Archive for the ‘Vocation’ Category

Who to Promote

September 20, 2017

I was raised with solid middle-class, middle-America values.  Children should be seen rather than heard.  Or maybe it was heard rather than seen.  Frankly, the preference was probably that we were neither seen nor heard.  In any event, the idea of self-promotion of any kind has always been anathema to me.  It isn’t that I don’t crave recognition.  I do.  But perhaps as a means of controlling that monster inside of me I’ve tried to avoid the spotlight as much as one can do from the front of a classroom or the front of a church.

I dreamed of being a writer but have abandoned that in a post-literate age where anybody can get published inexpensively.  Some of the folks that follow this blog seem to do so out of a concept of mutual self-promotion that eludes me.  I hope for fame, but expect that I won’t have to be the one telling people how awesome I am in order for that to happen.  It will just, someday, but broadly recognized and I won’t have to push for that recognition.

Is that too hard to ask?

My job is not to promote myself –  my job is to promote Christ, to make him known to as many people in as many different facets as He gives me time and opportunity.  But in order to put his name out there, it can be easy to be put mine out as well.  Given time and a bit of temptation, the desire for my name to be glorified can quickly eclipse the desire that his name be glorified.  On the flip side, excessive self-deprecation and equally result in his name not being shared as broadly as possible.  I’m wondering how to put out his Word without necessitating the inclination most people have (not entirely incorrectly) to want to know more about the messenger.

I’m being asked more and more to share my preaching and teaching with expanding audiences, particularly via the Internet as well as more localized outlets such as pre-recorded and live radio options.  It’s something I’ve been hesitant to do  because crafting a message for an audience unfamiliar with me, my congregation, my theology, etc. is a lot more complicated than just videoing a sermon and putting it online.  In a day where it’s customary to take things out of context, I want to think carefully about what I say before facing criticism either from those who don’t share my belief, or those who think they share my belief to a greater/stronger/more accurate extent than I do.

It’s also a lot of work, and being basically lazy, the idea of taking on additional work is unattractive.

But more and more I’m being led to see that this bears investigating further.  I went to lunch today with a gentleman who had the main intent of convincing me to think more seriously about radio and podcasting and other means of speaking to a larger audience.  Of course my ego loves this, and I have to try and put that down while still hearing what is being said and considering it as objectively as possible.  We have such Good News to share with a world that is so incredibly hungry for good news.  If we need to be reconsidering and reevaluating how we do Church in a rapidly changing culture, I can’t simply say that I’m not willing to consider other avenues for sharing the Gospel and helping people to understand it better.  Prayers are appreciated!


When Things Click

September 18, 2017

Last night we had a dozen people (in addition to our family of five) for happy hour.  And for what felt like the first time, I was able to have a series of meaningful discussions one on one with people in the midst of the overall hullabaloo.  We had people around until almost midnight, and there was a lot of time for good interactions.

There was the guy who wanted to know how I could say in my sermon that morning that I had no doubt that the events in Genesis – specifically the Joseph story – were historically accurate.  We were able to talk about history and documents and whether it’s more reasonable to assume an attitude that none of it can be true because we can’t prove it’s true, or whether we trust what it says because we don’t have good reason not to.

I got to speak with a young woman who desperately wants her younger brother to move out West, in no small part so he can come on Sunday nights and begin connecting to people in various ways.

I was able to facilitate another young man who is preparing for bartending school by letting him make a variety of drinks for people instead of me doing it all.

I got to speak to someone who helps out with music at our church about increasing and diversifying the types of music and the number of people we get involved.

My wife was able to have a side discussion with a newly married young woman on the sensitive issue of birth control and the risk considerations of utilizing pharmaceutical methods.  I was able to talk with this same young woman about coming to church instead of pretending that Sunday happy hour is church.

Part of what was different last night was that I deliberately made myself sit down in the fray for an extended period of time, which allowed for different people to gravitate in and out and engage in conversation, instead of me focusing solely on making drinks and washing dishes and doing all the things that a host does.  Part of the draw for Sunday nights I think is that they are intergenerational.  People get to interact with our kids as well as my wife and myself, and they want those opportunities.

And of course, one of the best parts of every Sunday night is the post-event debriefing, when my wife and I sit or collapse with a cup of tea and recount our various observations and interactions, comparing notes, encouraging one another, tucking bits away mentally for future reference if needed.  It’s the best part of the evening to sit with my best friend in the world and my partner in life and talk about how good God is!

Leveling Up II

September 14, 2017

Today was my first meeting with our District’s Board of Directors.  As a regional vice-president I hold a spot on this Board which helps to advise and guide the District as a whole.  It is comprised of a mix of lay people (a lay person is in contrast to a trained church worker or employee of some sort), commissioned church workers (trained professional church worker but not a pastor) and clergy from the four regions that make up our District.

I was naturally a bit in the spotlight being the new guy on the Board – stepping in to fill the shoes of our regional vice-president who retired this summer.  Lots of new names and faces to learn, but all in all a good group of people.

As with the vice-presidents yesterday, I was impressed with the deep level of care and  concern expressed for the many congregations in our District who are struggling, just as congregations across denominational lines and around our country are struggling.  Just as yesterday, there was also the conundrum of what to do and how to do it.  We’re good at picking things to do, but the solution to the struggles of small congregations doesn’t lie within a specific event or goal per se.  Yet such events and goals can be a means by which relationships are built to and between those congregations.  The key is not losing the forest for the tree and to ensure that the particular trees you focus on in the short term help to constitute the actual forest you’re trying to define.

Good hearts struggling with big questions and issues.  I’m grateful to learn from those with more experience at this level than I have, while contributing what perspectives my unique background both personally and in the ministry may offer.

Leveling Up

September 13, 2017

Today I sat in on my first executive level meeting for the regional governing polity for our denomination.

Translation:  When one of the regional vice-presidents for our denomination’s geographical district retired this summer,  I was asked by our District President to step into his shoes, becoming one of four regional vice-presidents that advise and assist the District President in the oversight of 300+ congregations spread out between central/southern California, all of Arizona, and the Las Vegas area of Nevada.  It was an unexpected request.  I hate meetings.  And I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid politics, whether office or ecclesiastical.  However I also believe that I should serve as I am able, when I am asked.  Today was my first meeting as part of the presidium or President’s council.  This group meets roughly quarterly to provide insight and advice to the President, as well as to receive directions from him for work to be done in the region which they represent.

The three other pastors all serve in large, multi-staff congregations.  They worship multiple hundreds of people every week and oversee the operations of large campuses, some with schools, and a diverse network of staff.  They’re good administrators as well as good pastors.  I serve a much, much smaller and simpler congregation – for which I am eternally grateful!  But it also means that my perspectives and experiences are rather different from what these guys deal with on a typical week.

This group also focuses on bigger picture stuff, and this was my first involvement in a discussion about the political situation for our denomination on the national level.  There are disagreements within our denomination about the best way forward, about how to interpret our past and therefore plot our future.  Is a strong, centralized national organization better than a decentralized and localized structure?  It’s the Church equivalent of the old American political disagreement over a strong Federal government or stronger state governments.  How tightly do we want to enforce conformity and uniformity amongst our member congregations?  Is it better to allow for a greater deal of diversity and flexibility than we have traditionally known, or should we try to enforce a baseline of worship or liturgical or musical practice amongst congregations?

And as in any group of people you have a spectrum of voices that runs the gamut from extremes on both ends to moderates in the middle.   As with national politics, I generally want to not get too involved personally, trusting that I won’t be affected by decisions that are made far away by people I’ve barely met.  But as history shows both in politics as well as church politics, this isn’t always the case.  But I felt very much the neophyte today.  I don’t know most of the names and players in our denominational political scene.  Heck, I don’t know most of the names just in our local area!   But I’m willing to learn and find out if my perspectives are of value compared to the more seasoned and experienced voices of the others in the meeting.

I appreciated the personal as well as business oriented nature of the meeting.  Because sensitive issues are discussed, there is an understanding and desire to actually know each other.  The meeting began with a time of personal sharing so that we could care for and pray for one another and what we are personally dealing with before moving on to business.  That was a beautiful touch.

And despite what many in our denomination suspect, there is a great deal of pastoral concern for the congregations and people in our denomination and particularly in our District and within our regions.  There is a desire and a willingness to help, combined with a genuine uncertainty in how best to do this, coupled with the recognition that any top-down initiative or invitation will be viewed with suspicion and even disinterest by some of the very congregations and leaders we hope to help.  It’s a difficult situation to say the least.

God has worked so many changes in my life over the years.  It’s difficult to imagine who I once was in some respects.  Hopefully the majority of the changes are for the better.  But at the very least He has equipped me to operate in a variety of contexts, to shift gears or to blend in to my surroundings to some degree.  I pray for the strength and wisdom to know what to say and when to say it, to God’s glory rather than my own, and the benefit of his people both here and now as well as for eternity.


Mind the Collar

September 12, 2017

There was a brief flurry of comments about the young man who appeared at the MTV Music Video Awards in his clerical collar to denounce racism.  This got him into a bit of trouble with his congregation resulting in him offering his resignation.  This is his letter explaining his actions and the results.  Where to start with this?

Let’s start with his congregation’s concerns about his actions.  Is this warranted?  Of course it is.  The young man expresses surprise that his congregation has a problem with what he did.  Their reaction was”deeply hurtful” to him.  Perhaps he can understand then why his actions and words were “deeply hurtful” to some in the congregation.  He mentions his “right to free speech”.  But his right to free speech ends when he puts his clerical collar on.  Once he puts on the garb of a minister, he is voluntarily giving up his civil right to free speech in recognition that he is formally representing the Church or at least his congregation.

Did he consult with his leadership regarding whether or not appearing on a show broadcast around the world was a good idea?  Did they approve the specific statement he issued in that venue?  Did he honor his congregation by verifying that this was something they wanted him to do beforehand?  He specifically states that he is speaking “as a pastor”, but a pastor has a context.  Without ensuring that his congregation supported his statement, he should not be surprised that some were hurt by the publicity and offended at certain aspects of his remarks.  If you want to appear as a private person, without a collar and without reference to your vocation of pastor, that’s one thing.  But if you want to wear that mantle, you accept the restrictions that go with it.

Regarding what he said specifically, I have a few issues.  His designation of racism as “America’s original sin” has a lot of theological implications when he speaks in the uniform of and under the title of pastor.  I’d be curious how he reached this conclusion.  What is the exegetical basis for this assertion and again, how is it that he decides to publicly assert this as a leader of part of God’s Church?  It sounds a lot more like personal interpretation and exegesis to me, regardless of how many others might share in his viewpoint.  How does this become the country’s original sin given that it was not a sin universally engaged in?  At what threshold does can a sin be attributed directly and personally to everyone, if everyone does not directly or personally engage in it?  Slippery stuff, there.

I agree that racism is a sinful thing that should be confronted as such as necessary.  What about white supremacy, though?  How is this defined?  Does the demographic preponderance of whites automatically equal white supremacy?  Is it the particular ideological assertion that whites are inherently superior to other ethnicities?  That’s a big term to throw around without defining anything.

Most egregious, however, is the fact that when referring people to inspirations for confronting racism and white supremacy, Mr. Lee mentions only contemporary political movements and persons with extremely limited scope and questionable ideologies of their own.  I would think that if he wants to don the garb of a pastor and speak as a pastor, then he should have at least referenced Scripture as the first and foremost inspiration and power for confronting sin in all of it’s many facets.  Was he requested not to mention Scripture, or did he simply not think of it, or did he specifically choose not to mention it?  Curious.

So yeah, I understand why some of his congregation was upset.  And I find his rather immature surprise and hurt at this to be just that (hopefully) – immature.  His letter smacks of a self-righteousness that still doesn’t recognize the hurt that he caused, preferring to focus on the hurt he has personally experienced.  I pray for his sake as well as for the sake of his next congregation that this is a time of growth and maturation for him as a man and as a pastor.  I pray that he finds good, wise folks around him to help him in this process.

I pray this for myself.  I’m pretty sure it’s a good prayer for everyone, which might minimize the frequency of these sorts of public problems.


Law and Order

September 7, 2017

I was 17 quite a few years ago.  It was a different world then, to speak without too much exaggeration.  Whether it was a simpler time or not, it was simply another time.

At the age of 17 and being somewhat of a social outcast it was decided one cool evening to take our squirt guns to the airport for a game of squirt gun tag.  The very writing of those words elicits fears of bloodbaths these days, but it was many years ago.  Most of my friends were running around with large neon plastic squirt guns.  But my buddy Mike and I, we were different.  We were better.  Who wants to run around with a child’s squirt gun when we could opt for higher quality, very realistic squirt guns?  Not us, that’s for sure.  So we took our $5 squirt guns – in the days before those orange tips they put on all squirt guns or air guns or other non-lethal, gun-like objects – that looked like very real semi-automatic handguns and headed for the airport.  Being the 80’s, we naturally were wearing our jeans jackets.

We wandered the airport for some time, successfully avoiding our friends but at the same time getting rather bored with our prowess.  Towards the end of the evening Mike found a way up to the second level of Sky Harbor Airport.  From there we surveyed the concourse below, which wasn’t too terribly busy at 9:00 PM at night.  Realizing even in those halcyon days that running around with a realistic looking squirt gun might get us into a bit of trouble, I had dutifully kept mine in the inside chest pocket of my genuine Levi’s jeans jacket.  I had to repeatedly remind my buddy to keep his out of sight, and he routinely ignored me.

So it was that as we stood looking down on the assembly below, Mike had out his squirt gun.  And so it was that we were seen by two active duty police officers walking underneath.  I will always remember the moment that they glanced up at us, and the one guy slapped his buddy in the chest with the back of his hand, and they both started running.  Fortunately for me, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize they were running for us.  Being young and dumb, we decided to make a getaway.  Mike ran to the elevators but I yelled for him to follow me to the stairwell.  The police were obviously going to be coming up the elevators.

We ran up a couple of flights of stairs, emerging into a clear Phoenix night on the top of a four-story parking garage.  There were no police in sight.  Recognizing that my car was parked a long way away, on the top of an adjoining parking garage, we ducked around a small service shed, panting and panicked.  We waited for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only a minute or two.  Still no sign of police.  Maybe we had lost them.  We decided to make a run for it.

We probably only got 20 yards or so when I heard the first *ding* of an elevator, and knew that a police officer was about to emerge behind us.  Sure enough we were assaulted with shouts of “Freeze, police!” or some such language.  Because it was the 80’s and police were not the enemy in our lives, we stopped.  We were ordered to lie down on our faces on the pavement.  Mike tossed his gun to the side of him.  The officer was slowly advancing on us, gun drawn and pointed at us.

His partner emerged a minute or two later, gun also drawn and pointed at us as the first officer reached us.  He kneeled on Mike’s back as he patted him down, gun still drawn.  He kicked Mike’s gun further out of reach, and at this point I decided I would be helpful.  I said something to the effect of “Officer, my gun is in my pocket,” and started to reach towards my jacket to get it for him.

This was not a good idea.

He swung around and pointed his gun at my head, perhaps a foot away.  He let fly a stream of obscenities and made it clear in no uncertain terms that I should make no further movements if I wished to keep my head attached to my body.  His partner arrived to hold Mike down in place while the first officer quickly located my gun and tossed it aside.  I presume that at this point they realized they were dealing with two morons rather than hardened criminals.  We were allowed to stand as they kicked the guns around and laughed between themselves about it.  They ran our IDs and realized we were just dumb kids.  They made us promise we would never, ever come to the airport ever again.   And they let us go.

It was shortly before Pope John Paul II paid a visit to Phoenix, and security was extra high.  They told us, perhaps more to scare us than anything, that had we failed to stop, or had we turned to face him instead of stopping with our backs to him, he would have “blown us off the top of the parking garage.”  I saw no reason to doubt him.  I was just relieved to be allowed to leave without being arrested.

I’d like to say that I was wise beyond my years and could calmly evaluate things in the heat of the moment.  I wasn’t.  I’m still not.  I was lucky, at best.  As lucky as an idiot who takes a gun replica to an international airport could be.  Or, more accurately, as lucky as someone who takes a dorky friend who can’t keep his gun out of sight can be.  Regardless, my instinct in that moment of adrenaline was to do what I was told.

Some will say that’s a sign of weakness.  It might have saved my life.  If the worst had happened, I would have been arrested and my parents would have had to deal with me – which was far more terrifying than dealing with the police.  Did the police manhandle us?  Not overly.  Not given the situation, and the fact that they might have been a little worked up as well.  They were pursuing two possibly armed young men.  Who might have others around them for backup.  I don’t blame the police for being careful or riled up.

So I’ve watched with a fascinated curiosity as two events dominate the news over the past week.  First the nurse in Utah who was handcuffed for refusing to allow a police officer to draw blood from an unconscious patient.  I watched the video and she freaked out, screaming and protesting and struggling.  I empathize with her shock and surprise.  The police officer clearly seems to be acting improperly.  But her reaction strikes me also as improper and excessive.  She’s told him what the law is.  He’s insisting on doing what he wants.  Something is going to get sorted out at some point, for certain, but in the meantime, resisting arrest even if you’re convinced you have the legal grounds to do so is terribly unwise.  She could have been hurt.  Someone else could have been hurt.  The whole thing was being filmed and had multiple witnesses.  It would have been – and was – sorted out pretty quickly.  She’s been trained to handle stressful situations, and I find it surprising that she reacted the way she did.

The second incident is football player Michael Bennett complaining about the treatment he received from Las Vegas police.  He claims the police singled him out for detainment, that they were rough with him and pointed a gun at him in the process.  The closest I can make out is that he was part of a group of people running from what was believed to be gunshots when the police arrived on the scene.  Some reports indicate that he acted in a way that led police to believe that he might be involved in the shooting or at least have something to hide.

Michael Bennett is black, and he views his treatment as a racist act worth possibly suing over.  Michael Bennett is also massive.  6’4″ and closing in on 300 pounds.  He’s a defensive end for Seattle and an impressively sized human being.  How many other people surrounding Bennett were 6’4″ and 274 pounds or more?  Probably not very many.  If police were trying to contain a situation where they didn’t know what was going on, there could be worse courses of action than making sure that this very large man was not going to pose them any problems.  I’ve not heard whether there were any white team-mates or other athletes of similar stature near Bennett at the time, and if they were treated any differently or better if they were.  There doesn’t appear to be indication that Bennett resisted in any way, which is wise, given the situation.  He claims he was singled out for this treatment, but what does that mean?

In both cases, the worst thing that could have happened was that these people would be arrested and taken to jail.  Absolute worst case, they would have stayed there a few hours until somebody found out what had happened and came to bail them out or get the charges dropped.   Absolute, worst case ever, they would have had their day in court to explain why their treatment was improper.  Resisting arrest or running from officers for whatever reason is not the smart course of action and could have resulted in much worse consequences.

Are there bad police officers out there?  Undoubtedly.  There are bad pastors out there.  Bad organic farmers.  Bad yoga instructors.  People are the issue, not the vocation.  The vocation, however, does increase the possibility of things going wrong in a very, very bad way.  Which is even greater reason to make sure that rather than fight the police officer, you do what you’re told.  The fact that you’re innocent means nothing in the moment.  The police don’t know that.  Their job is to try and ascertain the situation and make sure that people are safe.  All people.  Including themselves.  Innocence will get sorted out in due time, but you don’t help yourself by fighting against it like the nurse did.

And rather than assume it’s simply your skin color rather than your size that is the issue, remember that the police might have been just as frightened and wary as Bennett was.  If a man that big found it reasonable to run from a potential threat, imagine how cautious the police are going to be.  While there are bad police officers out there, there are also many, many, many good ones.  And those good ones get ambushed and killed just as well as the bad ones.

This is America, not some third world country.  Overwhelmingly I believe – based on the preponderance of evidence – that police are here to protect and serve and we should work with them towards those ends.  Things are not perfect here but in general I believe that people of all races and ethnicities that cooperate with the police are going to find their treatment far better than those who resist, regardless of how firmly they believe they are in the right.  People make mistakes – including police.  Staying calm goes a long way towards working things out on both sides of the badge.  Do what you’re told, even if you don’t think it’s fair.  There’s a lot riding on your actions and responses, just as there’s a lot riding on the actions and responses of the police.  Surely cooperating toward the mutual goal of resolving a situation peacefully and accurately is the most important thing?

Vocationally Challenged

September 6, 2017

Talking with your kids and grandkids about what they want to be when they grow up is a cherished, necessary and important task of family.  These days, however, make sure that you’re providing them with some good perspective on what vocations are going to be challenging for them in the future.   The cultural landscape is shifting rapidly, and if you hope that your family member will remain firmly rooted in Christ, yet still be able to avail themselves of the career options that were once so open in our country, I have bad news for you.  At the very least, it’s sobering news that needs practical application.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein today criticized a nominee for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals because of her Catholic faith, something which Senator Feinstein basically stated was a stumbling block for conflicting with the ideologies of others.

Senator Feinstein criticized and questioned Amy Coney Barrett because of religious writings and lectures she produced as a Law Professor at Notre Dame.  Feinstein specifically questioned and challenged Barrett’s actual adherence to and defense of Roman Catholic theology that Feinstein correctly assesses to be at direct odds with the prevailing spirit of the day.

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.” (And let’s ignore that large numbers of people have fought against some of these big issues.)

In other words, any dogma that challenges the status quo dogma is dangerous.  And to protect against any such outside dogmas, we’re going to pretend that dogma is not permissible to a judge.  Unless of course the dogma is in complete agreement with the spirit of the day.  So if you are against abortion on theological grounds, you shouldn’t be a judge because judges are supposed to support abortion because it’s been legal for almost 50 years.  Since we can’t legally – yet – prevent someone who disagrees with abortion from being a judge, we’re going to pretend that anyone with a strongly held belief is ipso ex facto inacceptable as a nominee.  Unless, of course, they happen to agree with abortion, in which case we’re totally fine with that because it’s not really a dogma.

So if your little darling wants to go into law, and hopes to one day be a judge, and may aspire to be an important judge, they may have to decide whether they would rather be an important judge or an actual follower of Jesus Christ.  Because if they’re going to practice what is preached to them, they might not be allowed to progress up the vocational ladder of judge-ness.

Isolated and unique situation, you say?

  • What about pharmacists?
  • What about if you believe that sexuality and gender confusion can be clarified and resolved through therapy?
  • What if you want to be a teacher?
  • How about a doctor?  Are you going to prescribe your patient enough medication so they can kill themselves if they choose to?  Doctor-“assisted”-suicide is legal in several states today.

The reality is that in more and more fields, being a committed Christian is being defined as a career liability.  And parents and grandparents and other key people need to be aware of this to help young people make sense of the rapidly shifting career landscape.  Especially before you take out $100,000 of student loan debt to achieve your goal, only to find you aren’t employable.





Select Who to Protect?

August 28, 2017

In case you missed it, that shining star of intellectual prowess and liberty, Berkeley, just had another stellar moment yesterday.  You might remember back in February when demonstrators against conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos ended up causing $100,000 in damage to the UC Berkeley campus and causing him to cancel his talk.  Yesterday, Berkeley police opted not to prevent armed alt-left antifa protesters from entering a park and assaulting at least five conservative protesters.

How should a city deal with perpetrators of violence – regardless of their ideological creed?  Apparently Berkeley’s mayor thinks the best way is to capitulate and hope they’ll play nicer.  Berkeley’s mayor requested UC Berkeley to cancel future planned speaking engagements by Yiannopoulos and other conservatives.  Fortunately, at least so far, the university has refused.

And rightly so.

It shouldn’t take a genius to recognize that you don’t end violence by giving violent protesters what they demand.  Our nation has enjoyed a long history of mostly peaceful demonstrations for various causes and ideologies.  Some of them are or were appealing and beneficial.  Others not so much.  But the important hallmark of America’s freedom of speech and freedom of assembly is that, so long as they are peaceful, they are allowed.  That such a tradition, and such liberties, should be usurped by any group using violence and intimidation ought to be repugnant to every American, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum.

Frighteningly, though, it doesn’t seem to be repugnant to everyone.  While President Trump was excoriated for his perceived inadequate response to neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, there has been far less call for such repudiation of the antifa movement by Democratic leadership, and far less criticism of them for failing to do so.

This is how freedom dies.  By police deciding not to enforce the law.  To wait until after the violence to make arrests rather than standing strong and calling for backup.  Were the police worried they would be overrun by masked street thugs?  Better that the police be overrun, that they call for backup, that they show these cowardly extremists for who and what they are, than allow citizens to be brutalized and the event to be passed off as a conflict between liberal and conservative ideologies.

It’s scary enough to realize that politicians and media are so painfully biased.  But it hits closer to home to think that the police might demonstrate such a bias as well.  That they might choose not to protect you and your family.  This is how freedom dies.  I hope that others will join in criticizing the decision by the Berkeley police to stand down and allow unarmed citizens to be attacked, rather than fulfilling their sworn duty to serve and protect.  Such an ideological decision is a black eye on law enforcement, one that I hope law enforcement leaders around the country will denounce.


Another Google Response

August 9, 2017

In the continuing saga of Google controversy over gender – or more specifically, over hiring and promotion practices aimed at promoting diversity – here is the latest salvo.

It tugs on the heart strings in all the right ways, but it fundamentally misses the point of the original memo.  The original memo was not questioning whether some women were just as capable as men in terms of performance in technology related fields as well as in ascending into the upper echelons of management.  The memo did indicate that overall, men and women seek out these sorts of jobs at different rates, and therefore that trying to force diversity and equal percentages of each gender might be fundamentally flawed.

While many people seem to read it as an attack on women, I didn’t see or hear that at all.  Nor did lots of other people undoubtedly smarter than I am.  However it was a stinging criticism of implicit bias’ towards certain ideological assumptions  and the corresponding discrimination against differing points of view which results in people being afraid to speak if they don’t hold with the dominant ideology.  It was a request for more study and data, and not simply a treatise about how women should stay home and not become programmers or CEOs.

But that’s how many people – including this woman – seem to have interpreted it.

I’ve known oodles of women who are way smarter than I am in math and science.  But that’s not what the original memo was trying to address, and it was not the question that this woman’s daughter asked her.  I don’t know how old her daughter is, but her question is a complex one that, when she’s old enough to understand the complexity, deserves a complex answer.

There are always prejudices and stereotypes that can be dangerous and damaging.  That doesn’t mean all stereotypes are, nor does it mean that some stereotypes may not have actual data behind them.  And it’s very unfortunate that this woman has had her abilities and commitment questioned simply because she’s a woman.  It’s unfortunate if she’s been excluded from industry events because of her gender (though, at the risk of beating a dead horse, y’all remember it’s now socially acceptable to discriminate against guys, right?).  Given her status, it’s obvious that she surmounted these challenges, or is continuing to surmount them.  That’s fantastic and a wonderful model to her daughter and other young women.  And young men, I hope.

I didn’t hear the original e-mail trying to discourage women from pursuing computer programming or upper management positions in technology companies. What it was doing was questioning attempts to force companies to have an even distribution of genders when there was credible research and evidence to show that such a goal might not actually be reasonable or sustainable.  What is the “negative stereotype” that Susan Wojicicki accuses James Damore of perpetuating, and who wins when both claim to have data and statistics to back up their perspectives?

In this case, Google and those who agree with Ms. Wojicicki win.  Which is the very environment Mr. Damore was attempting to describe.

I have a daughter as well.  My hopes for her are not specific to the tech industry or science.  Or music or art or literature.  I want her to figure out what makes her happy, what she enjoys doing and is good at.  I want her imagination to fire in directions of her own choosing (by and large).  My hopes and aspirations for her are that she will be happy and fulfilled in whatever vocation she chooses to pursue.  That she won’t be held back from a chosen career path because of the sexism of men around her if she chooses to  enter the workplace, and that she won’t be the object of sexist scorn by feminists is she chooses to commit her life to raising a family and running a household.

Perhaps if we focused a lot more on helping our kids figure out what they’d like to do and how to do it, we’d all be happier, instead of trying to use our children to vindicate our own experiences as adults.   This may require specialized programs and training in companies to ensure that people have equal opportunities.  But that’s a far cry from demanding absolute numerical parity between men and women across all levels and positions.  Maybe we need to quit quantifying equality in that way, and spend more time making sure that if a woman (or a man) wants to enter a particular vocation, they have the ability to do so and be successful at it.

How would I answer my daughter if she asked me the question Ms. Wojicicki’s daughter posed her?  I’d begin by asking her why she wanted to know.  Is she afraid?  Is she worried maybe she shouldn’t consider a future in technology because she’s not as good at it as a boy?  I’d encourage her to explore that for herself.  Not to worry about broad brush-stroke studies of men and women, but simply to see what she likes to do and what she’s good at.  If she’s good at and interested in science and technology or management, then I will encourage her to pursue those things, and find ways to put her skills to good work.  I’ll be honest that there may be people who try to stop her for any number of reasons.  Those will be her battles to fight – I can’t fight them for her. But I can prepare her to face them bravely and competently.

What I don’t want to do is tell her to pursue something in order to make a point, or just because Mom or I have done it (or haven’t done it).  And if necessary, I’ll acknowledge honestly that perhaps her question doesn’t have a simple answer and that it’s misleading to pretend that it does.  That we need to talk about a whole lot of things beyond whether she’s good at math or not.  It’s OK for the situation to be complex.  Maybe if we continued to honestly acknowledge this with one another as adults, we’d move further along in figuring out how to make workplaces safer and opportune places for both men and women.


August 6, 2017

I had to ask the last of our happy hour attendees to leave about an hour ago.  One (the one who doesn’t drink!) was falling asleep on the couch with the dogs .  But the wife and kids are getting up early in the morning for a birthday boat ride to and a day of hiking on Santa Cruz Island, so I needed to empty the house and get them to bed.  People started arriving around 6pm this evening.  This isn’t everyone who was there, but it gives you an idea:

Our daughter tells us there were 21 people here tonight (including our five family members).  We didn’t know most of them.  Six are weekly regulars.  Of the rest, one or two have visited once or twice over the past year and a half.  The others were first time visitors.

There were actresses and actors fresh from small indie performances in town and trying to figure out how to position themselves for a Big Break.  Missionary kids from Eritrea the Ukraine.  Aspiring doctors, a sailing captain, a future lawyer, two Swiss exchange students, several talented musicians previewing songs from an upcoming debut album, a future professor and a few undecideds.  All in their early 20’s, all a long way from family.  A cross spectrum of ideologies and personalities, but our friends knew that they would be welcomed and honored in our home, greeted by our kids and our dogs, handed some AMAZING cocktails (thank you to Ruth for the sake!!!), and welcomed to just be.  I probably didn’t converse with a third of them more than to get their drink order.  Talking with everyone every Sunday isn’t always feasible.  But I conversed with one guy on the difference between Lutheran and Reformed theology.   I planned with another couple I’ll have the privilege of marrying in two weeks.  I received updates on short-term work and travel plans from another person.  I watched my kids help keep the food supplied and deliver drinks.  I heard my oldest son joking and telling stories.  I washed a lot of dishes.  Some of them twice.

I may have misgivings and feel inadequate in describing what happens on Sunday evenings to other people.  I may be exhausted at the end of an 18 hour day.  But it’s a beautiful place to be.  A bit chaotic at times, but that’s sort of the nature of Christ’s love.  We always know what we’re getting with Christ’s love, but we never quite know where that will lead us or how it will change us or who it will connect us with, whether for an evening or a lifetime or, by His grace, an eternity.