Skip navigation

Egalitarianism is often pitted against complementarianism. I know this to be true.  However, complementarianism is eschewed by women and egalitarianism is being pushed and is preferred in our culture today. There is an overwhelming longing for egalitarianism. I just wonder; is this because of…

  1. men’s abuse of power, authority, or position? I think of the Roman Catholic Church pedophile scandal; and I think of the #metoo and #churchtoo movements, for instance.
  2. our church’s outdated traditions that inadvertently oppress, subservient-ize, and belittle women?
  3. men’s abdication of their leadership roles in the home and in the church?
  4. men’s absence in homes and in churches?
  5. male clergy’s poor exegesis, and application, of passages like 1 Timothy 2:8f?
  6. men not affirming the gifts and talents of women in the church?
  7. men not affirming the inherent dignity and worth of women as imago Dei bearing creatures?
  8. men’s failure to repent of abuses, neglect, or abdication?
  9. men’s slow development or maturation?

 

I just wonder.

Advertisements

I have been thinking about why it appears men are ‘dropping out the game of life’.  By dropping out, I mean men are checking out, abdicating their roles, and are going missing in action. Here are a few thoughts why I think men seem to be retreating or dropping out the game called life:

  1. Hovering parenting.  I wonder if the hovering or helicopter parent is a factor? I remember when my son played middle school football.  I volunteered to move the first down marker chains.  During one time out, the referee said to me, “I have been refereeing for a long time and I have noticed how soft the boys have gotten.” Smothering parents have led to men who are slow to develop/mature and this has given rise to prolonged adolescence.  Now we have many young men addicted to video games instead of transitioning to adulthood.  I remember hearing this phrase, “mothers raise their daughters, but love their sons.” Is that a factor here?
  2. Radical feminism. I wonder if radical feminism is a factor? I should be clear here: I am for fair rights for women.  I am for equal pay for women.  I am for equity for women. However, I wonder if the pendulum has swung too radically far to the point where men are now being discriminated against and excluded from the workforce? Has there been an over-compensation to level the playing field in the workforce? The article, The End of Men, reported that, “Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history” (The Atlanta Journal, 2010). Notice the year: 2010.  If women became the majority, that means men became the minority.
  3. Joblessness.  Fewer men are going to college, fewer men are encouraged to pursue the trades, and many are finding that blue-collar work (like manufacturing work) has become scarce and this means more men are jobless.  Yet, we were designed to work.  There is dignity in work. Work gives us purpose.  We contribute to the flourishing of ourselves, our families, and our society when we work.  So, imagine the psychic of a man not able to work.  Imagine how purposeless a man might feel if he is not able to provide for his family. A friend who works and lives in a former mining town in West Virginia sees a sad side effect of joblessness: white men are resorting to opioids.  And for many African Americans men, many jobless men are resorting to crime that leads ultimately to jail.
  4. Sperm banks.  The bottom-line of the article, The End of Men, is basically this, “If women had their druthers, they would rather get along without men.”  One way women could get on without men is because of sperm banks.  A woman does not need to involve herself in a sometimes good, sometimes messy relationship if she only wanted a child.  She simply needs to visit her local sperm bank, choose her donor, and get artificially inseminated. Do sperm banks message to men, your sperm is all a woman wants?
  5. Dim-witted Buffoons. Let’s face it, from TV sitcoms like The SimpsonsTwo and A Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, and even commercialsmen are often portrayed as sex-crazed and dim-witted buffoons. I wonder what cumulative effect this has on men and the sense of their self-worth? In other words, does life imitate art?
  6. Breakdown of the family.  With more and more families breaking down, which means young boys are bereft of fathers and in-house “role models,” I wonder if this is contributing to men checking out of the game?  With more and more alternative models for familiesa son being raised by two dads or two momsis this contributing to men checking out the game called life?
  7. Government programs.  Welfare has helped millions of people by providing a leg up.  However, there is an unintended consequence of welfare.  Senior Research Fellow, Robert Rector, writes in, How Welfare Undermines Marriage and What to Do About it, “welfare system actively penalizes low-income parents who do marry.” Essentially, if a “low-income single mother marries an employed father, her welfare benefits will generally be substantially reduced. The mother can maximize welfare by remaining unmarried and keeping the father’s income “off the books.”  “For example,” Rector reports, “a single mother with two children who earns $15,000 per year would generally receive around $5,200 per year of food stamp benefits. However, if she marries a father with the same earnings level, her food stamps would be cut to zero.” This program not only de-incentivizes low-income couples to marry but it communicates to men, “I (the mother) am better off (financially) without you.”

What are your theories or speculations why men are dropping out the game called life?

The Jetsons an American animated sitcom that aired in 1962 and featured a futuristic world of flying cars, robotic maids, and other whimsical inventions. We have entered the world of the Jetsons!  I was fascinated by this cartoon series as a kid—it was truly a push-button activated utopia. Today, we are not only a push-button society, but also a voice-activated, swipe-activated, touch-activated, and mind-activated society.

Full disclosure: I am no Luddite, I love technology.  I practiced electrical engineering for 15 years at two different companies in Missouri; one, a department of energy (DOE) contractor, the other, a department of defense (DoD) contractor. In my view, technology is a great impression of human imagination and ingenuity. However, technological progress is not neutral.

I was fortunate to attend the Faith at Work Summit in Chicago, IL, October 11-13, 2018.  One session was devoted to the topic “the disruption of work.” Here, the presenters spoke about how artificial intelligence (AI), robots, and algorithms will disrupt work as we know it. That is, some jobs will simply be replaced by AI powered technology like legal work, accounting work, and the work of flipping hamburgers.

What the speakers did not discuss was how algorithms and machines will assist (and are assisting) in the hiring of employees. But algorithms are not neutral.  They are not unbiased. Why? Because algorithms used to hire employees are biased because the designers of these algorithms are biased. A designer’s bias is baked in to these algorithms. We know that companies discriminate based on applicants’ first names.  The famous, or infamous, study conducted by Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan at the University of Chicago and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?, prove this point.

Will these algorithms, for example, discriminate based on a set formula or coding language? What tests or check and balances will companies employ to minimize the bias of these algorithms?

 

During a two week stretch in Summer 2017, I was privileged, and honored, to teach a Christian worldview/ethics class for Cru in Fort Collins, CO. I was told a few weeks prior that I would have a deaf couple in my class. I was asked to make some accommodations for them. For example, I was asked to send my lecture notes for each day, a day prior to this couple. That was a challenge for me because I tend to tweak my talks until the moment I deliver them. However, I did my best to accommodate this sweet couple. (I say sweet on purpose here.  One time they noticed that I was struggling with how to refer to them in class—”do I say ‘deaf’ or ‘hard of hearing'”? And they approached me during a class break, and through their interpreter, said to me, “We saw that you were struggling; it’s okay to say, ‘deaf.'”)

Workplaces accommodate the physically disabled by building ramps and elevators. Workplaces like mine, Made to Flourish, have gone to an open office configuration. However, they have accommodated introverts, like me, and built conference rooms (with doors) when I need to disengage from people (and where I can go to concentrate).

Spaces are wise to accommodate the other; and the other must also assimilate to some degree, however. Spaces have rules and protocols; those that occupy such spaces must adhere or assimilate to these rules and protocols or social norms. Otherwise, chaos would ensue.

All this has got me thinking about African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and those who govern their lives by different religions in predominantly white church and non-church spaces. To be sure, non-whites must assimilate to some degree; and whites most accommodate non-whites too. For example, those in the majority, in workplaces, should allow a Muslim to honor Ramadan and a Jew, yom kippur (Day of Atonement). A church that is predominantly white, for example, should sing songs that accommodate non-whites in their congregation. Similarly, a predominantly African American church should sing songs that accommodate whites and other non-African Americans in their congregation. A company that is predominantly Hispanic should require some degree of assimilation of non-Hispanic employees but also the same company must accommodate the needs of non-Hispanic employees too. Real inclusion requires spaces to accommodate others who are not in the majority. Such accommodating can help mitigate the isolation many minorities experience in majority spaces.

It is not assimilation or accommodation; it is both.

On a recent delayed flight from Chicago to Kansas City, I sat next to Mike. Mike, a tall African-American man and Chicagoan, sat at the window seat; and I sat in the aisle seat. We were buckled in, and just minutes before pushing back from the terminal, and he began to have muscle spasms. I asked him if he needed to stand up? He said, “Yes.” I got up and rushed to the back to tell the flight attendant why the two African-American male passengers were now unbuckled and standing. She immediately alerted the captain. Of course, this small commotion got the attention of fellow passengers. I finally sat down and Mike thanked me. One of the flight attendants was kind enough to bring Mike a warm compress for his back discomfort. Mike was appreciative. After a few minutes, Mike began to tell me his life story. He was a former gang-banger. “In certain economically depressed neighborhoods in Chicago, this is just what you did,” Mike explained. His father was absent from the home and his mother worked long hours with the United States Post Office. Mike had an abundance of unsupervised time. He routinely saw African-Americans getting shot or killed since he was ten years old. He was shot at but somehow bullets missed him. He was once shot at while driving his car. His car windows were shattered; his dash board was riddled with bullets but again, he was not shot. He has right leg and left arm have been stabbed. He sold crack. Many of his friends and family members are now incarcerated. Even his father is serving time for selling illegal drugs. Amazingly, Mike never spent time in jail. (His grandpa was a deacon and convinced Mike to get baptized three times; and each time he did.  Mike left the church because no one took his honest questions seriously; rather, they labeled him a blasphemer.  This―not answering Mike’s honest questions―makes me so angry but that’s another article for another time.)

One day someone took a chance and offered Mike a job removing asbestos from old homes. He was making nearly $1,000 a week. His eyes lit up when he recounted doing something purposeful, and good with his head and hands. Eventually, that job ended and he said that work experience caused him to be quite reflective. He soon enrolled in DeVry University, graduated with a bachelors degree, and now travels the country troubleshooting cell towers as a part time gig. Mike admitted that his former gang life aged him and makes him “look rough” (his words), but today he is grateful for his gray beard because he did not think he would live to see a gray beard.

May we take a chance with the other and go a step further and help the other find gainful employment because we were made to work.

I attended a Kansas City CreativeMornings event on Friday, August 17, 2018 and the speaker was Katie van Dieren. Katie is a champion for community and the maker movement. She is the owner and curator of one of the world’s top indie craft fairs, The Strawberry Swing, and the co-founder of Troost Market Collective.

During her talk she mentioned this quote by Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Twain and Katie, I believe, meant international travel.

While not of us can travel abroad, we all can leave our little corner of the earth and travel locally and come close to others who are different than us. I believe if we travel and come close, we can collectively, shed prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, learned this lesson from his grandmother, “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close” (p. 14). I love grandma wisdom!

I think by traveling to come close to the other, we can not only put to death prejudice, bigotry, and narrowmindedness, but we just might discover that people we thought were monsters are actually human beings who are creative and pregnant with possibilities and dreams. This has certainly been my experience. Might it be so!

My daughter, Briana, convinced my wife and I to take a 30-day break or Sabbatical from Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Here are few things I learned:

(1) I was still drawn to those colorful app tiles on my iPhone screen.  But without active Twitter and Facebook accounts, I was less preoccupied or obsessed with my phone.

(2) I was less distracted.  How did I measure this? I read or finished more books. I completed and/or resumed reading four books: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Bryan Stevenson), No One Ever Asked (Katie Ganshert), I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness (Austin Channing Brown), and Brothas Be, You Like George: Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You? (A Memoir by George Clinton).  I also wrote a 5,500+ word draft of an essay in less than eight hours.  I suppose what I am saying is I was more productive.

(3) I can get along okay just fine without Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  In fact, I deleted my Instagram account.

(4) At times, I thought I was missing out on what was happening.  But I found other things to do: pittle in the garage, visit the driving range, imagine, journal, and rest. I feared missing important announcements.  But those announcements came via other channels (e.g., my personal email).

(5) A break from social media is a healthy move; a healthy move I highly recommend.

After this sabbatical, I hope not to be enamored or captivated by “likes” and I hope to take more frequent and shorter social media sabbaticals.

Someone asked “what is in a name?” Apparently, a lot. I met a new brother recently, his birth name is Ebenezer but he insisted we call him Ebi. This got me thinking, why? I asked him why via email to explain.  No reply thus far.  I suspect Ebi was thinking about others—he likely figured that Ebi is much easier to pronounce than Ebenezer? I remember a report that found hiring companies in cities like Boston and Chicago were less likely to call in a person for an interview if he or she had a black sounding first name (see Shankil Choudhury, Deep Diversity: Overcoming Us vs. Them, 2015, p. 59).  The odds are greater that Shannon would be invited in for an interview; Sharniqua has less odds. I remember reading about a brown brother named Jose who changed his name to Joe.  Before this renaming, he was not getting frequent phone calls about jobs; however, after he changed his name to Joe on his resume, he started receiving more calls. A colleague, from a country in Southeast Asia, is an immigrant to the United States. Instead of using their given native names at birth, her dad let his fingers do the walking up and down the columns in a white pages phone book in search of American sounding names for his three kids. He renamed his kids; he selected Vanessa for her.  He wanted them to have a better chance of making it in America. A friend named his daughter Courtney—a gender-neutral name—because he did not want her to be discriminated against as a female. A colleague is reading “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness,” by Austin Channing Brown. Brown’s parents named her Austin after her grandmother’s maiden name, but also so she could get job interviews someday. Now everyone assumes she’s a white male. (Brown’s book title reminds me of the Scene on Radio “Seeing White” 14-part series podcast that I highly recommend.)

What’s in a name? By the likes of it, much is in a name.

 

Relocating to a new or different city is quite stressful. Boxes must be packed; boxes get lost.  Boxes seem to multiply. Furniture gets broken.  A new barber, a new home, a new doctor, new routes, a new church home, and new friends must be found. Something else must be found: being known.

After 25 years in St. Louis, MO, I was vested in the city; and I was known by classmates, by colleagues and students at Lindenwood University (St. Charles, MO), by Waterford subdivision neighbors (Ballwin, MO), by seminary professors, and by church members at West Side Missionary Baptist Church, Washington Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, Union Baptist Church of Chesterfield, the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church of Hermann, MOand First Baptist Church of Chesterfield.

I think being known (not being famous) is a basic human need.  Everyone wants to be known. That’s why it has been a struggle since moving back to Kansas City, MO—my hometown—born, raised and attended elementary and high schools here.  It has been a challenge because I am not known.  June 2018 marks the fourth year since moving back to KCMO. When will I be known? How long will it take?

I was privileged to be interviewed by my colleague and brother, Denis Haack, Co-Director of Ransom Fellowship on that topic that continues to live on, “race in America”.  Article is here. I am looking forward to the day when we are not discussing race so much but rather, celebrating race!