155: George Towers: Communicating For Change: How To Be A Helpful Contrarian, Noticing More, Maybe Being Wrong, And Living In The Nuance
In our quest to be perfect all the time, we sometimes forget to allow our human emotions to flow through and guide us towards becoming who we really are. Often, there is so much to be gained from allowing ourselves to be without any fear of being wrong. In this episode, Thane Marcus Ringler interviews George Towers, pastor at Denver United Church, to help us tap into the very human emotions that we tend to keep ourselves from feeling. They cover a range of topics from developing as a speaker who communicates for change, becoming a helpful contrarian, and noticing more, to understanding race and injustice in our country and living in the nuance. Plus, George further takes us into self-awareness, role models, perspectives on the bible, grit and tenacity, and more! Dive deep into this jam-packed episode where you’ll find how there is more to life if we allow ourselves to let go and learn from others.
Listen to the podcast here:
George Towers: Communicating For Change: How To Be A Helpful Contrarian, Noticing More, Maybe Being Wrong, And Living In The Nuance
This is a show all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that takes living with intention in the tension. What that means is that life is filled with tensions that we have to live in the midst of daily. The best way to embrace and live in the midst of those tensions is to infuse intentionality into all that we do, a purpose or a reason why we are doing what we’re doing. In this show, we interview other Up and Comers on their journey that they could share from their experiences and perspectives along the way and help us as we all journey forward in this dance called life. Thanks for being here and being a part of this community and this Up and Comers’ movement. We’re so glad you’re here.
If you want to help us out, there are few easy ways to do so. First is sharing this episode or one that you enjoyed with a friend or family member, or someone that you think would benefit from reading. The best way to spread is always word of mouth and referrals. If you want to tag us, we are on all socials at @UpAndComersShow. Our website is TheUpAndComersShow.com. If you want to send us an email, you can always reach us at TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com. The other great ways to help us out is simply by leaving a rating and review on iTunes. That’s an awesome way to help us be found by more people. We’re up to almost 100, so if we could push through, that would be a huge blessing. If you want to support us financially, we are available on Patreon for monthly donations, or if you have a company and want to partner with us, definitely send us an email and we’d love to get a conversation going.
That’s it for the housekeeping and announcements. I will get straight to it because I have an interview that I am excited to share with you. I’ll interview George Towers. He was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. He’s a pastor at Denver United Church, a husband of a PhD cancer researcher, Christina, and the father of two future comedians, Noah and Levi. In his spare time, he enjoys golf, sour candy and heated debate with a close friend. He is short and sweet, but he is an amazing guy. In this interview, we discuss how to develop as a speaker. He’s gifted in what he does as a speaker, preacher and pastor.
We talk about rational and irrational fears, self-awareness, role models, the power of noticing, being a contrarian perspective on the Bible, grit and tenacity, understanding race and injustice in our country and his perspective on it, and so much more. I know that you are going to be blessed as much as I was blessed in this conversation. He’s a standup, genuine and authentic guy. Some of the ways that people described him was being an encourager. That ring true even for me within the conversation. There are a lot of encouragements that he gave and I felt. Other ways that people describe him is a brilliant, innocent brotherly love. There are lots of endearing things about him and he’s a great guy. I can’t wait for you to know about him. Without further ado, please enjoy this interview with George Towers.
George Towers, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me.
I’m excited to share a lot more conversation. One of the things that I love about getting to hear or virtually see you in an online church is your ability to convey a message for your words and to craft a message that impacts a heart but also does it in an entertaining, engaging and a thoughtful way. That’s what a good speaker does. What makes a good speaker in your mind? What does a successful or impactful speaker look like?
Several things and in no order of importance or ranking. Any good communication or communicator leaves you wanting a little bit more and not a little bit less. We’ve all been in those environments where someone goes on and on. It was good, but you went a little bit too long and you left me feeling like, “I wish you would’ve stopped seven minutes ago.” For me, I’d rather always err on the side of leaving people wanting a little bit more than a little bit less. Another thing is, do people remember what you said? You can have a bunch of fun, you could be moved, you could be challenged by any piece of communication or preaching or whatever your context is, but if you walk away and someone says, “How did it go?” “It was amazing.” “What did they talk about? What did you talk about?” “I have no idea.”
If it wasn’t clear and sticky, I don’t think we’ve done our job as communicators. For me, those are a couple that comes to mind. Leave people wanting a little bit more. Is it sticky? Does it engage them? Does it take them on a journey somewhere? The last piece is it has to be meaningful to me. If I’m talking about something that I don’t think is that powerful or that meaningful or that transformative, it’s not going to be that for you. If I think this sucks, it’s going to suck for you. At the same time, it’s free. That’s what I tell a lot of people, “Is this good to you?” “The thing you’re preparing to say, do you like it? Has it moved you? Has it changed you in some way?” If that’s it, give that to someone else and let it be what it is for them. If it’s good for you, it’ll be good for someone else.
It’s similar to Jeff Sheldon, who I had on the previous episode. He is a designer but then turned into an entrepreneur. He runs a small business. He creates products that he needs and that he wants more than anyone else. That’s why he’s successful because he’s filling the need that he has and then inherently, there are other people that have that.
I’ve heard another communicator. He said it this way, “What we can do sometimes is we get communication or creating a product and we want other people to like it. We want it to be good.” That’s good. We should want it to be good and helpful for other people, but there’s a different way of approaching it that I’ve tried to embody a little bit more of the past few years. Before I go up and preach or go speak, it’s like, “I’m going to have this experience. I’m going to go do this thing for myself.” All of you reading, you’re more than welcome to jump on. I would love it if you did, but I’m going to go do a thing right now.Any good communication or communicator leaves you wanting a little bit more and not a little bit less. Click To Tweet
A lot of times, that will be what I pray. Before I go up and speak, I was like, “God, you’ve already shared this with me. I’m going to do this thing. I’m going to have a lot of fun and hope that anyone wants it.” It’s like Jesus said, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Whoever this is for, I hope you come with me, but I’m going to have a great time, regardless of if you like this or not. It frees us from the opinions and all that of other people we are trying to please. It’s more about like your friend said, “I’m going to create something I need and if you all want it, I would love for you to take it.”
I even listened to Hugh Jackman’s podcast on the road trip. He’s a stud. If you haven’t ever heard him before, he’s a thoughtful guy. They had him on The Tim Ferriss Show. He talked about this concept of 85%. When you want to perform your best, it’s typically around 85% of your effort. In the Olympics, it was a sprinter from the US and they interviewed him and they tried to figure out, why was he beating people? He got beat on the first 40 meters and he was behind and then he’d always kill everyone else on the rest. They are like, “How does he do it?”
If you look at him, his expression, facial and body features are the same in the entire race. Whereas his competitors are starting to strain and that you see their face strain, their neck strain and everything straining, but he’s cool. He’s 85% and that gives him the most speed. Similarly, with golf. If I’m going out there and I’m trying to make it happen, I’m trying to force it, it’s not going to happen. You have to have that 85% threshold of having fun. That enjoyment mixed with the ability and the training and the free expression of it.
I have another friend of mine, Pastor Tim Ross of the Embassy City Church down in Texas, outside of Dallas. If you listen to me talk at all, you’re going to hear a lot of Tim Ross because he’s my favorite communicator. One of the things that he said, and this goes along with the 85% thing is, “Anytime we’re preparing something, go for good.” Sometimes good is good enough, especially if God asks you to do it. For all the Bible people that are reading to this, and if you’re not, this is for you too. When God created the universe in Genesis 1 and 2, and whether you believe that happened literally or figuratively doesn’t matter. After he was done at every face, he said, “It’s good.” He didn’t say it was awesome or it was perfect. If God can be content with good, we should be content with it as well. Sometimes we get intense because we want whatever we’re doing to be perfect and amazing. We stress ourselves out trying to make it amazing. It’s like, “Just go for good.” Sometimes doing the next good thing is good enough. Eighty-five percent is good.
Why does that feel so wrong to us? Most humans would fall into, by default, a perfectionist tendency. Why is that do you think?
We want to be significant. A lot of it probably comes from good motives. We want to do something in the world that leaves an impact. Even if it’s for the next 27 minutes, when I give this talk, I wanted to do something significant, which comes from a good place. It has a shadow. Sometimes it’s about you, “I want people to think I’m amazing.” I’m not going to say that, but I want you to be like, “Thane is the most thoughtful, handsome and smart.” If we’re honest, a lot of it is we want people to think well of us, which is a natural human need, but that’s not sustainable.
I don’t think we can go on in the long-term trying to impress people. It’s not to settle on the other side and say that we do bad things or things that aren’t good, but good is good. The other thing Tim said is, “You stay up until 3:00 AM trying to make that thing perfect.” I’m going to go to bed at 9:30 and be okay with it being good. That difference between my emotional and physical wellbeing is going to allow me to do another good thing when you settle with the one amazing thing that probably wasn’t as amazing as you thought it was. It’s pride. We want to be awesome.
As you said, there’s a piece of that which is good. You want to have something that’s meaningful and purposeful, but when it’s centered around self, it’s when it shifts into the shadow side.
That’s good that you said that. Where is the energy coming from? Where’s it pointing? That’s the difference. You can work on something for hours and hours and give years of your life. I’m not saying cut corners and don’t pour yourself into it, but if it’s pointing back to self, I want people to think better of me versus I have a gift that I want to give to people. That’s the motive that’s a little bit different.
We started with irrational fears. Rational or irrational, it depends on your interpretation. Another one that depends on interpretation is speaking. A lot of people have immense fear around speaking and standing in front of an audience doing anything. Let alone sharing words, which is intimidating. That can be irrational and rational at the same time. Have you ever faced a fear of getting up in front of people and talking or has that always been natural to you? Do you think that’s natural or developed in that sense?
Yes, every single time. Every time I get on a stage to do anything, my heart is beating. I could be going up to like, “George, can you go up and pray fast?” I don’t think that ever goes away. Maybe for some people, but I’m speaking for myself. A lot of people will say, “You look so comfortable and natural.” I was like, “Maybe but I’m also nervous.” I don’t think those things are independent of one another. You can step into something, look and feel natural, but also respect the moment enough to be like, “This is significant and I get to do this.”Any good communication or communicator leaves you wanting a little bit more and not a little bit less. Click To Tweet
There’s a healthy fear and respect for the moment. For me, for your first question, I’m nervous every single time. You can learn though to push past it. That’s what probably some of the best communicators do is they learn to feel that energy and allow themselves to lean into it versus allowing it to swallow them and they sink into that feeling. Sometimes people are weirdly surprised to hear that, but it’s a skill that can be developed to not allow that to push you away but to pull you in a little bit.
What is the gift of speaking? What does it give you as a speaker? How does it grow you as a person?
It forces you to have to go there first, before you try to talk about something like, “Is this real? Is what I’m about to say important?” As a parent, I know what I want my kids to do, but it’s not enough for me to have a goal or desire for them. I have to be able to communicate it in a way that works, that produces a positive outcome for that person. That’s part of the way is I grow through communication. It’s like, “Here’s what I’ve experienced, learned, felt and where I want to try to get people to. In 30 minutes, how do I get them to a place where they can see it for themselves and produce a positive outcome or fruit in their lives?” It’s a puzzle. It’s not enough to get up and say, “Here’s what I learned. Here’s what you should do and here’s why.” It’s not that simple. It’s like inception in a way. You have to come to it for yourself and it’s a challenge. It forces you to go deeper as an individual and to be honest about how has this affected you because sometimes we’re asked to communicate on things we don’t believe in and that never works.
In putting the puzzle together, what’s the process that you go through in putting that together, in preparing, getting ready and presenting?
One of the books that I’ve read that helped frame much of how I communicate to whatever extent it’s good or bad is a pastor named Andy Stanley that wrote a book called Communicating for a Change. His approach is what’s known at least in preaching Christian communication circles. It’s like having one-point messages. For me, that’s a way that I like to go about it. I rarely will have 5 or 3 points because I don’t remember them. I want you to walk away with one thing. I don’t remember anything else, “What’s the one point of this message?” That’s how I build my communications, “What’s the one thing I’m trying to get people to understand or to internalize? What’s the one question I want them to ask?” I then build backward from there.
My prep looks so different every time I do something. Sometimes it will involve me writing four pages of thoughts on an idea. Sometime it’ll start with a picture that I saw and I’m like, “That’s weird.” I’ve done it with index cards where I’ll write one word on an index card and organize them. It always is different, which is frustrating. I don’t have any formal process or template for how I do something. I’m always trying to communicate one thing at a time and trying to figure out how to make it as sticky as I can.
There’s another guy who’s a speaker, Houston Kraft. He came on the show. I remember, he broke it down similarly. It’s like a keynote is one idea with a bunch of different angles on that one thing. You can see it from different lenses. A workshop is a lot of points about one thing. It’s like getting things covered in a comprehensive way. That was a helpful framework for reference. One of the things you mentioned is the intuitive nature of the process that you go through. I want to hear a little bit about what level the intuition or the gut plays in how you prepare, but also when you’re speaking, how much of it is intuition led in that?
There are different styles and contexts of communication. I understand that. For me, I’m not looking at it as, “I’m standing up here to give you a lecture, so I’m going to read this thing to you.” Andy Stanley talks about it in his book. He uses this whole metaphor of a truck delivering things. The first step that he talks about is securing the cargo. Before I go off and start driving on the road, if I don’t tie down the stuff on the back and they’re not with me, then I’m going to pull off and everyone falls off at square one. I’m doing my thing and no one cares.
The intuition of that is gauging the room, “Am I staying present enough to the people that you’re talking to say, ‘Are they with me? If they’re not with me, I can’t move on.’” A lot of the stuff I’ll do in communication is trying to make sure people are with me. That’s why a lot of people will start with stories or start with something, “Is everyone with me? Am I trying to answer a question that no one’s asking?” You have to build some buy-in, but a lot of that happens in the preparation, “Is this important to me? Is this a question that’s meaningful to me?”
That takes flexibility at the moment to realize those things, “Are people with me? Are they understanding it? Do they care about this?” Part of that is why preparation is important because in the moment, I have to be able to read that. If I don’t know what I’m talking about, if I haven’t put in the work to know where I want to go and what I’m trying to do, I’ll be stuck on my notes instead of stuck on the people in the room. That’s been a phase for me that I’m learning is I don’t like to communicate with a piece of paper in front of me. A lot of people can and it blows me away how well they’re able to go from their paper to your face and flow. I can’t do it. I get stuck on the sheet and then I’m no longer gauging the room and figuring out, “Are people with me? Do they care? Are they confused? That guy is sleeping.” There is some intuition with that, but I have to prepare in a way that I can remember the big blocks of what I want to say, but it’s not so I can try to be impressive. It’s because I want to be able to stay in the moment and with the people because that’s the most important.
One of the things I’m hearing a lot from you that’s important to underscore is this level of self-awareness. This ability to see yourself, who you are and what you need versus what other people need. That’s such a developed thing. It’s such a thing that comes from time and it’s such a thing that we would all do well to embrace and grow in. For you, in your journey, in your life, when did you see that shift take place for you from learning the universal principles from those around you or those in your field or in education or whatever it may be to start understanding yourself and what you need out of those?
Early on, whenever you start something, you need a role model. You need someone to look at to say, “How did they do it?” For me, Tim Ross was one of those guys for me and so many others. There comes a point where you get stuck in trying to do things like them. That’s one of the hardest places is finding yourself like, “I can’t be Tim. I can’t be Judah Smith. I can’t be Christine Caine. I can’t be these people, but they can’t be me either.” There is a level of discovery to say, “Who am I? How do I think? What’s my flow? What’s the natural thing that I do?” because you’re always going to be a lot.
You’re never going to be that person. One hundred percent of me is better than 75% of Steven Furtick or whoever. How have you created me to do this? Maybe no one else does it that way. For me, you’ve put this in me to do it or say it this way. For the first time that you start doing anything, you have to learn from people and you have to pull from different sources. I would say the last many years have been where I’m finally feeling like I’m starting to find my voice and the way that I’m supposed to say it. Not the way that other people have said it, but trying to find that. I would say it’s been the last few years of trying to understand that and to see the importance of it. We were talking about communication. We are the medium. We are the vessel. You can say something and I could say the same thing, but it’s going to be completely different because it’s coming through you, your experience, gifts and perspective. It’s realizing that being yourself is probably one of the most important things.
What would you say if someone said, “Who are you?”
I love to laugh. I’m an observer. I love finding little stupid, weird, quirky things and laughing at them and noticing them. I like to challenge things. I feel that’s a part of who I am like, “Here’s how we do it here.” “Why?” “It’s because we always have.” That’s stupid. I like to observe. I enjoy thinking about things and trying to understand that. My mom told me a story of when I was a kid. They thought I was taking a nap. They went into the room and I was awake. It had been a couple of hours and they said, “Do you want to come out and play?” They told me that I said, “No, I’m thinking about some things.” They were like, “Okay,” and they shut the door. I stayed in there for another 30 minutes and came out when I was ready. I was like, “That’s weird.” I enjoy that.
A lot of the things that I end up talking about come from those things. The reading of a line in the Bible, I think it’s 2 Timothy towards the end of the book. After Paul said all these deep theological things, there’s a little line where he says, “When you come back to see me, Timothy, grab my coat that I left over at that dude’s house and also bring my papers.” I was like, “What?” He forgot his coat. I’m thinking like, “We know the Bible is inspired and it’s the word of God. Does that count?” These are little things that I like to notice and dive into. I’m like, “Why did Paul ask for his coat? What does that mean? What scripture is and what does it mean for us? What are we supposed to take from that?” I’m learning that a lot of the things that I enjoy talking about the most come from those few things, observation, humor, noticing the funny, stupid things in the Bible, talking about them and exploring.
I want to hear a bit more about noticing, because I think that is a lost art. There’s a newsletter called The Art of Noticing, which is good. What helps you be a better observer or noticer in daily life?
Our pace has a lot to do with that. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years and I’m certainly not good at it yet, but slowing down. If we’re anxious to get to the next thing, then you won’t notice much of anything. That’s an issue that I know I have in my life and that I’m working on. I’m not a big worrier. I don’t get too far out in the future. I don’t tend to live too far in the past and deal with regret. I don’t go too far, but I have this bracket of plus or minus 10 to 15 minutes of my life. If I’m on the way home, I want to be home, or I’m thinking about the dumb thing I should have said 15 minutes ago when you asked me the first question.
If we’re never here now fully and completely, we won’t observe, we won’t notice. It’s slowing down enough to be present, to be where you are, to not be in a rush, to move slower, to not feel like you have to control an environment but to observe it. Those are all things literally slowing down the way that you speak or the way that you are walking, “Why am I walking so fast? I’m in no rush.” It’s doing things like that to slow down the way that you move and the way that you reach for that glass of water, do it slower. You open up your eyes to notice some more things. I was driving down the street and I haven’t thought about this sense. I noticed a girl who was on the side of the road, walking the other direction that I was driving and she was crying. She looks sad. This is a great story that I went back and prayed for her. No, I didn’t. I moved on. It’s like, “God, did I miss an opportunity there? Were you trying to show me something that I was busy, that I walked by an opportunity and I was moving so fast?” Pace, rhythm, slow down and take it in a little bit.
What reminders do you give yourself the most in that or what practices help you slow down or be more present with your pace?
My kids. I have a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old. They just go and go. There’s such a temptation to want to control them like, “Calm down. Put that. Stop.” There are all that, but they’re a reminder for me. I’m failing at this and probably miserably, this whole idea of pace and rhythm, but they are the biggest reminders for me. When I see them living their lives, they have no care. Levi was trying to catch a butterfly for fifteen minutes, holding his hands out, waiting for the butterfly to land on his hands. He has nowhere to be, he has no cares. He’s here and he wants to watch this butterfly.Go for good. Sometimes, doing the next good thing is good enough. Click To Tweet
For me, watching how they are is a constant reminder to me of, “Be here. Where do you have to go? Where do you have to be?” Knowing that if I’m not here, I’m missing so much. Even as a parent, I’m missing this opportunity, watching them jump on the trampoline because I’m stressed out or worried about something else. They’re a constant reminder of what it looks like to live at a worry-free and stress-free pace, and also the encouragement to do it as well as for them. I know I’ll wake up and they will be eighteen and not wanting to hang out with me anymore. They’re a good reminder. Parenting is a practice.
The other thing that you brought up is being a contrarian. One of the background calls that you mentioned that you were very strongly opinionated contrarian, but good-hearted. I’m curious because I think the nature of our current moment in history and society is one that’s opinionated and diametrically opposed to each other in every arena. We are very divided. We experienced more contrarian encounters with people. Unfortunately, they seem to not be always good-hearted or they come across in ways that aren’t good-hearted, even if it is from a good heart. What posture do you hold in that to be helpful in opposing what’s commonly accepted or maybe the popular opinion among the people you’re with?
I’m the type of person who has strong convictions weakly held. Sometimes I come across strong like “This is what I think,” and then I’m like, “Do I care as much as I’m coming across now?” We should all have convictions. We all think something and we all think we’re right, or else we would think something else. For me, it’s more of an exercise. One of my favorite things to do is debate. I love to argue. I’m going to argue with you about anything. Halfway through I’m like, “Do I even think this or am I having a good time arguing?”
It’s helpful to be able to see things from different perspectives. If we can’t do that, then we end up surrounding ourselves with people who are clones of ourselves. It’s realizing that there’s a whole bunch of people that viewed this issue, whatever it is, completely different than me. Especially, when you go on social media and you won’t have to flick your index finger a couple of times of scrolling before you’ll see a post that says something like, “I don’t understand why the,” and then they go on to say something about an opinion that they don’t agree with. The first few words of that, “I don’t understand,” stop there.
“You gave it away. I don’t get it.” The problem is probably not with that view, it’s with your ability to understand it. For me, I love thinking and listening to people who don’t agree with me because I want to understand it. I don’t want to be ignorant and say, “I don’t understand how anyone could vote for this person.” Why don’t you try? “I don’t understand how anyone could have opposed this movement.” Why don’t you try? That might be your problem. Part of my personality is that I try to approach it from that point. I probably get it wrong a lot, but I want to be able to understand other perspectives. The truth is I might be wrong about a lot of the stuff that I believe. We think a lot of other people are wrong. We could all grow from looking through someone else’s eyes for a second and trying to understand it.
That’s such an important phrase to embody is, “I might be wrong.” What if we all embrace that idea? Because we’re wrong about a lot of things and that doesn’t mean that your identity is at risk and who you are as a person is in jeopardy. We take it like that and I think that’s a problem.
That’s a line I’m trying to put into my vocabulary more. As a pastor, a lot of times people will ask me, “What do you think about whatever?” Whether it’s theology or anything. I try to preface most of it with, “I’m getting more comfortable acknowledging that most of what I currently think is probably wrong.” Here’s why I am right. I asked for the right to change my opinion. If all of us could go back and ask the version of ourselves that existed fifteen years ago of what we thought, I hope you’re going to get some different answers. If you think the same thing that you thought about everything when you were seven, versus when you’re 27, that’s sad.
Sometimes that’s presented as noble like, “I’m committed to my beliefs.” What if they were wrong? We want to grow. We want to expand. That can only happen when you acknowledge, “I could be wrong about this.” That doesn’t mean you don’t have to have convictions or don’t have to have beliefs, don’t have to have opinions, but don’t put the death grip on them. You don’t have to hold them tightly. Keep an open hand with your beliefs and say, “I could be wrong about this. If I am, I’ll change my opinion but here’s where I am right now.”
One of my favorite quotes by Muhammad Ali is, “The man who views the world at 50, the same as he did at 20, has wasted 30 years of his life.” I love the idea of strong convictions weakly held. That’s a great stance. Honestly, even asking for permission to change your mind is so helpful. There’s another quote that Alan Watson said, “You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were five minutes ago.” I say it to myself all the time because sometimes we get stuck in a rut. Even when me and my wife, if I get stuck in a rut, I’m like, “I don’t want to change,” but then you can change. Don’t be the same person you were.
If you’re in a bad mood because you and your wife got in a fight, everyone’s tense and you said, “You could stop. You don’t have to keep doing this.” At any point in time, I’m under no obligation to be the same person that was fifteen minutes ago. I could stop and be happy.
That consistency bias is so strong in us but that’s so helpful to remember. Some intellectual honesty to say, “We change and that means growth.” We should be growing in our whole lives. Either you’re growing or decaying and both are changed.
My younger son, Levi, is four and already smarter than me. He asks good questions. He’ll ask questions about God or faith. I find myself having to give him answers that his 4-year-old can contain. He thinks like a 10-year-old. He’s going to grow up thinking some things about God that I hope will evolve when he’s 24 or 54. Sometimes we hold so tightly to the things that maybe aren’t wrong, but they’re incomplete. We’re not always asked to abandon our belief, but maybe widen it, maybe go a little bit deeper into something. It feels like a threat. In most areas of our life, change is a good thing. It’s something that’s celebrated. Have a conviction, a belief and an opinion, but don’t die on that hill. Maybe you want to go deeper or maybe you need to go a different direction at some point.
Speaking of change, what is a belief that you formally held to be true that you no longer believe?
This is probably connected to a broader one. I’m a church guy, that’s a big part of my life and who I am. As a kid, I grew up believing and also feeling like I had to believe, maybe someone didn’t tell me that, but it was baked in that God created the universe physically, literally in 6 to 24-hour periods. If you believe that, I’m totally with you. I don’t think that’s true anymore. I don’t think I have to believe that in order to believe everything else. I used to believe my dad was the strongest man in the world like every kid until you realize he’s probably average. One of the things that’s changing for me is what the Bible is and what it isn’t. I’ve moved on many things within those brackets while still believing that it is the inspired word of God, at the same time, which makes a lot of people very uncomfortable. The first one is maybe an indication of a movement that I’ve had. That’s part of a larger movement that’s happening.
There’s another quote from Oswald Chambers, “God be as original with you as He is with you.” We get nervous when we hear things where, “God seems a little different to this person than He is to me.” George, you’re different to me than you are to your wife, but you’re the same person. It’s a personal relationship that we’ve missed that so much. I want to hear a little more about this. In your current view or perspective, what is the Bible and what is it not if you had to put some words to that?
People will ask, “Who wrote the Bible? Do you believe God wrote the Bible?” No. I don’t believe God has a pen. I believe that God is spirit. He’s not male. He doesn’t have an Adam’s apple. He doesn’t have an XY chromosome. For God to write it, he would have had a pen, a hand and a thumb, but I don’t think that’s what God is. People wrote it. If we can’t start there, I don’t know where else we can start. “Did God breathe on it and breathe into it?” Absolutely. I don’t know if this is where I’m at, but I think it’s close. I believe that the Bible is not a static view of who God is. It’s not like, “I have this book and here’s who God is.” It’s more of a progressive view and it’s not even a book. It’s a library of a lot of different books written over a long period of time. In that library, we get to see a progressive view of who people thought God was at the time that. At the time, it was such a move forward in the right direction that God decided to breathe on it, to breathe life into it and to inspire it, which is what the inspire means to breathe into.
Within that, we see these movements take place throughout the entirety of scripture where I don’t believe God is changing, but people’s understanding of who God is changing. God always has to meet us where we are. Where else would he meet us? He meets people where they are to move them forward into a fuller understanding of who He is and who He’s been the whole time. That’s a part of it, which is why you see crazy stuff in the Bible that it seems like God is doing and saying. If you believe God is static, then you have to do some weird gymnastics to try to make it all make sense. Whereas for me, I don’t feel like I need to do that. I can be like, “That’s what they thought.” That seems a little wild. It’s a lot more nuanced, gray and weird than we want it to be. That’s a movement that’s happening for me of seeing everything in scripture as being a static picture of God, almost like God’s word to us. I’m seeing it more of like our words about God and our attempt to understand the infinite. God working with us along the way to bring us to a full and complete understanding of who He is, which ultimately is expressing the person of Jesus.
That’s one of the most helpful constructs that I’ve heard. I would relate with a lot of that. Who people thought God was and the progression of that as a framework, a lens for looking at the Bible is so helpful. That’s where everything becomes helpful for a minute. Especially, for people who look at the Old Testament and this is an Old and New covenant and are like, “These two don’t seem compatible,” but if you think about it in a progression, it makes perfect sense. At our core, at our fundamental level, we want justice. That’s how our heart believes. The Old Testament God is a God of justice. You would see that in very extreme ways. If you remove all of the modern evolution and progression that we have as adults in America, if you remove that and you get to the core like, “Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad,” we long for that. That’s why every movie is like that. That Old Testament perspective on God is needed. We need to know that He’s a God of justice.
This is where it gets nuanced, “Try to follow me and don’t go where I’m not going.” If you’re the type of person that believes that everything in the Old Testament God tells people to do, that God was telling them to do that, I’m not coming for you. That’s totally good and right. I’ve bumped up against many people over the last decade of my life that have walked away from Christianity because of things like that. I’m coming to the place where I’m comfortable being able to talk to that person and say, “If they don’t believe God told someone to do that, maybe he didn’t.” I’m like, “Cool.” Take the book of Joshua in the Old Testament, which is essentially a group of people in the Middle East, the Israelites going through and conquering city after city, killing a lot of people because God told them to.
There are certain places where God gets upset because He’s like, “You all didn’t kill the women and the children. Go back and kill them all.” We can romanticize that in our head like, “Thanos snapped them and they disappeared into nothing,” but no, these were like sharp pieces of metal that people were shoving into people’s bodies because God told them to. I know a lot of people that check out right there because they’re like, “I can’t believe in a God that would ever do that and say that.” There are some people that would make this argument and this is what I’m comfortable making. I’m not saying I agree with it, but I’m comfortable with it to say, “Every nation in that time had a version of a God that was a warrior, that told them to go and take other people’s land and kill everyone there. Is it crazy to think that a lot of people would have thought God was telling them to do that when he wasn’t?”
I’m totally comfortable making that. I’m okay with that. Is it possible that they got it wrong? It’s hard to reconcile some of that with Jesus’ teachings on, “Pray for your enemy and be kind to them.” Unless it deals with land, then go slaughter them all. Is it possible that a group of people thought God told them to do something that God was like, “I never told you how to do that?” Have you ever thought God told you to do something and then you get 5 to 10 years, 5 to 10 minutes away from the moment? You’re like, “I think I was wrong about that.” The only difference is someone didn’t write it down in a scroll to be studied for thousands of years. I’m not saying that it’s true, but I’m becoming more comfortable having some more latitude in how we understand what these things are and who God is as represented in these stories and passages.
This is such an important conversation too because this is a theme that we see, especially in many avenues and lens. This is the idea of, “If I take this first step, it means that the tenth step will be next.” If I say, “This may not be exactly how it went down,” that means the rest of it is in jeopardy.We could all grow from looking through someone else's eyes for a second and trying to understand it. Click To Tweet
It’s a rational fear. I totally get that. The truth is those things are already there. We’re already working around a lot of stuff that we’re not comfortable with and don’t know what to do with, so then we don’t talk about it. One of the other big ones for me, in the last chapter of Leviticus, there’s a portion of scripture there at the end, this is God speaking and he starts to give the monetary value for human beings, “If you want to redeem a male person between this age and this age, here’s how much they’re worth.” It’s these many shekels or whatever. The woman’s worth is 2/3 of that. If it’s a male teenager, “Here’s how much it’s worth and it’s less.” I’m like, “Does God actually think that women are less than men monetarily?”
It’s in the book and God is saying it. If you have a rigid view of what scripture is supposed to be, you’re stuck unless you say, “The new covenant got rid of all that.” It might be a little intellectually dishonest. It’s like, “What do I do with that?” You’re already on a slope. I’m starting to grow, to reject the slippery slope argument as a whole. I don’t think it’s honest. It’s like, “No, you don’t have to throw out the whole thing. Let’s deal with this one thing and do right by this and try to understand it.” My point is, there’s already a lot of that stuff that’s in there that people don’t want to read or don’t want to think about, but there’s a whole bunch of people and as a pastor, I’m concerned with this, they are walking away from Jesus and Christianity for things like that. I’m like, “I don’t think that’s necessary.”
That’s true in politics, in this conversation around race in America and in a lot of veins in. If sitting in a politics, “If you agree with this, then you must be over there.” That’s the first and tenth step. That’s not fair to anyone. Let alone yourself, because if you were above that standard, you would be in a lot of box that you don’t want to be, especially God. This speaks to the big picture version. How can we look at the picture as a whole? This is a little piece of the whole. It tells us a little something about the whole.
I learned that this is a very controversial statement, but I don’t think it is. Going back to what we were talking about what is the Bible to me and what is not? It is probably one of the most important things that we have. I’m thankful for it. I can’t stress how important it is. I’ve given a large part of my life to teaching the Bible but here’s the truth. There were a whole lot of Christians before we had the Bible. Remember the first time I said that a few years ago to someone and they started sweating and getting all red? It’s like you know that the Bible is not the foundation of Christianity. Christians existed before they had the Bible because it was still being written. No one in the decades after Jesus’ death could be, “Romans 6 says,” because Romans hadn’t been written.
We built up almost a separate religion like Bibliology. It can become an idol. When in fact the root of Christianity was a bunch of people saying, “I saw that dude die and then I saw him again and we had fish.” I’m going to go with that. Thankfully, people had experiences and wrote them down, but all of this sits on a person. Any person that left because of the Bible, I’m like, “Christianity isn’t built on it. It can’t be. Christians existed before we had it. Come back, let’s re-examine. Let’s talk about that verse that was weird, but you don’t have to throw the whole thing out for something that’s not the foundation.”
That is such a foundation and an important point. Speaking about the Bible, and there’s a whole spectrum of views, but a lot of my background and a lot of the conservative side replaces the Holy Spirit with the Bible and the Trinity. That’s a bad exchange. How has the Bible changed you and shaped you as a person? What impact does it have on you as a book?
I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you without it. The fact that we have it is crazy. All of the stories of the Old Testament and much of the New is about a very small group of people of the Middle East thousands of years ago. How many other things happened back then that we don’t even know about? The fact that we have it is incredible and the wisdom of God through it, the calling that all of us have as human beings to live into, that we see illustrated in these books, the selflessness, it’s so relevant.
Do we think climate and care for the Earth is a new idea? Read some of the Old Testament. It peaked over the horizon of time and saw all that we would ever go through. It’s not new, whatever you’re going through right now, some people 3,000 years ago went through some version of that also. It is hugely important. I wouldn’t know about Jesus likely if someone hadn’t written something down and people traveled around the world to tell someone a long time ago.
As you said, replacing the Bible with the Holy Spirit, Jesus said when he was getting ready to go to sin, “I’m going to go away, but don’t worry because when I go, I’m going to send you the Holy Spirit and it’s better for you that I go away.” He didn’t say, “I’m going to go away and don’t worry because I’m going to send 66 books bound in leather that is going to explain everything to you.” That’s how we act sometimes that he said he was going to give a book that would lead us and guide us into all truth. While the Bible is huge and important, one of the most important things to me, it cannot replace the value of the Holy Spirit that will lead me and guide me into all truth. That’s God’s job to do. He uses many different things to do it.
I want to hear a little bit about your childhood. You spoke to role models a bit earlier, and I know we were speaking more in the realm of speaking and communicating. What did you want to be when you were a kid? What do you want to be when you grew up and who are the role models you looked up to?
The first thing I remember saying that I wanted to be when I grew up was a mountain climber or a pizza maker. Those are the two things that I like and I’ve done neither of those things. For those of you that don’t know, I’m black. For a lot of kids growing up, you wanted to go to the NBA. That was one of my dreams. I played a lot of basketball and wanted to do all of that. As far as role models growing up, you had people that you looked up to like Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and Dwayne Wade. I would sit out in my garage and practice the crossovers.
I would say a couple of different categories. One was my parents. I was blessed to have such amazing parents. Both of my parents are amazing. My mom was an engineer. At the time and probably still now a lot of ways, to have a lot of women in that field was unlikely, but also black women that were engineers was not a thing. She went through a whole lot of stuff but seeing the grit and the push-through-it-ness displayed through her. Not only that, but she’s also a three-time breast cancer survivor. Seeing them push through adversity and do it with faith, with grace and tenacity and like, “You won’t hold me down,” type of a thing.
Seeing that in my parents and my grandparents made you feel like you could go do whatever you wanted to do. The odds may be stacked against you in certain ways, but who the hell cares? Go do the thing that you’re going to do and don’t let anything stand in the way. My parents and family are huge role models. Then we were growing up in the church. There’s a handful of individuals over the years that took me under their wings. I started playing the drums in church when I was thirteen. Getting to hang out with different music pastors at the time that would pick me up from basketball practice. Go to the church, practice and play. Go to guitar center and help him pick out a keyboard. Being around the church and being around people that believed in me.
Looking back on it, at that time, you didn’t know how much they were sacrificing, but these are grown men with kids and families, but you’re coming to pick me up and spend all this time pointing to me and teaching me. It doesn’t make any sense looking back on it. I would say those are probably the two categories of role models that had the biggest impact on me. It was my parents and a younger brother, them in general and different church leaders over the years. They poured sacrificially into me and that was huge.
I love that story of grit and tenacity from your mother. Do you remember specific times in your childhood growing up when you faced a moment where the deck was stacked against you, you knew it and you were trying to figure out what you were going to do? Were you going to go through it, or were you going to try to go a different route? Do you have an illustration or example from a moment like that where your parents or another role models were able to come alongside you?
One that sticks out to me was there was a point where my two passions collided like sports, basketball, music and church stuff. When you’re 14 or 15 years old, that’s the biggest crisis. When I was playing basketball, I made the team at high school, but there came a point where I had to choose. The schedule didn’t work out. You can’t play ball and be involved in church at the same time. I went to my parents who were my role models and I said, “Tell me what to do.” They didn’t tell me what to do. It was like, “Do what you want. What do you want? We’ll support you.”
It wasn’t as much as what they said in moments like that. It was what they modeled. That moment for me modeled that they trust me to make a decision, that I probably have it in me. I have the strength. I have the ability to make a hard choice. Either way, it’s going to be hard. Seeing that trust or feeling that trust from them to make that decision is a moment like that. It’s more watching, it’s more to see. So much you pick up is through osmosis. You see them grinding and see them doing their best to succeed. A lot of it was not what they said, but what they didn’t say. I don’t remember them making a lot of excuses in front of us and complaining about why they didn’t get this thing and someone else did. They probably felt that way and they probably had a lot of validity to a lot of things, but there was a, “I’m going outwork you,” type of mentality. The absence of complaining, excuse-making and all of that, is probably impacted me more than I even know.
You mentioned what your mom overcame as a black woman becoming an engineer in a field where that’s nonexistent. How has your childhood experience as a black boy growing up in America? How was it similar and how was it different even from what you’ve heard from your parents’ experience?
It’s probably similar. My parents grew up in different parts of Oklahoma City in Tulsa. My granddaddy died a few years ago. He was that guy. The most rugged intense guy you ever met. He’ll look at you, point at you with his whole hand, “I’m trying to tell you something, Jack.” He said stuff like Jack. He was in a military and police enforcement railroad detective. There was a time where they moved and at that time, he was like, “All the white people lived on the North side of town and all the black people lived on the South side of town.”
Granddaddy moved my mom and her brother. We’re moving to the North side with all the white folks. He went around and he knocked on every door in the neighborhood and said, “My name’s Robert Wright. I just moved into the neighborhood. If you have a problem, you come to talk to me. If you mess with my family, I’m coming for you.” Every door and he never had any problems. My mom and uncle grew up used to being one of the only black kids in the neighborhood. That was my experience. We grew up in Parker, Colorado. We grew up in a predominantly white space all throughout the time I was born until middle school.
I was used to being the only black or any nonwhite person in the class. I talked to a lot of my white friends and like, “Have you ever been in a situation where you were the only white person?” It’s amazing how that for a lot of people has never happened. That’s how I grew up. I got used to that. I got used to knowing, and feeling that I was different from everybody else. It has to shape how you go about it and how you engage in like, “Do I try to fit in?” Everyone has an image in their head of what black people are. “Should I try to be that for them?” I know that those are things that my parents went through growing up as well.Believe others before you try to defend or offer an alternative perspective. Click To Tweet
What was that like for you as you were in that experience or that role? I remember in a unity episode, I had a buddy of mine, Barry Moore, he talked about how he’s half-black and on one side of the family, he would interact or talk or even be in a way that they can understand and on the other side, he’d be in a way that they could understand. He was living in the tension of both, but his parents did an awesome job of letting him be free to be both in that sense when needed versus making him choose. What was that like for you as you were navigating that growing up and how did you live in that culture?
I probably didn’t have a lot of overtly negative experiences. A lot of them were more passive probably. I would say a lot of that tension was maybe felt internally and within the black community. I hear people say this all the time. It’s funny if someone’s talking about a black person and they’re describing them and you’ve probably heard someone say stuff like this, “He’s super sharp, very well put together and well-spoken.” “Are you saying that most of us shouldn’t be that?” Growing up in like an all-white space and all my friends were white, I might to the black people had not been black enough.
To the white people, you don’t fit in quite either. It’s this weird space of feeling like, “I don’t fit all the way in any other space.” Luckily, the one space I did have that was instrumental was our church at the time. In late elementary school, early middle school, it was a very diverse church. That was a home base to be around a whole bunch of different types of people. It is challenging to feel like as the only black kid in the room, you are the representation of a whole bunch of beliefs for those people. You’re the only one they might ever have seen or know, or that they’re going to see in this neighborhood. There’s a weird pressure to represent who we are, but not to try to cater too much to what you want me to be, but then struggling when you go back to the black, “You talk white.” First off, what does that even mean? Feeling like, you can’t all the way fit in either space.
That feels like a place where you are living in a constant state of tension and inner tension, especially. It makes sense to see the time to what we’ve talked about what you’re navigating, as you think about the Bible, about communicating and about all the things we’ve talked about is things are nuanced. They’re complex. The only way you can sit and live in nuance is by being comfortable with tension. You’ve grown up in an environment of tension in a lot of ways. As you look at this resurgence of a focus on injustice and how America has been a very different experience for different people. I’m curious to hear what you think is helpful for several of the communities? The white community, for the black community and even for their church. I’d be curious to hear what you found or what you want to encourage people with into those communities? Each community needs something different.
This is something I’ve been trying to process and to work on for myself because most of us in one form or another have participated or currently participate in some form of privilege or benefit. Me being a male in our current society, I have certain benefits that some of our white female people reading this don’t have, by the nature of being a man. There are probably so many other spectrums that we could talk about. One of the things I’m trying to do and trying to make a part, a habit for me because this is not going to be the last time that this happens is when someone in a non-privileged position or someone that’s being hurt or oppressed or whenever they tell me something, listen to them.
It sounds so simple but believes them. As a man, if a woman comes in and tries to talk about, “Here’s my experience that I’ve gone through being the only woman in this corporation and what I felt when I walk into the meetings.” If they’re trying to tell me that, and my first thing is like, “You’re welcome here.” My first thing is to defend a position. I’m probably missing it. Believe her, she’s telling you something. I would say to my white friends and what I’ve encouraged to see so much of is like the first step is try to believe people when they tell you, “Here’s what I’m seeing, feeling and experienced.” Believe them before you try to defend or offer an alternative perspective.
It could feel like you’re writing off me and what I’m trying to say. That will be a good one. I would also say maybe for my white friends there are a lot of people who will say things like, “My ex-roommate’s best friend is black. When we talked, so I’m learning about the black perspective,” Deon doesn’t provide a full representation of the black perspective. If people ask me that, I wanted to get the black person. I’m like, “I’ll give you my perspective. Here’s what I’ve gone through, here’s what I’ve seen and here’s what I’ve experienced,” but we’re not a monolith.
There isn’t one perspective on black people no more than there is one perspective on white people or one perspective on rich people. It’s a very wide issue. Don’t think just because you heard Don Lemon talk about something or you talk to one guy that I understand it. It’s a very wide stream with room for a lot of different perspectives and opinions. It requires you to dig in, to be a student, to learn and to listen. Those are a couple of things that would be helpful. You asked about a couple of different categories.
The church is another one.
I’ve heard a lot of people in church circles say things along the lines of, “This is good that we’re doing this,” “We’re talking about this,” but like “When can we get back to the main thing,” or a lot of people that don’t even want to talk about it. We shouldn’t be talking about this. We’re being distracted from the main mission and call of the church. Why are we talking about racism? One of those things makes me want to explode. If we’re not talking about this, what are we doing? What else should we be talking about? If we can’t care about this, what does that say about who we are and what we stand for? Lean into this. One of the most frustrating things is sometimes we act like we’ve been having this conversation for six years with this level of intensity. People are like, “Can we move on?” It’s been three weeks? Wake me up in nine years if we’re still talking about it every single weekend and we’re spending all of our resources and time on it.
I’m not even saying I would agree with you then, but I would understand the need for, “Can we like the move?” You see the unrest for the church and for so many people where if we spend three weeks talking about racism, there are so many people that like, “Can we move on to the Jesus stuff?” “No, we can’t. Jesus said I came for the oppressed. I came to set the captives free.” If it’s not this, then what is it? I know it’s uncomfortable. The church is awkward. It brings up a lot of feelings that you don’t know what to do with and I don’t want to do with. We want to move on. We want to go back to talking about prayer. Something that’s a little more comfortable that we have a box for it. We don’t know what to do with these things. A lot of it is probably because it gets co-opted and pulled into political categories. We’re not arguing about racism, we’re arguing about politics. We have to defend our candidate, or our position or our party. That’s why we want to move on because it gets pulled into a political issue when it’s not. We don’t like discomfort.
The last one was to the black community, to fellow brothers and sisters in it.
The thing that comes to mind that I would say is, I have a lot of friends who had been involved in this work of racial justice for a lot longer than I have. sometimes there can be a perspective of things are getting worse or maybe things have not gotten better in the past 100 or 200 years. I get that perspective because we have so much work to do. If I could get my granddaddy on the podcast, someone who had dogs from the police let loose on him and sprayed with fire hoses and couldn’t go in certain places physically, that he would probably smack me in the face. It can be maybe a level of disrespect for the fight from people that came before us to say that it hasn’t gotten any better, that it’s worse than ever. It’s not. We have come a long way.
The fact that I have a voice to say anything, wasn’t the case, not too long ago. At the same time, can we also recognize that we do have a long way to go? You’re standing on the shoulders of people that have come before us. Let’s not diminish what our grandparents and their grandparents have done in the sacrifices they have made by saying things like, “This is the new form of slavery and it’s worse than it’s ever been.” At the same time, there are people that want to use that argument to say that there’s not much left to do and the fight is pretty much already over because we signed that document back in the ‘60s. My perspective would be the road ahead of us, is probably longer than the road behind us.
We probably have more ground to make up than we’ve covered, but can we pull from that past progress and use that for encouragement, for fuel to propel us on the road ahead? I haven’t seen this amount of rallying of people being willing to say, “I’m with it. I believe you. We’ve got work to do.” That gives me a lot of encouragement. To the people in the black community, we should be encouraged, not by what is wrong, but by the ground we’ve covered and by the number of people that are waking up to the reality that we have a lot further to go than we’ve traveled. That should feel you’ll us to some with some amount of encouragement.
I used a football metaphor when I was talking to my cousin about this, “We’re probably not going to score a touchdown on this drive, on this current possession, of racial injustice fight. We probably won’t solve all the problems right now, but let’s move the ball. Let’s flip the field, let’s get a little bit further. We might have to punt. Something’s going to happen again in 1 or 2 years and all this is going to come back up, but when we get the ball back, we won’t have to start on the goal line. We can start at 25 or 40.” I won’t have to talk to my friends again about racial bias and implicit bias. We don’t have to start there again. We can start a little bit further and I want to leave this place better for Noah and Levi when they’re 33 that they’re not having to fight the same battles that I am. That’s what I would say, be encouraged, don’t grow weary, you got a lot of allies, a lot of people that want to fight with you.
For people wanting to educate, learn more, especially for people like me that are white, what are good resources? Where do you steer? Where do you point people to? One of the things I watched with my wife was The Help. I’d never seen that before but what a great movie. I was inspired and in the same sense, saddened to see a real depiction of that. What do you recommend? What resources for education, learning and for growing in that realm do you give out?
Before you go to resources, one is a psychological mindset exercise before you go diving into research. It’s getting to the realization that this is not ancient history we’re talking about. Even the stuff we want to act like happened a long time ago if we could get ourselves to understand that like it wasn’t that long ago. To think that we could have hundreds of years that are comprised of legalized slavery, segregation, and ripping resources away from people and giving them to another group. If we think we can have that happen for hundreds of years and in the last 45 to 50 years, we’ve got rid of all the residue, we’re mistaken.
That stuff is still floating around in the culture, in the air, in some of the systems. Can we wrap our minds around that this is not ancient history we’re talking about? Once you do that, go back and look at what happened. Do your own research. I have some specific things that come to mind that could be good resources. One is the documentary that we were talking about on Netflix, that’s called 13TH of looking through what happened with the 13th Amendment, what happened post-slavery, how incarceration had played a role in, and what it’s doing now. I’m not trying to say everything in that documentary is 100% right and true.
I don’t know that, but it’s a helpful portal into saying what happened in the past and how is that affecting what’s going on right now? Reading some books are good. We are reading with our church something called Beyond Colorblind by Sarah Shin and Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison. Two incredible women, that can speak to on this issue of racism in America and specifically to the church, how should we respond? Those are a couple that is good. Second to the last would be movies. Go watch some movies and do it with beyond the goal of being entertained for 95 minutes, but try to put yourself in their shoes and see the world through their eyes and say, “How would I feel if that was me?” Exercise some empathy there.The road ahead of us is probably longer than the road behind us. Click To Tweet
The last thing I would say is relationships. Conversations with people in your life. If you’re a white person who has no nonwhite friends, talk about it with your white friends, ask them, “What do you think about racism in America?” open up a conversation. Maybe if you don’t have any non-white, friends that says something too, “Am I surrounded myself with people who look and think exactly like myself?” If you’re a black person, that has all black friends, maybe that says something about who you’re surrounding yourself with, and maybe you could benefit from hearing some other perspectives from other people.
I heard Carl say this one time. He talked about how distance creates distortion, but proximity creates passion. If I’m far from an issue, I can theorize it, I can come up with all these weird beliefs that end up distorting the reality because I’m not close to it. If I’m close, if there’s proximity, that creates passion. The racial injustice conversation, if you’re distant from it and you don’t have any friends that are have been affected by that in the lives, it’s easy to distort it. What will change everything is if your roommate is Hispanic and they’re telling you about their experience and what they felt growing up, it creates a passion in you that that’s a result of your proximity. I would say, make it personal. Talk to people about it. In your life, ask them questions, be slow to speak, be quick to listen and slow to get angry. Listen without thinking about what you want to say next and let it sink in. All those things would help.
The idea of listening and believing them, that’s something that even on a relational level, that’s something I can work and grow in with my wife. Even if you are not trying to defend something, but listen and believe.
“When you did that, it made me feel like this.” Instead of being like, “Wow,” we want to be like, “But you shouldn’t feel like that.” No. Listen to her and believe her. I do that too. I’m failing too.
It’s hard but it’s good. It’s such great reminders. What can you not imagine living without?
What’s your top sour candy?
Sour Patch Watermelons. Until I hit 40, I’m going to stop.
Imagining your 50-year-old self, what advice do you think you’d give your current self?
What question do you ask yourself the most?
What will my great-grandchildren think about my podcasts or my messages? What will they be able to clearly see that I was wrong about, that I’m blind to right now? That’s a question that drives so much of what I do is trying to think about not what will people think of me right now, but what will everyone in 100 years so clearly be able to see that I can’t see now and trying to unearth that now. Be willing to be wrong today so I can be right tomorrow.
If you could be one other person, who would that person be and why?
Maybe like an Albert Einstein-type of dude. What would it feel like to be the smartest person in the room? Maybe you invented the time machine that you didn’t tell anybody about. That another passion of mine is time-traveling weird quantum stuff.
If you could give a TED Talk, what would it be on?
It would be on something with the Bible, what it is, what it’s for, what it’s not, something with all of that.
If you could send a morning text reminder to every up and comer out there, what would you say and why?
Probably something along the lines of, “You’re doing better than you think you are. You’re not perfect, but you’re good. Sometimes good is good enough. Keep going forward. You’re doing better than you think. Be encouraged.” Something along those lines. We get so bogged down with what we’re not doing, but the problem is we’re with ourselves every day. We don’t get to see our growth and the ways that we’re doing better than we were the day before.
To underscore that, some of the people I talked to, one of the ways they describe you was as an encourager. That rings very true with those words. George, thank you so much.
Thanks for so much for having me on. This is amazing. You’re a phenomenal guy. I want to be more like you and appreciate you taking some time to have a conversation.
Where can people reach out and say hello or find out more about what you’re saying on the podcast and some of those?Be willing to be wrong today so you can be right tomorrow. Click To Tweet
I work at Denver United Church. You could jump on our website, DenverUnited.com and find some stuff that I’ve said or some podcasts that we’ve been a part of. I don’t have a website. Look me up on social media and say, “Hi.” My name’s George Towers. I’m a black dude. You’ll probably find me there.
Thanks again and until next time. We hope you have an up and coming week because we out.
If you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from, whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying, In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Go to ThaneMarcus.Com/inthane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the very next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released on the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.
- Patreon – The Up and Comers Show
- Denver United Church
- Jeff Sheldon – previous episode
- Hugh Jackman – The Tim Ferriss Show previous episode
- Pastor Tim Ross
- Communicating for a Change
- Houston Kraft – previous episode
- The Art of Noticing
- Barry Moore – previous episode
- Beyond Colorblind
- Be the Bridge
Check out our YouTube!
Send us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org