-GAINS & GLEANINGS-
By J. Hogan
“How goes the war?” my friend Lee asked as he shook my hand and gave me a hug outside of the coffee shop. Lee is an admirer of the work we do in The Rocks, but it seems daunting to him.
We ordered our coffee and sat down.
“Seriously, Hogan, what do you think it would take to turn the tide in your town? How could it get drastically better?”
I thought this over for a second, then said, “One of two ways – but only one is available.” Lee leaned in, interested in the answer.
“We can get a time machine,” I said. “Go back to the 1960s and stop the men from walking out on manhood in our urban areas. Have ‘em decide not to leave their wives, to marry their ladies, provide for their families and raise their kids with their wives, then have that generation reinforce these behaviors with their sons and daughters so they end up doing the same.”
“Do you think that would’ve avoided a lot of today’s craziness?” Lee asked.
“Oh yeah, I know it. My children have been raised in the McKees Rocks Terrace (now named Myers Ridge.)
My sons are tradesmen, earning their living working hard as truck drivers, mechanics and plumbers. My daughter is a straight-A student at a good school - one which we’ve gone without to afford for our kids.
Their mentality, approach and worldview are completely different than the vast majority of kids they grew up with because their home circumstances are different.”
“Don’t you think that’s because you and Teressa are extraordinary parents?”
“Not at all,” I said. “Collectively we probably work less hard, with better results, than many of the single mothers who are our neighbors. Many of those ladies have to be mom, dad, nurturer, disciplinarian, home-maker, and provider all on their own. That’s extraordinary, not the easy path we’ve lived.”
“If it’s extraordinary, why are the results (often) less good?”
“Because it’s the design of the system. One system is God’s design, the way the Author of Life prescribes for families to be and for things to work out best, the other one is always overworking one person trying to fill the gaps left by the absence of the other half of the equation.
“And you think this is the key here?” Lee asked.
“Not just here. Everywhere. So many social ills – from drug addiction to suicide to violent crime and victimhood – all are drastically more rampant where the family has collapsed,” I said.
“The data is correlation data and impact is clearer than just about any measurable data set impacting society over the past 60 years.
But there’s a problem with that solution.”
“We don’t have a time machine. We’re stuck with trying to fix it with a lot of damage done, abnormality being normal for vast swaths of our urban areas, and political correctness making it difficult to even address the topics at hand.”
“So what’s the other solution?”
“Bring people to Jesus.”
“That would solve these things?”
“Yep, not instantly. But if the relationship with Christ is real, transformation follows. Humans metamorphosize like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. A new creation in Christ, approaching life completely differently.”
“How big of a task do you think this is?” Lee asked.
“Harrowing. The vast majority of churches are busy doing anything but introducing people to Christ. We slap on Band-Aids, give folks a sandwich, smugly judge their situations, pat ourselves on the back for being in a better state, but don’t evangelize.
“Is the solution realistic?
“Sure. With Christ, all things are possible. But… we’ll see how much the church wants to be about the mission, and that might be where the rubber meets the road as far as prospects go.”
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.