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I serve kids on the South Side of Chicago. This is my message about the American Dream

I believe in the American Dream and always have. Yet sometimes I feel like I’m swimming against the current, even drifting backwards. I spend my days pastoring one of the most notorious blocks on the South Side of Chicago, a block that was named after Odell Perry, a slain gangbanger: the O-Block. 

Youngsters here have every reason to believe they will follow the path of Perry. They’re surrounded by failing schools, violence of every kind, drugs, prostitution, and politicians who routinely disparage the American Dream while deepening my peoples’ dependency upon the government.

That is why I try every day to bring the American Dream into the darkest corners of my neighborhood. When you tell a child, even the most disadvantaged one, that you believe in him or her and their ability to rise however high they wish, their eyes light up. It’s like giving life and when I tell them the rags-to-riches stories of past Americans who achieved their dreams, they begin to feel part of America and her possibilities.


Yet sometimes I wonder if I am the fool here, to pursue good faith in a world seemingly drowning in bad faith. I recently read a series of polls that marked profound disparities between Generation Z (ages 18-26) and Baby Boomers (ages 59-77). I shouldn’t be surprised, since we’ve known for decades that the younger generations have been drifting away from the values that are the bedrock of America.

Only 32 percent of Generation Z described themselves as patriotic, a deep decline from 76 percent of the Baby Boomers who do so. 33 percent of Generation Z said America was the best place to live as opposed to Baby Boomers’ 66 percent. When it came to having children, a dismal 23 percent of Generation Z favored that whereas 52% of the Baby Boomers were in favor. Perhaps the most disturbing statistic for me, especially because I’m a pastor, is that only 23% of Generation Z believes in God, down from 52% for the Baby Boomers.

Sometimes I wonder if I am the fool here, to pursue good faith in a world seemingly drowning in bad faith.

What I see in these polls is a lack of belief in America and God. But here’s the thing: there is no such thing as an absence of belief. Even nihilism — the meaninglessness of life — is a belief.  Or as Bob Dylan once sang, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody, Well, it may be the Devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

What has become clear to me over the years is that these young Americans have increasingly embraced a dangerous belief: the ideology of DEI. A recent Forbes article stated that 83 percent of Generation Z said they consider an employer’s commitment to DEI before committing to the job. That’s 60 percent more than those who believe in God.

The fundamental problem with this DEI ideology is that it is un-American and it is often done in the name of helping the very people in my community. But how is dividing us into the oppressed versus the oppressors or deriding values like merit or being on time as white supremacist values helping us who are trying to get off the bottom of society? How is transforming our society from one grounded in the equality of opportunity to the equity of outcomes beneficial to us?


We know that this is preening and virtue signaling by these young Americans, but it would be a mistake to dismiss this as youthful folly. Far too many of them have chosen to embrace a belief system grounded in the immutable characteristics we were born with. And to defend the absurdities of their beliefs, they must “other” America, make her our enemy. They believe they must work for our great nation’s downfall and they have succeeded greatly.

But that is why I will never give up the fight for the American Dream on the south side of Chicago. I have no choice but to fight — to give in is to hasten the already rapid decline of my people. 

I fight on every day. I counsel young couples on the importance of marriage and children. I pastor in them a belief in God, the almighty power that has given the weakest of us a great strength and the most sinful of us a newfound path of worth in life. 

I stress to my youth from an early age the importance of credit so that they may one day do something their parents and grandparents never did: buy a house. 

I tell them to believe in America, despite her many flaws, for without this belief what else is there? Anarchy? Tribalism? Nihilism? 

I tell them when they believe in America, that is when they will see opportunities begin to open up before their eyes and when that happens, the sky is the limit. But they first must believe in America and begin to dream their own dream.


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