief leads to action, and action impacts our world. So lets look at three interesting ways that Islam and Christianity just don’t quite line up. I’ll let you decide which one, if lived, might have the better impact on the human race.

1. JOY

downloadatola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISLAM

“Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious.”  Ayatollah Khomeini

CHRISTIANITY

“Joy is a gift from God. It fills us from within. It is like an anointing of the Spirit. And this joy is the certainty that Jesus is with us and with the Father.” Pope Francis in his Christmas homily last year.

Pope Francis is absolutely speaking the message of Jesus, whose Spirit is Joy itself.  As he says in scripture: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

– John 15:9-11

2. Love

rules heart

ISLAM

The Arabic word love, “hubb,” in all its grammatical forms, is used only 69 times in the Qur’an. Out of those 69 times, God’s love for man is mentioned only 20 times, and only in relation to what he loves and does not love. For example:  “Those that keep their plighted faith and act aright, — verily Allah loves those who act aright.” 3:76

CHRISTIANITY

Just in ONE CHAPTER of scripture, “love” is used 27 times.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love….” I John 4:7-8

The New Testament alone lists 223 uses of a comparable translation of the word “love.”

3. HEAVEN

heaven

ISLAM

Allah’s Apostle (The blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “In Paradise there is a pavilion made of a single hollow pearl sixty miles wide, in each corner of which there are wives who will not see those in the other corners; and the believers will visit and enjoy them.” Sahih Al-Bukhari 4879.

Sounds like a great place for men if you’re a sex addict! Doesn’t sound so good for women though. But that’s ok, because most women won’t make it:

“O women! Give to charity, for I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-Fire were women.. You curse frequently, and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you.” Sahih Al-Bukhari 1462

CHRISTIANITY

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 8:4-6

“Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. Luke 14:21-23

Who does God have a heart for, according to Christianity? The poor, the oppressed, the suffering, the outcasts.  In Christianity, heaven is a place of complete unity where the lowly are lifted up and the high and mighty are made low. Sounds like a win to me.

FINAL SCORE:

CHRISTIANITY 3. ISLAM 0.

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3 Really Good Reasons to Forget Buzzfeed & Get Married Early https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/3-really-good-reasons-to-forget-buzzfeed-get-married-early/ https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/3-really-good-reasons-to-forget-buzzfeed-get-married-early/#respond Fri, 12 Feb 2016 15:01:07 +0000 https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/?p=5561 “Settling Down.” You hear the phrase all the time. Images of Bryan, the soulless office drone, hunched over a computer while fluorescent lighting flickers overhead. He’s working the ol’ 9 to 5 grind to provide for his nagging wife and their four-year-old nightmare. Once, he dreamed...

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“Settling Down.” You hear the phrase all the time. Images of Bryan, the soulless office drone, hunched over a computer while fluorescent lighting flickers overhead. He’s working the ol’ 9 to 5 grind to provide for his nagging wife and their four-year-old nightmare. Once, he dreamed of being the first to summit Mount Kilimanjaro naked. Now, his life’s greatest desire is to take a baseball bat to that f**ing printer that always f**ing prints error pages whenever he has to give presentations. He’s “settled down.”

A young, but haggard wife is cooking dinner for her husband who gets home in an hour. She’s dispassionately stirring a bubbling pot of stew as she daydreams about camel rides in Kabul and tango lessons with that Argentinian dance instructor. If only she had waited to get married—just a few more years. She sighs, and realizes the bottom of the stew is burning. She’s “settled down.”

When young people think of themselves married nowadays, these sorts of silly images flood in and take over. We think from the moment that ring is thrust on our ring finger that our fun is done. Any dreams, aspirations, or plans we had for ourselves have to be put on the proverbial shelf so we can despair upon the mounds of dust they collect over our meaningless lifetimes.

That’s why we have videos like this one:

The notion Buzzfeed puts forward is mirrored in many millennials and young people today. The idea is that, before we tie ourselves to our boring, miserable existence of marriage and child rearing, we need to get out there and SEE THE WORLD. We need to Little Mermaid it up and run away from home, amass a neat collection of whosits and whatsits, and fall in love with the guy your dad hates the absolute most.

“Go travel,” says Buzzfeed, “set personal goals for yourself. Look at ALL the neat stuff and see just how amazingly neat it really is.

No, Ariel. All this is trash and you are a hoarder.

According to Buzzfeed, we must experience the world before we’re forced into a claustrophobic hell of domesticity!

I’m all for experiencing the world. It’s absolutely necessary to break from the grind and do something memorable and personally rewarding for yourself. God gave us this world to experience it, and we rightly should. But here’s the thing: God didn’t create marriage to be a giant, impenetrable wall that keeps us from fulfilling our dreams. In fact, that’s precisely what marriage isnot.

There’s absolutely no reason why someone can’t travel, or do any of the “before settling down” things while “settled down.” I mean, I don’t know if you watched the same video as me (I do know, because I linked you to it), but most of those goals are pretty damn achievable. For instance, Buzzfeed lists “find a new show and watch it all in one weekend” as to a do list item.

Every single season of 24… Check.

My wife and I have watched plenty of TV shows, let me tell you, and we’ve read so many novels we could pretty much start our own Half Priced Books. Now, those were some of the more asinine things Buzzfeed listed, but even the more seemingly unattainable life missions (traveling, dream jobs) are within reach, even if you have a ring on your finger.

The fact is, traveling and road trips are better when you’re married. Having a spouse is better than having a “best friend,” and not just because of that whole procreating thing. When you get married, you have someone who knows that you’re so impatient that you stand by the microwave and count down the seconds. She knows and still loves you. When you’re married, you have a committed, lifelong friend who you’ll share your life and your most intimate moments with. I don’t think it’s difficult to imagine how much more amazing a road trip would be with that kind of person at your side.

Now, I know what you’re saying. “Kids!” you scream, inexplicably surrounded by an army of four-year-olds touting bottles and plastic tractors.

Yes. Kids are a major sacrifice, and they come with the “marriage” territory. They ruthlessly take away your time and your money; they suck the life from you till you are a pale shell of who you once were. But that doesn’t mean they’ll keep you from achieving your dreams of traveling the world or what have you. The only thing stopping you from traveling with your kids is…what? Not having enough formula to get you through the week? The fear that your kid will throw a temper tantrum on the plane? Kids are another obstacle you have to juggle, but let’s face it, there is always too much to juggle. Fact. Most unmarried people don’t even have the liberty to up and go on a soul-searching, globe-trotting adventure whenever they want. That takes money and vacation days, two things most young people just entering into the adult world lack. There are always sacrifices. Life demands them, and, while kids are a big one, they’re not the end of the story.

The idea that “settling down” denies you excitement and adventure in your life is a myth. Most married people can tell you: getting married feels a lot like having a birthday. You don’t wake up a totally different person, magically altered in some drastic way. No, you don’t have a pre-marriage and a post-marriage life. You just have life—the present—and you can do with it whatever you want to do with it. You’re the master of your own destiny, and if you make traveling and adventure a priority, you’ll do it regardless of what obstacles life throws your way.

Marriage is a tremendous blessing that will enhance your life, not inhibit it. There are plenty of reasons why you should, if you have a special someone that you love, suck it up and follow Beyoncé’s sage wisdom. Put a ring on it. Marry young.

YOU GROW UP TOGETHER

I got married a measly one year out of college, and I am still very much in that millennial muck of ”what in the name of Zeus the All-Powerful am I going to do with my life?”

I don’t know, but hopefully it involves wearing a lion.

Spoiler Alert: getting married doesn’t instantly make you feel like an adult with your life all figured out. But, what it does do is give you a companion who knows the trials you’re facing, and can help you through them. You get to face the difficulties of life side-by-side, supporting one another and making up for one another’s weaknesses. Not only this, but all your memories and adult experiences will belong to you and your spouse. You’ll be constructing an elaborate story in which every act, from rags to riches, is starring the two of you, which is just plain awesome.

MELDING YOUR LIVES TOGETHER IS WAY EASIER

Marriage asks a lot out of you. It asks you to come out of yourself and care deeply and selflessly for another person. Let me tell you, it is much easier to share everything when you’re poor as hell. It’s far easier to be selfless when all you’ve got between you is a one-bedroom apartment and a few saltine crackers, which is pretty much all that most people straight out of college can afford. It’s much more difficult when two thirty-somethings, as autonomous individuals, who have created careers, living spaces, agendas, schedules, and habits for years and years without any recourse to anyone outside of themselves, do the deed. They’re going to have a much harder time adjusting. The young couple, on the other hand, grows up together, learning the hard lessons early. The older couple must learn to make their separate existences connect. That’s far more likely to cause friction and cause resentment.

(THE BEST REASON) WHY WAIT?

Carpe Diem, or YOLO for the younger tots. If you’re in love, and you’ve weathered time and a few hard moments with each other and came out alright, there’s literally no reason to wait. Not to be a pessimist, but life is a muddled mess of confusion, and a light isn’t going to come out of the sky bearing an angelic messenger saying, “Now’s the time, John. Propose to Jenny.

Also, your fiancée is pregnant.

You’re never going to “feel” ready for most anything life throws at you, and marriage is no different. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself if you love the other person, and, if you do, pop the question. Or, if you are a woman-person, casually hint or directly tell your significant other that you won’t embarrassingly reject the man you love if he kneels vulnerably before you.

Now, marriage is still a monumental decision not to be taken lightly, but too many people these days treat it like a spreadsheet. Love is a decision, and the perfect spouse is the one with whom you’ve made the decision to love, not the one who matches all your criteria and who you never argue, fight, or disagree with.

Hopefully I’ve given you a few things to think about. At the very least, I hope you expel the silly idea that you can’t follow your dreams if you’re married. Rather, you’ll have someone who loves you deeply at your side for the rest of your life—as comforter and companion—to see your dreams through to the end.

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How About Some More of That Feel Good Jesus? https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/how-about-some-more-of-that-feel-good-jesus/ https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/how-about-some-more-of-that-feel-good-jesus/#respond Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:55:56 +0000 https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/?p=5557 Our amorphous fluffy God has a plan. It (God) has your best interests in mind, and, if you only submit to it enough, you’ll be blessed beyond your wildest imaginings with health for you and your family, wealth to provide for them (and to occasionally take...

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Our amorphous fluffy God has a plan. It (God) has your best interests in mind, and, if you only submit to it enough, you’ll be blessed beyond your wildest imaginings with health for you and your family, wealth to provide for them (and to occasionally take them to Disney World, though, really, why would you), and promotion after promotion at work. Basically, trust enough and your fluffy-wuffy, Lamb carrying Jesus will take care of you and make sure you’re happy.

And also cover us in glitter

Hopefully this reference isn’t too dated, but it almost reads like that scene from Karate Kid where Mr. Miyagi has Daniel-san wax his car and paint the fence. Daniel sees no point in the actions and rebels at first, but it’s later revealed that all of his drudgery was really sick-ass karate moves disguised as household chores. And now he’s awesome—way more awesome than he would have been had he not put trust in his teacher.

The awesome face of a dude who’s about to crane kick the crap out of you

Many Christians have a similar view towards God. God’s ways are strange, but, if we trust in him enough, he’ll reveal that all those seeming hardships were really just Him planning an elaborate birthday party for us; our presents: earthly love, health, wealth, and happiness.

Just what I always wanted, a new 401k plan!

And you know what? That’s exactly how it works! Just trust in God hard enough and you’ll get that yacht and house in Malibu and be blessed with being an amazing person that people like. Glad I could help.

JUST KIDDING it totally doesn’t. Otherwise, how could you explain stuff like this,

Or this,

Or, going a little further back,

God isn’t a vending machine where you put in trust and out comes Rolex watches and cures for cancer. I’m sure he’d love to be able to do that, but we kind of botched all that up with a little something called “original sin.”

Nothing is for sure in this world. God doesn’t just rain down material blessings on his people. He acts through human means. That yacht and house in Malibu you want has to come through people. The store or realtor that sells you the boat or house, your boss who gave you your job, the company you work for that brings in the money, and your hard work earning a salary are all factors that determine whether or not you receive material blessings. Now God can definitely work through all that, but, most of the time, he leaves people to their own devices. You know, because we have free will, and God doesn’t trump that…for better or for worse.

My wife’s brother was killed in a car accident a few years ago. At the time,  he was working with Students for Life, touring college campuses to raise awareness of the mercy of adoption and giving pregnant young women support. A drunk driver, attempting to pass in an oncoming lane, misjudged the distance and slammed his truck into my brother-in-law’s car. A woman and her unborn child were in the car as well, and they were killed instantly. Two others survived, and my brother-in-law struggled for a week in the ICU before he finally passed away. He was only 23. He didn’t get a chance to see his faith rewarded with earthly wealth, health, and happiness. In fact, he got all of that stripped away working directly for God’s purpose.

The thing is, God holds people’s actions into being—whether they are good or evil. He allowed the driver of the truck to get drunk and get behind the wheel, and he holds the consequences of that action, colliding into my brother-in-law’s car, in existence. He also allows the atrocities of ISIS to continue. He doesn’t always miraculously lift someone up out of the violence like Rollercoaster Tycoon because of their “faith.”

He also doesn’t put us on a tiny island and charge us $400 to use the bathroom.

Really, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out. The Dude (I’m using capitalization out of respect for God, not Jeff Bridges) said, “How blessed are you whenever people insult you, persecute you, and say all sorts of evil things against you falsely because of me!” Matthew 5:11. He didn’t follow that up with, “But that will never happen.”

PSYCH!

It does happen. It has happened, and it’s happening now. Jesus’ earthly life culminated in being horrifically and painfully killed, and He’s supposed to be the primary example for all of us.

The real test of faith comes when these persecutions or terrible things are happening, and, trust me, they will happen. Maybe it won’t be being gunned down in the street, but it will be a troubled friendship, a lost job, addiction, a death, cancer, or what have you because we live in a fallen world and bad shit happens all the time. Scripture promises us trials and tells us how a Christian should percieve them. The apostle James writes:  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3 Yes, we are promised that God has our best in mind, but our best is not that he’s going to make all our dreams come true. His dream for us is virtue. Perseverance, holiness, character, not “success.”

It’s painfully naïve to believe that God will give us that solid-gold swimming pool we’ve always wanted when our brothers and sisters in Christ are being macheted. We need to come out of our American “God is my personal Santa Claus” mindset and see the big picture. We live in a world permeated with sin. It’s our job to navigate it the best we can, knowing that we will be rewarded for our faith, not with material wealth or a perfect life, but with a story that is worth living, an inspired and beautiful work of art, and ultimately, the glory of seeing Christ face to face in the life to come.

Of course, there are absolutely wonderful things in this life. The beauty of nature, friendships, love. There’s plenty to enjoy and relish in, and that’s why we need to treat every day as a gift. Lets take a step back and see all the good things we’ve been blessed with in life—good things that have no right to be there—and be truly, sincerely thankful.

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For Sh*ts Sake, Parents, Stop Worrying So D*mn Much About “Bad Words” https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/shts-sake-parents-stop-worrying-dmn-much-bad-words/ https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/shts-sake-parents-stop-worrying-dmn-much-bad-words/#respond Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:49:39 +0000 https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/?p=5551 I have four kids. As you can imagine I have a lot of “slip ups” when it comes to swear words. By 3pm, I’m pretty much a fuming bundle of nerves because I’ve been cleaning up after a 3-year-old all day long. I always start with...

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I have four kids. As you can imagine I have a lot of “slip ups” when it comes to swear words. By 3pm, I’m pretty much a fuming bundle of nerves because I’ve been cleaning up after a 3-year-old all day long.

I always start with a smile on my face, though, and ask how my kids’ days went. I learned long ago to specify and ask, “What was the BEST part?” because otherwise all I’ll hear about is some little punk who said something to my little punk then un-invited her from the most punk-rock party of the pre-K season.  By 3:03pm, as we’ve just pulled away from the school, someone’s peeled off their stinky Mary Jane and thrown it at their big sister, causing it to ricochet and bust me in the mother lovin’ forehead while I’m trying to maintain a cool 20mph in the school zone.

A bomb is inevitably dropped. I can’t push down on the pedal, so the rage has to escape from somewhere.

That’s when my kids know sh*t just got real… prior to that, mom’s been pretty cool. (Three whole minutes! A record!) However, nothing makes me more mad then when they force me to break one of my own D*MN rules.

It’s not that I care about these imaginary words mere mortals have deemed as “bad.” I don’t. Cuss words are just a cluster of consonants and sounds that really have no meaning to anyone besides us. If you don’t believe me, try swearing at a dog. Or a person in another country…as it turns out, your friend from Germany will be about as offended as your German shepherd.

No. The reason why I don’t want my kids to cuss is not because I believe the words contain some inherent vileness – I don’t want my kids to cuss because it sounds so unintelligent. Case in point: when I get hit in the head in the school zone, my brain stops working. It has now been taken over by white-hot fury. The only words I can come up with are the lowliest ones left behind in the bottom of my vocabulary’s barrel.

So when my 6-year-old daughter got up the ovaries to ask me if she could cuss when no one else was around, I made her a deal. Since the world would explode if I gave her such a special power without taking something in exchange, there would have to be some sort of trade off.

I told her to tell me all of the bad words she knew (and the fact that we were mid-tea party when this vernacular unleashing took place only made it that much more delightful). She gave me everything from sh*t all the way to the “c-word”…crap. Ironically, the one word she didn’t mention was “the bomb”.

And in exchange, I took: Hate. Stupid. Ugly. Dumb. Fat. Idiot. And Jerk.

In my house, those are the real “bad” words. Those are the ones I see shoot out of her mouth like a spear and pierce her brothers’ and sister’s core. Those are not the words that come when nothing else is left in her brain; those are the words that come when nothing else is left in her heart. When Christ said “it is not what goes in, but what comes out of your mouth that defiles you,” THIS is what he was talking about.

Now, of course, the deal was that she could only say these “bad words” around me when her other sibs weren’t home, and because they’re not a normal part of her vocab, they usually only come out in spurts when she’s trying to be funny. I roll my eyes and tell her she’s too intelligent to let such lowly words come out of her mouth. “They don’t deserve the honor of falling from the lips of a girl so witty, and articulate, and brilliant,” I say.

Then someone hits me in the head with a d*mn shoe and I remind her first hand just how unattractive full-on-flip-out-brain-boiling meltdowns truly are.

The post For Sh*ts Sake, Parents, Stop Worrying So D*mn Much About “Bad Words” appeared first on Crossroads Initiative.

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Catholic Capitalist, a Walking Contradiction? Part III https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/catholic-capitalist-walking-contradiction-part-iii/ https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/catholic-capitalist-walking-contradiction-part-iii/#respond Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:46:03 +0000 https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/?p=5536 The day has arrived. The much awaited day of wreckoning (yes I misspelled that on purpose) between Paul, the Free Marketeer, and Josh, the Chestertonian Distributivist. This is the third and final part of our three part series, so those of you who haven’t caught up...

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The day has arrived. The much awaited day of wreckoning (yes I misspelled that on purpose) between Paul, the Free Marketeer, and Josh, the Chestertonian Distributivist. This is the third and final part of our three part series, so those of you who haven’t caught up yet, you might want to go back and read the other previous posts first. Paul’s post is here and Josh’s is here. This post will be a bit longer, as it is two responses posted together. The first reply will be by Paul.

PAUL VS JOSH
CATHOLIC CAPITALISM?

PAUL’S RESPONSE:

RESPONDEO

Yes, that’s right. I am just prideful enough to start this section with the Latin word St. Thomas Aquinas used before all of his counterpoints, but I’m humble enough to admit how prideful that makes me.

Pretend this is the face you see when you picture me writing this.

So in response to what Joshua Clemmons, as well as to several others who commented on our posts–many of whom said I was guilty of market idealism (though government idealism is, perhaps equally dangerous)–I offer the following food for thought.

THE DOCTRINE WILL NOW SEE YOU

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Josh’s post, and not only because his well-researched and elegant prose made my blog post look like a third grade essay but also because he made some seriously strong points.

Side-by-side rendering of our two blog posts (mine on the left)

NATURAL LAW, NATURALLY

Now, I understand that Pope Francis is trying to caution against greed and that is a healthy caution. But there’s one side of his profit equation that Pope Francis doesn’t mention. There’s no switch that businessmen can simply flip to “maximize profit mode.” Profits come from somewhere, and unless you’ve got a healthy flow of tax-payer dollars heading your direction, the only way you make profit is by running a business well. To do that you have to have consumers who are (brace for the italics)willing to pay for what you are selling. Ultimately the market boils down to the Law of Supply and Demand, which is as much a law as the Law of Gravity. Interestingly enough, they both follow the logic of “what goes up, must come down,” but allow me to explain.

Let’s say in a disaster of improbable magnitude all cars in Texas stop working but the one I’m renting out on RelayRides. Demand for that car just shot through the roof (thankfully, it has a sun-roof). Now, let’s say I’m nice about it, but I still realize that there are too many people for the one car–how should I take that into consideration? By raising the price. Simple. Now only the people willing to pay top dollar for a rare good will pay, and I can make money for being willing to sacrifice the use of the lone vehicle myself (realistically I would just park it and pretend it doesn’t work lest a Walking-Dead-type scenario ensues).

But something else happens. People from out of State, hearing that I can charge insane amounts of money for renting a car out bring their extra vehicles into the State in order to make extra money. They cannot simply charge the same price though; to get an edge they undercut my price. If enough people do this, the price eventually drops as supply meets demand, and three things happen: 1) everyone has cars again, 2) they are no longer expensive, and 3) even more people have moved to Texas. In a competitive system, what goes up, must come down.

There’s only one exception to this rule, and you guessed it: government intervention.

ONE MEDALLION TO RULE THEM ALL

To keep with the car scenario but to give it a different spin, let’s look at the face-off between cab drivers and Uber in NYC:

Sukhdev Singh has been driving a yellow cab for five years now. An immigrant from India, Singh moved to New Jersey when he was 12-years-old. He now owns a cab and a medallion which he bought along with his brother for $950,000 about one year ago. Singh’s livelihood, however, has become precarious with the emergence of Uber.

The cab medallions are a government invented system that artificially constricts the supply of cabs while driving up the price to run one, which cab drivers pass on to their riders…making everyone but government officials poorer. There are even medallion leasing companies that profit off of the profit that the government makes by artificially reducing supply. Talk about a waste of productivity.

So what has Uber done? Well again, what goes up, must come down. Seeing the high prices a cab company can fetch, they have gone and found a better way.

Uber has offered a more efficient, low-cost alternative to what was essentially a mafia-esque racket for generating income for the State at the expense of everyone else. But then some guy with a better idea found a way to create a better system that enriched the consumer (lower cab fare equals more dollars that stay in my pocket), the drivers (no million dollar down-payment just to be able to do the incredibly difficult job of…drumroll…driving a car), and yes, for the owner of Uber himself. This obviously doesn’t make him a bad person. Who’s to say the government officials were not also looking out for their own interests…but without adding any more value? I’d rather let the owner of Uber make money since he has done everyone a service.

And this is what we see time and time again: what the free market always and everywhere encourages is a decrease in costs to the consumer. If the yellow cabs are too expensive, partly because there are too few of them (partly because New York just decided there would be (partly so I could do more parentheses)), then someone else will find a way to deliver more cabs faster at a lower cost and make my life a little less expensive in the process. Plus they have an app that shows you where the car is. You can SEE it driving towards you on your PHONE. How awesome is that? (Note-to-self: make an app that does the same thing but for parents who want to keep track of their teenagers…call it pUBERty.)

A PROFIT IS NOT WITHOUT WELCOME

In closing, I simply want to leave you with a quote from the Church, because Catechism:

In the work of teaching and applying Christian morality, the Church needs the dedication of pastors, the knowledge of theologians, and the contribution of all Christians and men of good will….Thus the Holy Spirit can use the humblest to enlighten the learned and those in the highest positions (emphasis mine, CCC 2038).

So even the Catechism says we have to seek wisdom in places we would not normally expect to find it, even from the humblest of sources. And though I can in no way be included in that category, and while I still recognize that I am not the authority on all things faith and morals, I do have enough faith and morals to recognize the laws of nature when I see them.

FOR YOUR REFERENCE

These three articles provide some fantastic reference material, all three are far more academic in their approach than much of the polemics we’ve seen hurled around on the interwebs during this debate. If you want to learn more about the interplay between state, markets, and the environment from a more free market perspective, this article from The New Atlantis is awesome. Many have notedincluding myself that environmentalism is far more like a religion than a group of objective scientists. The Pope has aligned himself politically with a group of allies who would be very happy to see the end of Christianity. This article provides greater clarity on the church’s stance on the environment and the important data that Laudato Si left out. For more information on how the market can provide greater protection for the diocese than the state can, read the infamous Murray Rothbard as he writes exactly how property rights is the answer to environmental protection.


JOSH’S RESPONSE

A Response to The Market: The Love of Neighbor, Love of Self

I really appreciate Paul Kolker’s upbeat personality showing through in The Market, but I take issue with his claims! Unfortunate. I will give a brief but systematic response in order to, I hope, demolish his theses in the most effective polemical charity I can muster. Enjoy!

I take the liberty to paraphrase Paul’s view on the market, based on what I gleaned from his assertions. The market contains accountability built in, is more effective than the state, incentivizes us to work for the common good, and it embodies the commandment of love of neighbor. In this system, profit is a measure of service. In other words, the Market is the embodiment of love, compelling us to the same, and those who avail themselves of it are blessed for their service. There are a number of problems with this vision of the market, not to mention that one could justly replace the word “market” with “Jesus” and have a complete theological treatise. Let’s go a bit deeper though.

First, let me state the obvious: the market does not incentivize anything. An encounter with the value of one’s neighbor inspires our love, not a system that allows for our exchange of goods and services. The market is not against the love of neighbor, but it does not inherently foster it either, or else we forget man’s fallen state. The market, like money, is ambivalent on the matter.

They say that you have to spend money to make money. What follows is that those with more financial means have more potential to increase their financial means. If we think of the competition and teamwork that exists within a market on the analogy of a basketball game, we must think of it as a game of make-it-take-it, with the caveat that when a team wins a point their players get taller and faster. How do you think that game will play out? As soon as you get sufficiently ahead, your competition is no longer competitive. Translated into the market economy, the wealth gap grows and the rich get richer and the poor get poorer (relative, not necessarily absolute poverty increases). This alone does away with Paul’s assertion upon which the larger part of his argument hinges: “The market system necessarily embodies this commandment (of love of neighbor) because in a competitive system people are not going to settle for being mistreated.” Those being mistreated cannot compete! Human trafficking is a market. It is noteworthy that when the wealth of nations is overly concentrated, power is too! What’s called for on our analogy is a regular game of basketball with referees and rulebooks. The market needs a proper juridical framework with accountability in order to be oriented toward the common good.

Paul talks about the market’s inbuilt accountability. Perhaps a certain kind of accountability is built into the market based on the consumer’s control over demand. However, this accountability is not necessarily oriented to the common good, because we know that societies’ many demands are not necessarily, how shall I say,…holy. An example of a market with inbuilt accountability is the black market. Pimps, loan sharks, mob bosses, drug- and warlords all keep their organizations accountable, no? And their services meet demands, or else there would be no black market. If we fail to recognize that there is a place for governance and civil society to influence the market and delimit its freedom because of an ideology that says that the Market will provide, then we will and do hinder the human family from obtaining the common good. It will provide, but only the goods and services that we demand. Culture, good and bad, fosters demand, but culture cannot flourish properly without the ability of all within society to participate economically. Nuff said on that point.

What’s more interesting is that the idea of a good that is common is different than joint activity forprivate goods achieved through contractual arrangements. The private ends achieved through a contract are not “common goods”. One person wants a car for the weekend while the other wants the profit achieved by renting it. They both walk away with what they want and commutative justiceis achieved. There is nothing wrong with that! Their desires coalesce for joint action, but these are different goods, not a common one. This is one area in which the market fails, left to itself; not in forming relationships, not in efficiently increasing net wealth, but assuring distributive justice and the common good (Summa Theologica, II-II, Q. 61).

In summation: the Church and Pope Francis are concerned with a growing idealization of the market, as if it were immune from corruption or misdirection and a vision of society as an amalgamation of private interests rather than a unity with a common good. We are all urged to humbly and faithfully measure the varying weight of authority within the social teachings of the Church, even within a singular document, and align ourselves with our faith prior to any other teachings that might suit our fancy (2 Tim 4:3).

EXCURSUS: DEFENDING THE POPE

Paul, and many others like him are decrying the Pope for his so called attacks on business.
Pope Francis is not against business (Laudato si, 29)! The personal example that Paul gives, of how the market works, would not be a problem for the Pope or the Church. On another note, Paul says: “the language of Pope Francis’ commentary on economic and political issues has been far more critical than any Pope in history.” This just is not true. Francisco has not been more critical than previous popes. Others have been just as critical (John Paul II, Centesimus annus, 40, 42; Paul VI,Populorum progressio, 26, 33, 58; Octogesima adveniens, 9,61, 88; John XXIII, Mater et magistra, 38, 39, 71; Benedict XVI, Caritas in veritate, 35). Why is this continuity so important? The social doctrine of the Church cannot be treated as having the same weight of authority in all its parts. Even within a single encyclical, there is often varying authority which calls the faithful to differing degrees of assent. Something that can add weight to a teaching is the frequency with which it is proposed (Lumen Gentium, 25). For more, I suggest Thomas Storck’s article ““What Authority Does Catholic Social Teaching Have?”. 

Paul sounds an alarm regarding the Pope’s call for wide reaching global governance with appropriate power commensurate with its charge, suggesting that this is radically new for a pope—i.e. infrequent. Francis’ urging is not new and comes, ironically, in the form of a quotation of a previous pope, Benedict XVI, who in turn refers to Pope St. John XXIII (LS, 175; Pacem in terris, 137; see also Caritas in veritate, 24). A faithful Catholic would need to take the proposal with a high degree of deference, seeking to understand what is being proposed rather than seeing in it a call for an unjust consolidation of power. On the analogy of the basketball game, our historical situation regarding the relationship between the modern sovereign state and the global market is as if the game has multiple balls, multiple baskets, and the crowd is rushing the court, all the while the number of referees remains the same. It seems the Church is humbly suggesting the need for more referees. I suggest watching Russell Hittinger’s talk “The Theologico-Political Problem Today”.

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Catholic Capitalist: A Walking Contradiction? Part II https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/catholic-capitalist-a-walking-contradiction-part-ii/ https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/catholic-capitalist-a-walking-contradiction-part-ii/#respond Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:35:43 +0000 https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/?p=5524 Our Pope has the unique talent of stirring the pot on a weekly basis. We here at the Crossroads Pursuit think that’s really awesome. The Church, contrary to popular belief, encourages discourse. Because we are Catholic, we ought to be thinking, arguing, wrestling in pursuit...

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Our Pope has the unique talent of stirring the pot on a weekly basis. We here at the Crossroads Pursuit think that’s really awesome. The Church, contrary to popular belief, encourages discourse. Because we are Catholic, we ought to be thinking, arguing, wrestling in pursuit of truth more than the common man. That’s why we’ve decided to host this discussion of Laudato Si and the Market Economy and keep that pot stirring and stirring until we’ve churned this milky topic to butter. We’ve asked two contributors to write on this topic. Paul Kolker, the Catholic improv comedian wrote our first article from a free market perspective. We encourage you to read that first. This article is by Josh Clemmons, the G.K Chesterton aficionado, who writes favoring greater market restraint. After these blogs have been posted, both authors will have a chance to read each other’s arguments and return with a one page response. Those responses will be posted as a single blog next Wednesday. Without further adieu, here’s Josh:

IN THE MARKET FOR GOD’S PRAISE: CONTINUING IN A BALANCED TRADITION

Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Laudato si has been a bombshell of sorts, and one dropped with plenty of warning. It would seem that everything the Pope does, even in the minor key, has a robust response from the wider world, at least in the praises and grumblings of the United States’ media machine. With the mini-drama of a leaked early version released by the Italian media, all appetites were wetted. And those for and against the Pope’s message are ravenous.

And not just for icecream

Upon reading the flurry of headlines I was struck by the variety of claims as to why this encyclical is so revolutionary. Some commentators are claiming it as an anti-modern polemic against materialism and the godlessness of our age while others are saying the Pope is a leftist progressive outside of his scope for endorsing an alleged scientific consensus on climate change and for siding against the free market. I thought: Surely this new contribution to the Catholic Church’s social doctrine must be a peculiar enrichment to the tradition, especially since it has so quickly proved to be a sign of contradiction. In other words: “Let’s see the monster!” However, as I read the lengthy circular letter, I was most surprised at how unsurprising it was. It seems to reiterate the well-established principles of the Church’s teaching on such subjects as society, economics, politics, and the environment. Is it the case that none of the Pope’s commentators have heard the teachings of the popes since 1891?

Yeah… no, totally… uhh

This social tradition of the Church, taken loosely, harkens back to the oldest Judeo-Christian teachings on charity and justice. Simply put, the aim is to answer the question of how to love one’s neighbors in the complex situation called, lovingly: society. In a more strict sense, the unified body of teachings formally known as the Church’s social doctrine traces back to Leo XIII’s encyclicalRerum novarum and weaves through the many changing social realities of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries in the form of papal encyclicals and conciliar documents. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church lines out four major principles of Catholic social teaching: the dignity of the person, solidarity, subsidiarity, and the common good. Stemming from these principles are the universal destination of goods, the preferential option for the poor, and participation. It is important to note that, “The principles of the Church’s social doctrine must be appreciated in their unity, inter-relatedness and articulation” (Compendium, 162). In a systematic fashion, the Church aims to use these fundamental principles as a unified doctrine, taking into account the contingencies of societies, societies that are as much in flux as a floppy fish. The subject matter under scrutiny is ever changing. This is very different than the development of other aspects of the Church’s theology. The doctrine of the Trinity, for example, developed as a deeper understanding of the revealed and unchanging Revelation. God does not change. Our understanding of him simply progresses over time. On the other hand, when it comes to social doctrine, though principles can be as unchanging as human nature, their application has to move with the same dynamism of societal shift. Societies change. This makes Catholic social thought an especially interesting theological field, but also fragile in the sense that misunderstanding and controversy can arise more easily along with distortions through political and economic ideologies and propaganda. Furthermore, the principles are ordered to action. They are not meant to be speculated on as much as acted on, which requires that if one honestly approaches them, conversion might be a nasty necessity. Perhaps this is why Laudato Si has met with misunderstanding, controversy, and a good deal of distortion in the United States. One distortion that is especially irksome to me is that Pope Francis is against the free market.

I cannot help but think of G.K. Chesterton’s words: “Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags. The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world.”

So sayith the Teddy Roosevelt of Catholicism! 

And that is exactly what I see Pope Francis’ encyclical to be. It is a minimum of the Church, watered down enough to be a message even to unbelievers, but an ultimatum to all worldliness. It is a message that reiterates a rich tradition of Catholic social teaching, but with a special emphasis that highlights the intimate connection between caring for the environment and caring for the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Francis calls for an “integral ecology”, placing environmental ecology in a social and human context since “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental”(Laudato Si, 139).

Neither of these realities, the poor person or the poor environment, does the average American really want to look at. My dad always liked to say that d’Nile was more than a river in Egypt.

Yes, Dino, and also in POLLUTION. 

There is a kind of denial since the culture is locked in an individualistic mindset in a polarized climate. It would seem that we need a social “climate change” in order to address climate change! Actually, the Pope calls for an “ecological conversion” in which we see the world as more than an instrument for arbitrary use, but as God’s creation, one inscribed with its own grammar of meaning, a common right and a responsibility for the entire human race. The voice of the Church calls us to be dignified stewards, not merely technological wizards and this call, when we look at all that it would entail, smacks of the cross, so repulsive a call for the comfy.

How do we escape this moral voice ringing out a cry from Vatican City? We can deny that the poverty of the poor is a real problem, argue that the means of fixing it is our own self-interested pursuits, or deny that it is our responsibility. Meanwhile, we can deny that there is any real environmental problem, that we had anything to do with it, or that we can do anything about it. In other words, we squirm. In all this scrambling, what sacred providence do we look to? In what direction shall we genuflect before we take our seats and cross our arms for a snooze? The market and the bottom line. Yes! The providence of man’s manifold demand will provide! Is this not what we see many in the U.S. doing?

This is a mental habit that Pope Francis decries, saying that “…we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies and individuals” (Laudato si, 190). Actually, he is not the first Pope to do so. Many have similarly noted the danger of an unhealthy individualism and a superstitious devotion to a deified market.  Let it suffice to quote Quadragesimo anno, written by Pius XI, the first pope to ever speak of social doctrine as a unified body of teaching. He states:

“the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic teaching. Destroying through forgetfulness or ignorance the social and moral character of economic life, it held that economic life must be considered and treated as altogether free from and independent of public authority, because in the market, i.e., in the free struggle of competitors, it would have a principle of self direction which governs it much more perfectly than would the intervention of any created intellect. But free competition, while justified and certainly useful provided it is kept within certain limits, clearly cannot direct economic life – a truth which the outcome of the application in practice of the tenets of this evil individualistic spirit has more than sufficiently demonstrated” (Quadragesimo anno, 88).

For those souls who find this discomforting, it is tempting to say that the Church is against the free market. This is a distortion of the Church’s teaching, and it is equally a perverse misinterpretation ofLaudato si, a document in faithful continuity with its tradition. Though “the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs” (John Paul II, Centesimus annus, 34), it is also the case that “Faced with the concrete ‘risk of an ‘idolatry’ of the market’, the Church’s social doctrine underlines its limits” (Compendium, 349). The Church’s concept of freedom is one that takes into account other values, like truth and justice. Freedom is subordinated to truth and justice, which includes the freedom of the market. The free market is not absolutely free, nor should it be. Let’s not jump the gun when the Pope asks us to be our brother’s keeper and to care for God’s creation as responsible stewards! It is a timely call out to the world from a Church that cares.

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Catholic Capitalist: A Walking Contradiction? Part I https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/catholic-capitalist-a-walking-contradiction-part-i/ https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/catholic-capitalist-a-walking-contradiction-part-i/#respond Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:31:39 +0000 https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/?p=5514 Our Pope has the unique talent of stirring the pot on a weekly basis. We here at the Crossroads Pursuit think that’s really awesome. The Church, contrary to popular belief, encourages discourse. Because we are Catholic, we ought to be thinking, arguing, wrestling in pursuit...

The post Catholic Capitalist: A Walking Contradiction? Part I appeared first on Crossroads Initiative.

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Our Pope has the unique talent of stirring the pot on a weekly basis. We here at the Crossroads Pursuit think that’s really awesome. The Church, contrary to popular belief, encourages discourse. Because we are Catholic, we ought to be thinking, arguing, wrestling in pursuit of truth more than the common man. That’s why we’ve decided to host this discussion of Laudato Si and the Market Economy and keep that pot stirring and stirring until we’ve churned this milky topic to butter. We’ve asked two contributors to write on this topic. Paul Kolker, the Catholic improv comedian will write from a free market perspective, and Josh Clemmons, the G.K Chesterton aficionado, will write favoring greater market restraint. After these blogs have been posted, they will have a chance to read each other’s arguments and return with a one page response. Those responses will be posted as a single blog next Wednesday. Without further adieu, here’s Paul:

THE MARKET: THE LOVE OF NEIGHBOR, LOVE OF SELF

Me: “Hi, my name is Paul, and I’ve been an entrepreneur for a couple of years now.”

Entrepreneurs Anonymous: “Hi, Paul.”

Moderator: “When did you first feel the urge to mercilessly exploit your fellow man?”

Me: “Well, when I was really little I used to set fire to small woodland creatures with matches I bought with my allowance.  I guess the association between evil and money was indelibly imprinted on my mind back then.”

This caricature is of course way off base. Entrepreneurs would never gather in the basement of a church to help each other become free of their unrelenting lust to take advantage of people…or at least, not without charging admission.

Am I right? 

Seriously though, this seems to be the only viewpoint people have when it comes to business owners these days. Business people are a pack of rabid dogs all hoping to sink their teeth into the naive little Bo Peep that is the modern consumer. It is unfortunate in its own right to see so many people accepting such a cartoonish view of things, but to hear members (nay, Vicars) of the Church stating similar ideas can be downright disheartening, especially since I’ve seen firsthand the great good entrepreneurial activity can accomplish (as I will explain in a moment).

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis wrote to the world the following:
“We need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals. Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations?” He seems to be implying that an unfettered market produces a lust for profits in individuals and corporations.He has further criticized the markets as the cause for poverty around the world. He told ambassadors to Rome that economic inequality is caused by “ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to states, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good.” While it is true that Francis’ predecessors were skeptical of the market in some ways, the language of Pope Francis’  commentary on economic and political issues has far more critical than any Pope in history. He calls for far more government intervention in the market, a further centralization of state power, even going so far as to call for a world government to regulate the environment.

Yes, Sauron, we know you’re very excited about that

With the recent supreme court ruling on marriage that made gay marriage legal in all 50 states and now threatens the church’s non profit status, it seems that running headlong to the paternal arms the State might not be the best move for the Church, but I digress.

The Church has wrestled with its own conception of politics and the market for centuries. The Church’s social teaching is not fixed as its doctrine of the trinity is. It’s stance on religious freedom, for instance, changed dramatically in the last century, as did its prohibition of charging interest during the middle ages.This post is intended to be part of that “wrestling,” the Church continues to undergo. To be clear, then, I do not argue against the Church’s social teaching of a preferential option for the poor or for the need to protect creation.The heart of the Church should always seek to protect the poor and lift them up out of poverty. It should also always encourage us to be good stewards of God’s creation. What I am saying, is this: The free market contains within itself checks and balances against predation that are more effective than state parameters. It’s claims, therefore, should be at the very least understood by Catholics, if not wholly adopted.

So what’s going on with these entrepreneurs here?

If you’ll allow me, I’d like to start with the following personal example. About a year ago I rented out my Toyota Camry on RelayRides.com (like Uber, but for car rentals). The idea hit me when I realized that I would be heading out of town for two weeks and that my car would just be sitting idle in the drive.  “Why not put this car to work for me?” I thought.  “Because then I can still pollute the atmosphere even while I’m hiking in the mountains.”

No, in all honesty, I thought it would be great to make some money just for being on vacation.  So I listed my car at $22 a day (…$22!), and when you do the math that comes out to a total of MORE than $22 for the two weeks.  So essentially I got paid to be on vacation.  Pretty great, huh?

“Wait a minute, Paul,” you interrupt, defying the normal conventions of a blog post.  “Isn’t that the same greed you were talking about earlier?  You just wanted to make a buck without really working for it. What about all those other decent cars that work the streets day in and day out?”

Aside from reminding you that no one should be “working the streets,” I would simply remind you that there are two sides to this equation.  So far, we have only looked at one side.  The other side of the equation comes in the form of the IT (pronounced “I-T”) guy whose job had moved him to Texas for only a month but who also didn’t want to shell out $50 a day (which if you’re keeping track is more than $22) to Hertz just to be able to get around the D-F-dub (Dallas / Fort Worth).  So I made money, and he saved money. And in the process I got to serve another human being, picking him up at the airport, helping him with his luggage, and doing it all with a smile.

“Well, you were just doing it for the money,” you again somehow interject.

Sure, money was a factor, but money is just a means of exchanging value without having to barter.  I mean, I wouldn’t expect him to compensate me for the use of a car by offering me a goat or a cow (plus, I hear it’s really difficult to fit livestock into the overhead bin). He simply offered me some money via a company that made this business exchange possible in the first place.

That’s right.  You read that correctly. The market motivated complete strangers to work together in a way that benefited everyone. I know, I know: pure evil.  I don’t know how I live with myself.

At the end of the day, however, that is how the majority of business relationships function. Two or three people work in a way that adds value to everyone.  That sounds an awful lot like loving your neighbor as yourself.  I love myself enough to expect some compensation for the value I offer, but I love my neighbor enough to offer that value in the first place, taking on the risks and responsibilities of maintaining a safely working vehicle that attracts renters in the process. The renter does not deal with any of that concern, but I do, because I know that by adding value to the lives of others I can receive value in return.

This does not deny the need to give even more radically through pure gifts of our time, talent, and treasure.  But the interesting thing is that adding value in this way has freed up more of my money and time for exactly that purpose.  Yes, some entrepreneurs do actually work so as to have more to give.

“But that’s just you,” you may be thinking, “maybe you’re the exception, but most business owners are willing to do whatever it takes to make a profit. What about them?” Well first of all, they probably all of have great lobbyists. But I grant you that they do exist. that being said, however, hurling such accusations at a collective group of people is, at a logical level, no different than making assumptions based on race or religion. How do you know what most business owners are like? We can assume all we want about the interior motives of a business person, but the fact of the matter is that business in a free market incentivizes us to work together for the common good. If a businessman provides poor service or rips the customer off, he and/or she (you never know these days) will lose customers. If he treats his employees terribly, he will lose employees and they will not be productive. That’s right, accountability is built into the market.

Taking this a step further, to maximize profits, one must maximize the number of people served. That means that all of the legitimately wealthy people have simply served more people, which means that profit is just a measure of service.   And you better be paying attention because I said that in italics so I’m 100% right.
So when we stop to look at how the market works, there’s nothing magical about it. Free market exchange helps everyone because God has called us to love others as we love ourselves. The market system necessarily embodies this commandment because in a competitive system people are not going to settle for being mistreated.  If they don’t like their interactions with one company, they will offer their business to someone who treats them the way they deserve to be treated and not like those woodland creatures from back when I was a kid.

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How to Be a Good Christian Wife… Step #1 Don’t Barf at This Title https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/how-to-be-a-good-christian-wife-step-1-dont-barf-at-this-title/ https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/how-to-be-a-good-christian-wife-step-1-dont-barf-at-this-title/#respond Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:27:45 +0000 https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/?p=5499 If you’ve completed this step, congratulations! You’re already more mature and probably a better wifey than I am. Perhaps it’s my aversion to the smarminess in most of these online articles or just the feminist in me that Pat Robertson’s been warning us all about,...

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If you’ve completed this step, congratulations! You’re already more mature and probably a better wifey than I am. Perhaps it’s my aversion to the smarminess in most of these online articles or just the feminist in me that Pat Robertson’s been warning us all about, but I simply cannot handle blogs like this.

Which of course means I click through and read them immediately. Like, all the time. Rage is my constant companion.

The advice in them is never bad, per se, it’s just always so generic that I don’t understand why it’s specifically directed toward “Christian Women.” It’s like, “don’t fart on your husband.” I mean, yeah, that’s probably a good rule to live by, but I’m pretty sure Christian wives don’t want to get farted on either. Or Buddhist spouses. Or Hamsters. Basically what I’m saying is, no one ever really wants to get farted on. Am I right, or amiright? So why make this a Prov 31 issue?

The only thing that needs to be said under a blog post entitled “How to be a Good Christian Wife” is:

1.)    LOVE JESUS

2.)   LOVE OTHERS LIKE YOU LOVE JESUS

3.)   BOOM. DONE.

Shut up about baking cookies and making sandwiches. That’s not what every “good Christian husband” really wants. Maybe he wants a companion that competes in Tough Mudders, or maybe he wants a companion who gets the heck out of the kitchen because she burns everything she touches. Everyone is different. Slapping the word “Christian” on something doesn’t make it a commandment sent down from Mt. Sinai.

“Go and set-ith up a Pinterest board with great date night adventures… thus saith the Lord!”

But, look, I’m not the type of person who farts on other people’s articles (or hamsters) without offering an alternative. My husband and I are far from perfect, as is our marriage, but we have picked up a few things over the last 10 years that have enhanced our crazy union, and they might be something someone out there on the WWW can actually benefit from, too. So, here goes…

A MEDIOCRE CHRISTIAN WIFE’S TIPS FOR ROCKING YOUR MARRIAGE JUST A LITTLE BIT HARDER.

So men and women alike, read up!

TIP #1: TAKE PICTURES. EVEN WHEN YOU’RE MISERABLE.

(“Look happy, dammit!”)

Every year my husband and I used to go to Austin City Limits. It’s hot, it’s dusty, and the beer is $84 a cup, which you’re actually willing to pay just to get that taste of hippie air out of your mouth. Don’t get me wrong, you might be lucky enough to have Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips step on your head from inside his giant crowd surfing bubble – but the other 354762476 hours you’re stuck out there in that Texas desert hell, which really, really sucks. Take pictures anyway.

Still, to this day, we look back on pictures from those trips to ACL and get all emotional about how badly we wish we could time-warp back to there.

Pictures have an amazing way of romanticizing the past and conning us into believing that those were seriously the best times of our lives. So take pictures of everything. All the time. You will never regret capturing those moments. (Plus, most of us get fattier the longer we’re married and you’ll want photographic evidence of how thin you used to be, too.)

 

TIP #2: LEARN YOUR SPOUSE’S LOVE LANGUAGE

Actually, learn everyone in your life’s love language. It’ll make things way easier. You know that friend who randomly brings you cookies or just gives you the sunglasses right off her face just because you said they looked cool? Give her gifts when you want to show her how special she is to you. That’s obviously her love language. And the kid who’s always trying to help you around the house while the others just sit on their butts watching TV, yeah, that kid expresses their love through acts of service. Help them build a fort in the living room next time you’re stuck inside on a rainy day.

Knowing your spouse’s love language is HUGE. I was always telling my husband how fine he looked because I’m a ‘words of affirmations’ person myself, and he’d just be like, “Um, ok, thanks I guess.” The next minute he’s doing the dishes for me, because he’s ‘acts of service”and I’m crying in the corner asking him why he doesn’t think I’m pretty or smart or talented.

We love others the way we want to be loved. And that works when we speak the same love language, but when we don’t, sometimes our affections are just lost on the one we love. It’s about working smarter, not harder, to show your spouse that you love ‘em!

I have a brilliant friend who’s ‘acts of service’ and her husband is ‘words of affirmation.’ She just tells him how sexy he looks taking out the trash and that way they both win.  😉

For more info on Love Languages go here… but first, finish reading this post!

TIP #3: GET ON THE SAME PAGE ‘BOUT THEM DOLLA DOLLA BILLS, Y’ALL!

Full Disclosure: This is by far the one that I’m the worst at. I’m just saying that right up front so my “good Christian husband” won’t roll his eyes so hard they fall outta his handsome little head when he gets to this part.

Very few of us grew up like our parents: balancing checkbooks and paying for our junk in cash. Most of us got our first debit card when we opened our first bank account as irresponsible teenagers. Our parents tried that tough love thing. You know, that thing where they let us overdraft and then our overdraft overdrafted our entire overdraft account until we were on the floor hyperventilating and sobbing while rejecting adulthood with all our heart? Oh, that was just me? Well, ok, whatev. You get my point.

As THAT person, I have a really hard time managing money. To me it’s just, like, this magical unicorn that floats in and out of my life and I really don’t pay much attention to it as long as no one’s cutting up my debit card in front of me. As long as that doesn’t happen, I just always kinda assume I’m good.

This drives my husband insane.

So, as a belated New Year’s resolution (read as: I just started doing this back in March), every single day I get online and check my account balance. It’s not a huge monumental change, but it keeps my unicorn grounded to reality a bit better.

Turns out my unicorn was just a drunk horse who had on a pointy party hat, anyway.

So far this new habit has really paid off, to the tune of $250 actually, because turns out someone bought a $#!% ton of stuff from an online mall in Beijing and I was able to digitally Jet Li that sucker in just minutes and put a stop to the payment.

It’s also made me more aware of what my spouse is constantly aware of: how much we make, and how much we spend…. And why we can’t afford a brand new MacBook right now even though I need, need, neeeeeeeeeeeed one so bad. Because, P.S. No, I don’t.

We’re still a long way away from sitting down and Dave Ramseying our life, but this one small step has really had a pretty great impact on my journey to become, like, an actual adult who does adult things. And I think my other half appreciates the effort.

And finally, my last tip…

TIP #4: KICK SARCASM OUT OF YOUR FIGHTS

This is as close as I’ll get to the dorkiness of a real self-help blog post, but I’m going there anyway because it’s taken me sooo many years to learn this one. And I’m still a work in progress.

I love sarcasm, because duh, who doesn’t? But when things get really heated all it does is throw a Molotov cocktail into the fireplace of our emotions.

If feels really good for precisely 3.5 seconds, but then you realize you just gave yourself a whole new mess to clean up. So instead of actually working towards a solution with the person you’re going to have to spend every day for the rest of yo freakin’ life with, you gave into a moment of pleasure and now you’ll have to spend the next week cleaning up after your mess-up. If the point of marriage is to make us holier, not just happier, then sometimes we have to give up the things that make us happy. Like, sarcasm.

OK, SO THAT’S MY LIST FOR ENHANCING YOUR MARRIAGE AND BEING A “GOOD CHRISTIAN SPOUSE.” WHAT WOULD YOU ADD?

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Be Different, You’re Catholic https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/be-different-youre-catholic/ https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/be-different-youre-catholic/#respond Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:22:37 +0000 https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/?p=5487 The Church is Universal, that means it’s cool to be different. So, be different. But, isn’t that the opposite of Catholicism? Isn’t being different bad? Most people in America – scratch that – most Catholics in America, when they hear the word “Catholic,” think: “American-style home parish Roman Catholic”....

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The Church is Universal, that means it’s cool to be different. So, be different.

But, isn’t that the opposite of Catholicism? Isn’t being different bad?

Most people in America – scratch that – most Catholics in America, when they hear the word “Catholic,” think: “American-style home parish Roman Catholic”. But, what we ought to think when he hear the word “Catholic” is: “Universal”. That’s what it literally means, right? We get so familiar with what we know that we forget just how BIG the church is. It’s literally the biggest tent in the world. There is room in the church for every (orthodox) style of prayer, every culture’s unique expression, and every person’s unique spirituality.

In the Protestant church, every time the Spirit moves and expresses itself differently in a church, the church splits and a new denomination is formed. The Methodists, with their methodological approach to spirituality; the Church of Christ, with it’s intense scriptural emphasis; and the Pentecostals with their emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit…these approaches would not need to split in order to be included in the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church isn’t a denomination with one approach to spirituality. It is the house in which all the other prayer rooms are contained. Just zoom the lens out and take a look at what the Catholic Church looks like from a distance:

  • There are 20 different liturgical Rites in the Catholic Church that celebrate different saints, different liturgical calendars. To give you an idea of how different they can be: in all the eastern Catholic Rites, priests are still allowed to be married.
  • The Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Augustinians, and Benedictines are only five of the hundreds of different religious orders with outrageously different spiritual characteristics.
  • Every parish, every diocese, and every region has a different character and feel. The difference between Wichita, KS and Green Bay, WI is probably not too grand. But how about the difference between Wichita, KS and Abuja, Nigeria?
  • There are entire lay movements in the church based around a single image, like Schoenstatt or the Sacred Heart movement, and there are movements in the church based around an apostolate, like the Salesian Youth Movement.

C.S. Lewis shows great support on the universality of those who believe in Christ. Most people think that coming to Christ means abandoning individuality, but, actually, the opposite is true. We become more distinctly different when we approach Christ. He writes:

“The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.” – C.S Lewis

Every person, every ministry, and every community has a unique charism, a gift of the Holy Spirit that equips and characterizes it for it’s purpose. What is yours?

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