There are a lot of things that attract people to the cattle business and this way of life. Everything from the ability to work daily with nature to the commitment and passion it requires. One of the things that always attracted me to this business was the people—hardworking people grounded in honesty, integrity and faith. Certainly, there are exceptions to that rule, but it is hard to imagine someone acquiring much success without them.
All of us want to do something significant with our lives. We want to make an impact, to make a difference, to do something important and to excel. We all want to contribute in way that lasts.
But fame and fortune are not simply the answer. I’m sure I will have to explain to my grandchildren who Bill Gates and Joe Montana were, and the question may never get asked.
Yet, while we want to contribute to something that endures, we get caught up in the proverbial rat race and all that society says is important. As cattlemen, we get caught up in working solely on our own operation and let the industry find its own way. As Christians, or people of faith, we conform to the cultural norms. Those are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves, but without a greater meaning or calling, they are inappropriate ways of finding significance.
So much of what we do fades away the moment we retire or pass away. But there are those things that reverberate forever, such as our investment in family, among others. Those things that bring significance are those things that contribute to the welfare of others.
Now, to get to the point
This is a long way of getting to the point, but Patrick Morley said something that struck me when he described Europe as being a post-Christian continent—where the great churches in the major cities of Europe are now mostly classified as tourist attractions.
If you are a Christian, this is particularly sad as there is no way to explain this transformation of Europe except that there simply were not enough people of faith who stood up. It appears America is on a similar trajectory, with the only question being whether or not enough people of faith will stand up and work to make sure that we do not follow Europe’s decline.
The similarities to the cattle industry are striking. The culture of the cattle industry has changed. The majority of us are so caught up in merely surviving that we are not as active as we once were on contributing back to the industry and the institutions that support it. We know the value, but we hope someone else will invest their time, their capital and stand up for it, while we go about our daily lives.
The reality is that by most objective standards, one could argue that the beef industry shares a similar trajectory to Christian values in our country. The passive indifference that most of us show is in essence contributing to the decline. The cost of standing up continually increases as the trends move against us, and thus it demands more time, more money and more commitment. It requires us to make a stand.
Take NCBA as an example. While it represents a large percentage of cattlemen through all of its affiliates at the state and local level, a relative small number of producers are actively involved. And even though there may be 6,000 to 7,000 enthusiastic producers at the annual convention, there is a tendency for cattlemen to not put their membership front and center, just like there is for people of faith to not make that declaration.
I even had a friend say that he didn’t share he was a rancher while on a recent trip where he was seated next to a person that, for whatever reason, made him think he might spend the entire trip defending what he does on a whole host of issues.
I, for one, don’t believe or at least I can’t comprehend the thought that our country will someday be classified as post-beef or post-Christian. I just don’t want to believe that societal influences could be so wrong-headed as to be pushing in that direction. But if I’m honest with myself, I know that both are occurring at an accelerating pace.
There are only three alternatives: 1) Step forward and defend in words and in action what we believe in, and boldly proclaim our affiliation; 2) Go about our business, trying to do things right and hope that others are successful about winning the battles we face or; 3) Simply hope that we are able to go about our business and lives as we always have as society moves us toward irrelevance.
After all, what is faith without action? I’m a cattleman, someone who believes that this is how God intends for me to make a difference. I want to be known as a man of faith, as a good husband, a good father, a good cattleman. But wanting to make a difference and truly standing up for what you believe and acting on it are two entirely different things.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com and Farm Progress