Intersectionality is a dead end…but there is another way

Intersectionality is a dead end

Intersectionality is an ideological dead end. This doesn’t mean that the concept of intersectionality is devoid of truth or that the practice of intersectionality can’t do good. Studying and practicing intersectionality can broaden your mind and better your interactions. By saying that intersectionality is a dead end, I mean that it can’t get you where its proponents want you to go. You can enjoy glorious vistas on a road that stops short of your destination. And if you are on a road that won’t get you to where you want to go, the sooner that you realize it and turn around and get on the right road the better.

Defining Intersectionality and its hoped for destination

Ijeoma Oluo explains intersectionality in her New York Times Bestseller, so you want to talk about race (Seal Press, 2019). It is a well written book. And Ijeoma is a thoughtful and respected proponent of intersectionality. In Chapter Five she covers “What is intersectionality and why do I need it?” She begins with a story that highlights that black womanhood is not valued and concludes: “nobody marches for us when we are raped, when we are killed, when we are denied work and equal pay. Nobody marches for us” (p. 74). I join Ijeoma in her grief and anger at that fact. And I share with her a longing for a just society where every person would be valued as having inestimable worth and irrevocable status. We share that goal. We both want to get to that destination.

Ijeoma goes on to define Intersectionality and its importance in her work: “Intersectionality, the belief that our social justice movements must consider all the intersections of identity, privilege, and oppression that people face in order to be just and effective, is the number one requirement of all of the work that I do” (p. 74).

Ijeoma notes the various identities each person has, and that we aren’t capable of cutting ourselves to pieces. Each part of our identity makes up the fabric of the whole of us: “Each of us has a myriad of identities – our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more – that inform our experiences in life and our interactions with the world” (p. 75). These parts of us can’t be erased or denied: “I’m a black woman, each and every minute of every day – and I need you to march for me, too” (p. 75).  

Ijeoma’s says that the many identities that make up you need to be seen, recognized, respected, and affirmed, for justice to be done.

“I’m a black, queer woman. If I’m harassed on the street, I don’t know if it is because I’m black, if it’s because I’m a woman, or if it’s because I’m queer. In fact, it may be all three reasons at once. But many of our social justice movements would fail to consider the ways in which our multiple identities interact or intersect…As a black, queer, middle class woman, my queer identity may often be overlooked by anti-racist or feminist movements; my female identity may be overlooked by anti-racist or feminist or queer movements; and my middle-class identity may well cause me to overlook poor people in all movements. And when that happens, none of them can really help me or many others.”

For Ijeoma, a just and inclusive society, is one where each person’s many identities are seen, respected and valued. These include race, gender, class, ability and sexuality. Consequently, intersectionality should be applied to more than just our social justice efforts. “Our government, education system, economic system and social systems all should consider intersectionality if they have any hope of effectively serving the public” (p. 77). Intersectionality should be the lens through which every person and every institution view and interact with the world.

Ijeoma acknowledges the challenges to make intersectionality a prominent part of our interactions. Intersectionality slows things down, brings people face to face with their privilege, decentralizes people who are used to being the primary focus of their movements, and forces people to interact with, listen to, and consider people they don’t usually interact with, listen to, or consider. If you don’t make intersectionality your lens, she warns that though you may make progress in helping some people, you will become the oppressor of others (78-79).

In sum, Ijeoma contends that intersectionality should be the ideological perspective by which we live as individual people and as institutions. Its goal is a just society. To use my metaphor of a road, intersectionality is the road that leads to the destination of a just society.  

Thesis

I share the same goal, I long for the same destination, as Ijeoma: a just society, where every person is valued as one who has inestimable worth and irrevocable status. We want to get to the same place. Still I am convinced that intersectionality is a dead end. It just can’t get us to the destination.

Intersectionality is a dead end for two reasons: first, it stops short of affirming individual particularity and consequently gets mired in collectivism.  Second, it misses the right road of affirming inalienable personhood.

Only Christianity offers a view of identity that affirms and empowers both individual particularity and inalienable personhood.

Intersectionality falls short of affirming individual particularity and consequently gets mired in collectivism. It can’t take you to the desired destination.

Intersectionality rightly recognizes that each person has multiple identities or many parts to their identity. But it doesn’t go far enough in affirming every person’s radical particularity, their unique individuality. It gets you going in the right direction. It gives you the impression that it can take you all the way to the goal. But it stops far short. Let me explain.

Proponents of intersectionality are right to point out that our identities have many parts: we are differentiated by our gender. Our race and culture are identity markers. Our physical, mental and relational ability are integral to our identity, as does our economic class and sexual orientation. To this list we should include personality, one’s family of origin and history as important threads that weave together to make a person’s identity. Intersectionality rightly encouraged us to see, recognize and affirm these different parts of a person’s identity. However, it stops short of seeing and recognizing a person’s individual particularity. It gets stuck in collectivism. For all its attempt to affirm the intersections of identity, it actually misses the person.

Consider just how hard it is to see and affirm the identity intersections of just one person. Let’s start with gender. Women possess an XX chromosome and men have an XY chromosome. For centuries society differentiated children as boys and girls, men and women. Today there is a strong movement to affirm “gender fluidity” and recognize and celebrate the gender a person identifies with, even if that gender is different than the biological chromosome they possess. Whatever you think and feel about gender fluidity, most people recognize that within the categories of male and female, there are as many expressions of gender as there are people. Add to this the complication of seeing and affirming a person’s sexual orientation, and you can see how easy it is to miss a person on the relatively simple categories of gender and sexual orientation.

Well, you say, this is the point. Intersectionality takes time and hard work. You have to slow down, really listen to and see a person. True. Let’s consider another part and shaper of identity: personality. Personality is less visible than gender. It is below the surface. It takes a while to discover if a person is an extrovert or introvert (Myers Briggs personality profile, a high D or a high I or a high S or a high C (Disc personality profile), Melancholic, Phlegmatic, Chloric or Sanguine. Though less visible, personality flavors every part of who we are. It matters in how we receive and communicate information, and it definitely should be a factor in how we interact with each other. It too is an intersection.

How about race? Race is a significant part of our identity. But race isn’t monochromatic. Even within race, there is incredible diversity. In their public school my kids learned to distinguish light skinned and dark skinned African Americans. You could be a black man from the hood or from the burbs. Both contexts influence identity. We can’t stop there. What about the intersection of a person’s culture? Culture includes one’s mother tongue, religion, economic status, and ethnic history. Think of the diversity of identity even within a shared culture. Take America for example. A twelve-year old white girl from Appalachia will have a very different cultural identity than a privileged daughter of Manhattan socialites or Hasidic Jews in Queens. The cultural piece of identity is significant and should be affirmed.

Still we can’t stop there. How can we minimize the place that one’s family of origin has in identity formation? The quip that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and the chip doesn’t fall far from the block are common ways of asserting that our identities are profoundly formed by our families of origin, including the invisible wounds of the heart that we all carry. If we minimize the family tree of a person we miss important parts of that person. You can’t really see or know a person without knowing their history, their story. I could go on. I think you get my point. Each person has a singularity – a radical particularity – a unique individuality that is theirs alone.

While Intersectionality takes steps in affirming this particularity, it stops short of declaring that each individual is distinct, marked by their name. Their name is the sign and symbol of their particularity. It stands for them. A named person is not fully seen until all the threads that make up their identity are recognized. But this is impossible. No one – not even the person themselves – can fully grasp their complex individuality. I’ll argue later that only God can. Nor can we, apart from the love of God, dare to stand alone in the singularity of identity, fragile as we are. Instead we group ourselves in collective units to find security for our fragile self.  

Intersectionality leaves us in the dead end of collectivism. Let’s go back to Ijeoma’s self-designation of the intersections that make up her: “I’m a black, queer, woman.” Black refers to her race, queer to her sexual orientation, and woman to her gender.” But even within these three groupings, there is vast diversity. She doesn’t mention that she is a middle-class American who lives in the twenty first century and who was raised in Seattle, although in other parts of the book she mentions these facts. She doesn’t indicate what her personality type is. And while in her book she does share some her traumas caused by micro-aggressions and her mom’s inability to understand and affirm her blackness, she doesn’t include this in her descriptor of herself. Rather, Ijeoma notes the intersections of her identity by mass groupings: Black. Queer. Woman. But to really see her is to know her full complexity, her story and her wounds, her history and personality, her great strengths and struggle as a named person: as Ijeoma Oluo. She can’t even fully know herself. Neither can you or I.  As Nietzsche said, we are hidden even from ourselves. Only God can fully see her and know her

Grouping people into collectives and securing our own identity in a collective is our default because we are insecure. We are too insecure to stand alone and apart from all others in our radical particularity. And we are not God; it is impossible for us to fully see, recognize, value and affirm the radical particularity of each person we come into contact with. Our mind naturally puts people into collective categories. While this is a natural and necessary act due to the number of people we interact with daily, at best it reduces unique individuals to generic groupings, at worst it becomes a prelude for exclusion and oppression. Intersectionality fails to affirm the glorious diversity of each person. The road of intersectionality stops short of the destination.

Intersectionality neglects personhood. It is the wrong road altogether.

My first critique of intersectionality is that it doesn’t go far enough in affirming the unique individuality of each person. My second critique of intersectionality is that it fails to affirm personhood and so misses the right road altogether.

If our end goal, our destination is a just society where every person is valued as one who has inestimable worth and irrevocable status, and if Intersectionality can’t get us all the way to that destination because it stops short in collective identities, we should ask if there may be another road we could take. There is. That road is the affirmation of personhood. The framers of the Declaration of Independence put this road this way: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Rather than dissecting the varied identities that compromise a person, the authors of the declaration affirmed the status of all, regardless of whether they were male or female, black or white, rich or poor, etc. When they said “men” they did not mean just males, but all men and women. When they said that the status of personhood was “self-evident”, they asserted that every person had inalienable rights. Affirming the inalienable status of personhood, is the right road to valuing every human.

Affirming personhood has the advantage of simplicity. When you relate to another person as a person, you look beyond their skin color, sex, social status, personality, history, wounds, family and culture.  You can see them as a responsible person, and treat them with honor and dignity, respect and worth based on the personhood God confers on them. That personhood conferred by God can’t be erased by anything they have done, anything done to them, or any default in them. If God their Creator endows them with the inalienable rights of Life and Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, who are you to take away their rights? If their status of personhood is irrevocable, who are you to revoke it?

But that is precisely what we do. The road of particularity may not go all the way to the destination.  The road of affirming personhood may go to the destination. But that is no good if it is not traveled. It may be the right road, but what good is the right road if none, or only a few take it. The tragic history of humanity bears this out.  Just consider the way that racial groups – Native Americans, blacks, Japanese during WWII – have been treated in America. Consider your own practice: instead of seeing each person you interact with as having irrevocable status and inestimable worth, you probably notice the things that make him or her different, you focus on the things that make him or her an outsider from your group or acceptable to your group. You include people like you and exclude people different than you.

Why?

While personhood is the foundation of identity, it is just that, the foundation. It is not what we see. We see what makes a person different, what sets them apart. We gravitate towards people who are like us. We move away from, take advantage of, or attack people different from us, whether that difference is moral, political, religious, social or ideological. One advantage that the road of Intersectionality has over the path of personhood is that it encourages us to see distinctions and affirm collective groupings. But as we have already observed, that road stops short of affirming the full particularity of the other, and those collective identities become the basis of exclusion, rejection and alienation. The road of personhood may go to our desired destination. But that doesn’t help if we don’t take it.

Personhood is a road that can take to get to our destination of a just society. But if no one walks it, what good is that road? There is an ancient, proven road that millions and millions of people have walked that affirms both inalienable personhood and individual particularity. It is a road that can lead to a just society.  The road of Christian identity affirms both personhood and particularity. It is the only road to a just society that values each person as having inestimable worth and irrevocable status and empowers its pilgrims to dare to be the particular person they are.  

The ancient and well-traveled road of Christian Identity

I will keep this section short. I have written extensively about Christian Identity in my book The Name. The salient points are as follows:

  1. First, Christian identity affirms both individual particularity and conferred personhood. It celebrates that God hand crafts each person using the threads of gender, sexuality, personality, culture, family, history and even our traumas to make each of us a distinct, one-of-a-kind original. It also affirms that God confers personhood. We are all made in his image. No one can erase or revoke our status as persons before God. And nothing we do can compromise that status either. Only Christianity holds both personhood and particularity as essential elements of every person. Our identity is received from the hand of God.
  2. Second, Christian identity empowers us to embrace our particularity and accept our personhood. If God confers personhood, it can’t be revoked. We have solidarity with every other person as image bearers, as sinners, and as those who are loved by God. Every person deserves to be treated with inestimable worth and irrevocable value as a person made and loved by God. We can dare to be the unique individuals we are because God knows us and still loves us. He knows every thread, every part, of our identity. There is nothing hidden from him. And through Christ he has proven his love for us by sending his son to redeem us, not the pretend us but the real us, warts and all. Being loved by God through Jesus Christ, frees us to be the originals that God intends us to be.
  3. Grace is the foundation of Christian identity. Grace is the act of God. It is not a human possibility. The practice of intersectionality is a human possibility. It is a new moralism, an ethical path with rules and transgressions, guilt and shame. But God’s grace creates a new identity that smashes our pride and removes our guilt and heals our shame. We are not saved by who we are or by what we do but by God’s gracious act in Jesus Christ. The Christian is a person who has bottomed out and come to the end of himself or herself and owned his or her need for salvation and trusted in a Savior. The deconstruction of pride by faith in Christ as Savior, creates an identity that is freed from pride based in self-salvation through moral performance, the guilt of failing to keep the law, and the shame of being seen as one who has fallen short. Intersectionality can only bind and condemn the conscience of those who try to keep its ethical path but fail; or it fills those with hubris who imagine that they are keeping its commandments, leaving them to hold in contempt those who fail. But God’s grace humbles the heart and makes one a recipient of unconditional love. From this foundation, a person can now love their neighbor and even their enemy as they have been loved.
  4. Christian identity is a universal way. It is God’s yes to all people. You don’t have to be smart or rich or of a certain ethnicity to have faith. You don’t earn grace by moral performance. You can’t buy it or lose it. It is received by faith, by dependence on a Savior. The door of faith is open to all. Millions and millions of people have found in grace an identity secure in God. They have experienced the joy of receiving their personhood and particularity as a gift from his hand.
  5. The Christian way leads to a just society. Christians are learning to treat every person as an image bearer, worthy of dignity and honor. And Christians are beginning to take the long road of really seeing, knowing and affirming the radical particularity of the other person, as one who displays a splinter of the glory of God that no one else can. By this I do not mean that Christians are doing this perfectly or constantly. No! We regularly fall short. But in halting and faltering steps we are walking in the way of justice: of relating to every person as one of inestimable worth and irrevocable status. One way this is lived out is by the grace of forgiveness. There is no act more humanely impossible and more necessary to treat another person with seriousness and dignity than the act of forgiveness. The command to forgive those who sin against us is laid upon every Christian as a solemn duty. To shirk it is to reject our Savior and leave the way itself.

Help us launch a social purpose business that creates relationships across racial divides

In Identity Mapping terminology, a “collaboration project” is when you are stepping into your calling but need others to help you do it. Here is a big collaboration project that I’m stepping into and need help accomplishing. Already many people have stepped up to help. My church, Redeemer Redmond, has given $2,500 through our deacon fund and Mercy, Outreach and Justice department. Redeemer’s deacons are also taking a special offering for this project. My brother Jed raised 3K through a Kickstarter campaign. A friend (and her daughter) donated $1,500 for a new computer, and each team member is doing what they can to raise funds as well. So we’re off to a good start!

On September 12, 2020 a team from my church in Redmond and a few other friends will travel to Indy to launch a social purpose business called Faith of a Mustard Seed, or F.o.M. The business owner of F.o.M. is my friend, Donteau Gladney.

The mission of F.o.M. is to create relationships across racial divides by (1) mobilizing volunteers to renovate homes and (2) empowering African Americans by home and business ownership. Our first project is to finish restoring a house owned by Donteau on the near west side of Indianapolis that will be used as the home base of operations for F.o.M. It is 90% done. We hope to finish the last 10%.

We can’t plant this seed without the help of others. Here are some very specific ways that you can collaborate with us.

Support our Team on the worksite

The following our some specific ways that you could help our team on the worksite:

  • Provide dinner for 20 people on Tuesday 6pm at worksite.
  • Donate or loan tools (contact Jason 317.209.6768 for more info).
  • Provide (1) air mattresses, (2) sleeping bags, and (3) pillows for team members who will be sleeping at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Indy.
  • Jump in for a day or two to help on the worksite: Sunday afternoon (Sept 13); Monday (Sept 14), Tuesday (Sept 15); Wednesday (Sept 16); Thursday (Sept 17).

Help us Raise 10K $8,500 for business startup funds

We are seeking to raise 10K to build a solid business foundation. Those monies will be used for the following things:

  • Purchase Quickbooks financial recording and reporting
  • Hire Accountant
  • Purchase domain and one year subscription to Square Space, a website platform
  • Purchase quality camera for photographing and video footage of work crews and for high quality images and videos for other promotion and marketing
  • Purchase laptop computer to run web site, communication, marketing, etc.
  • Hire emerging Indianapolis filmmaker, Tremayne Reed, to tell story of Donteau and F.o.M. for marketing and fundraising

Help Us Raise 30K $25,500 to complete renovations of F.o.M.’s Home Base

These monies will be used to complete the following renovations:

  • Replacing exterior siding and painting the north side of house.
  • Repairing retaining wall and basement foundation
  • Installing flooring
  • Installing appliances in two bathrooms
  • Installing trim and painting inside the house
  • Landscaping back and front yard
  • Purchase of tools
  • Install lighting
  • Hire a professional contractor to oversee job

How to Give

I’m very thankful that the deacons at the church I pastor, Redeemer Redmond, are supporting this trip financially as well as taking an offering to help us raise money for the business start-up costs and to finish home renovations listed above. You can give to the F.o.M. project by writing a check to Redeemer Redmond, or giving online. These gifts are tax deductible. Every penny will go towards the launch of F.o.M.:

Write a Check to Redeemer Redmond, the church sending the team, by check:

  • Write check to Redeemer Redmond. In memo line put “Indy Project”
  • Mail check to PO Box 1482, Woodinville, WA 98072

Give to Redeemer Redmond, the church sending the work team, online:

  • Go to Redeemer’s web site: http://www.redeemerredmond.org/
  • On home page of web site choose “Online Giving button”
  • Or you can go directly to our subsplash giving app here: https://secure.subsplash.com/ui/access/2FBHJM#/
  • Input the amount of money you would like to give and press “next”
  • If will ask for your credit card information, enter that
  • After entering your credit card information, the next bar down says “Fund”. Press that bar. You will be given three options. Do not choose “general fund” or “deacon fund”. Choose “Justice Indy Trip”
  • Please designate this as a one time gift.

If you’d prefer to give directly to F.o.M. you can do so here: https://www.ourfomfamily.com/

You can also give through my brother Jed Dorsey’s fundraiser for this same project on facebook go here: https://www.facebook.com/donate/307322680359319/

Meet Tiffany Clark: Faith of a Mustard Seed Launch Team Member #7+

We are super excited to have Tiffany Clark joining us in Indy. I met Tiffany when I served as a pastor at Green Lake Presbyterian Church and she was a college student at the University of Washington. We reconnected a couple of weeks ago when she bought a painting at Jackie’s Big Art Sale and had a great talk on the phone. As she shared her gifts and passions I went out on a limb and invited her to join the team going to Indy to launch Faith of a Mustard Seed. She’ll provide business and economic questions for this new social purpose business. As you read this interview, I think you will understand why!

Tell us something about yourself? What do you do? What are you passionate about?good at?

Let’s start with the easy question – as far as skills: I can still throw a frisbee with both hands and nearly always have one with me.  My superpower is sitting with people and listening to their stories. There are very few people whose stories don’t fascinate me and I am fortunate that most of my adult worklife has been about listening to people’s stories and finding places of connection. I am currently both an MBA student and have been in my industry for 18 years. As far as passion, I believe in understanding that each of us reflects a different piece of God’s infinity. We ought to be curious about people in our path because they reflect pieces of God that are foreign to us. I don’t care how well you know a person, if you can’t be awed by the way they are uniquely created, you are missing out.  We each bear God’s image differently So, unless we are curious about each other, we miss an opportunity that is bigger than just this moment. We miss that small piece of eternity in our path. We miss that piece of our Creator. To borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis – each of us is ultimately an immortal horror or everlasting splendour and it is a gift to walk together.

How did you get connected to the F.O.M. project? What do you hope to bring to the project?

I am still learning about the project but Jason and I were visiting after Jackie’s art show and the project reminds me of other projects I’ve gotten to be a part of over the years. I have ended up with different connections to Indy over the years – some of them surprising! And I look forward to having a better answer to this in the future.

What challenges do you see as a business leader thinking through economic development and biblical perspective?

Before I answer this, let me just say that along with the challenges I see a hope for waste places to be rebuilt in families and communities. I see a hope that conversations about economic identity and community development can happen without fear or apathy. We are not in those times and that challenge is huge but let me explain a little more.

Often when we start talking about the Bible and economics, people shutdown. So much of the decay and fear we see in our cities and in our culture revolves around economic identity. Historically, those with resources and power have been the ones to write history, to build cities, to decide whose voice matters. The ideals that are upheld outside the church are of wealth, power and privilege. In the church, you see a lot of confusion. We fund and run our churches through those things but aren’t those things bad? As a church, we repent of racial injustice. We repent for condoning abuse. We repent for not loving our brothers and sisters as we ought. But do we repent of our economic sin? The way we use our resources in our communities against our brothers and sisters and stir up strife? The way we use resources to hold family members hostage or to win people to our side?

As a business leader, I long for the day when communities are built because we see the different gifts that individuals bring and we form business and community to rebuild cities and families by knowing each other’s gifts in a way that allows glory to shine through the work of their hands. I long for a day when rather than seeing each other as threats, we can see an opportunity to build fuller and more vibrant businesses because we have been built up and encouraged by the gifts of others. I long for a day when businesses in our cities are woven into the fabric of our communities in ways that stick – reflecting the hands and feet of Jesus and pulling each other along by loving each other well.


Tell us more about how you hope to change business in the future.

This is a really fun time to be in business. There are conversations being had that have been decades if not centuries in the making. When I started my MBA my goal was to change the way economic identity is discussed today. Eighteen years into a career I never could have imagined, I find myself believing that business can be done differently. Through my studies, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to the stories for quite a few start-ups and companies that are working to develop their identity and change business. I’ve met founders who changed the ways they did business by acknowledging the humanity in their people after decades and I’ve seen really powerful people lose their privilege overnight. My hope for the future is to enable people to have better conversations about the fears and burdens of economic identity so that they can make better decisions. Ultimately if we are driven solely by our fears or limitations, it will be impossible to thrive. More than anything, it is living in a way that allows others to thrive which I hope to bring to business in the future.

SEVEN…The team going to Indy and God’s answer of my prayer

A couple days ago I wrote this on facebook:

“A month from today, on September 12 seven men will join me in Indy to plant a mustard seed to build friendship across racial divides by working on a common cause: to empower African Americans through home and business ownership.

Our pilot project is the restoration of the house owned by Donteau Gladney to be the base camp of the social purpose business he and I are starting called Faith of a Mustard Seed, or F.O.M. I wrote about that here and about the genesis of this dream here.

I want to introduce the men who are planting the seed to you. And I want to invite YOU to join us as the seventh man (for the Saturday-Thursday work project) or just join us for one day of that project.

Jed Dorsey

My younger brother Jed has been at my side as a brother, friend and follower of Christ from the beginning. Back in about 2010 Donteau worked with Jed on some house painting jobs. Besides being a professional artist, Jed has 20+ years of experience as a professional house painter. His wife Renae and daughter will be visiting Indy that week too but probably not helping on the work project. I’m super thankful to have Jed on the team planting this first seed.

Jim Gibons

Jim is the Director of Mercy, Outreach and Justice at Redeemer Redmond. He has three great kids and works at Nintendo. Jim has a warm and winsome personality, a deep love for people, and a heart for doing mercy and justice. Jim tells me that in his past life he was a house painter. It’s awesome to my good friend Jim on the team.

Dave Lane

Dave is an elder at Redeemer Redmond. Dave works at Microsoft. He and Cheryl have three children. Dave is very good at fixing pretty much anything, as a Jack-of-all-trades, so he is going to be put on jobs where we have no idea what to do. He plans to join us after he drops his daughter off at college. I’m super excited to have Dave with us!

Jordon Lewis

Jordon is the Youth Coordinator at Redeemer Redmond. He recently graduated from the University of Washington with a Political Science degree. I don’t know what Jordon’s construction skills are but I do know that he is a hard worker and a great guy. Super glad to have him joining us. I’m looking forward to introducing Jordon to Indy!

Dismas Smith

Dismas is a long-time friend and member of the Redeemer Redmond congregation. He and I have been doing ministry together since 1988. Dismas is an international coffee figure, is a terrific cook, has a heart for God and people and is a wonderful conversationalist. I’m sure some of those skills will come in handy on our trip. It’s so great to have my faithful old friend, brother and fellow warrior strapping on the sword with me once again.

Kourntey Zahn

Kourtney lives in Indianapolis with Faith and two or is it three beautiful children (I’ve lost track). He is also the owner of Masonry Outfitters. I got to know Kourtney when I served as pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in Indy. At that time, Kourtney was transitioning from being a youth pastor to starting a new masonry business. That business has taken off. Kourtney’s team will be working on some foundation issues in the house, pro bono, as a gift!”

[Please keep Kourtney in your prayers. Yesterday he had a bad bike accident and shattered his elbow. So we’ll see what Kourtney will be able to do.]

Then I wrote, “You?

I am praying that God would raise up one more man to join us on this trip. It’s a big commitment of time and money. We’re asking these men to pay for their travel to Indy. Once there we’ll provide them with housing and food 😊.

It’s also a big commitment of time to take almost a week out of your life to serve in this way (Saturday, September 12-Thursday, September 17). But the cause is good, the potential is great, and the friendships forged worth all the blood, sweat and tears.Would you join us for the week?

Or if you can’t give a whole week, would you come by for a day to put your shoulder to the plow and work with us? We would love to have your help for a day or two. Anything will help.If you have any questions email me (j.dorsey23@gmail.com) or message me.I look forward to seeing who my God will raise up to join us.”

God’s Answer

When I wrote this I did not know how God would answer my prayer. I didn’t know that Kourtney Zahn would get in a bike accident and shatter his elbow. And I didn’t know that the SEVENTH PERSON would not be a GUY but a GAL and that she was already

Renae Dorsey (and Willow!)

I knew that Renae was going to accompany Jed to Indy and visit with friends. But I didn’t think of her as part of the team since she wasn’t going to be a part of the work party. But today we talked and it sounds like her, Jed and Willow will be staying with us at Redeemer and she said that she would help us with laying out breakfast, and the food to make our lunches. I’m also going to see if I could talk her into an hour or two of mentoring Jai’Onn, Donteau’s son, in setting up the business since she has so much experience with her and Jed’s art business. That would be amazing!

You?

If you are interested in joining Donteau and I and this team of SEVEN work on Project #1 in Indy (Sept 12-17) we have room for you. Just reach out to me and let me know how you can help (j.dorsey23@gmail.com; 317.209.6768). Next week I’ll be putting out some practical ways people can collaborate with us on this project.

Donteau and I look forward to creating and building friendships as we work together on a common cause!

Letter to “Pilot” Faith of a Mustard Seed Work Team

Here’s a letter I wrote this morning to a group of men who are considering joining our first Faith of a Mustard Seed work team. My dream is to take seven men from the Northwest with me, and team up with other men in Indy. We have room for a couple of more men. Do you want to be part of planting this mustard seed and watching it take off?

Friends,
I wanted to get you an update on the trip to Indy to work on the “home base” for Faith of a Mustard Seed (F.O.M), a social purpose business whose mission is to build relationships between people of different races by working together on a common cause of empower African American’s through business and home ownership. 

My friend Donteau is the owner of F.O.M. We will be working on his house that will be the home base for the business. He and I are really excited to get this program launched and you are the test or “pilot” group. 

Some of you I’ve only spoken to briefly about the trip, but I wanted to keep you in the loop. Others have said they plan to go. My hope and dream is to bring 7 guys from the northwest and to team up with other men back in Indy. 

We’re at the point that we need to have commitments of who is going and you’ll need to purchase your plane ticket. Once you’re there, all food and other costs will be covered.  
Jim Gibons and I have booked our flights. The round trip for me was under $200.

Here’s some details.

1. Arrive in Indy on Saturday, Sept 12. We will arrange for youto get picked up from the airport. If you want to get a rental car that’s find but that cost is on you. 

2. Staying at Redeemer. We’ll be staying in the youth room of thechurch I pastored in Indianapolis, Redeemer. www.redeemindy.org.I’m going to see if I can get congregation members to loan us airmattresses, cots, etc. I’m super thankful that Redeemer has openedher doors for us to stay. 

3. Meals: We’ll eat breakfast at the church, pack lunch and eat lunchat the worksite. Volunteers will be making/bringing dinner to the worksite. As long as the weather is good we’ll eat our meals outside.

4. Program. Since the heart of this business is to bring people togetheraround a common cause and to build relationships, even friendships,we’ll be spending time in the evenings focused on that. I don’t want to go into details about that now, but this is going to be a really impactful time for everyone involved!

5. Cost. The cost to you is the cost of the airfare. It is also the cost of taking a week of your life and using it to work hard to serve people you don’t yet know, and in a community where you don’t live. There is a cost to your family to have you gone for this long. There is the risk of getting sick due to the pandemic we’re living in. There is the cost of stepping into a program that is just getting started and won’t be as wellorganized as it should be. There are a lot of other costs to that I won’t mention now. But as followers of Jesus, all of those costs pale in comparison to the cost of our Lord and Savior who left the comfort and glory of heaven to give his life up for us to make us spiritually rich. There will also be the joys of being together as a band of brothers. I’m excited to bring you into friendship with one of my best friends, Donteau. And I’m excited to grow in my friendship with each of you men. I’m excited to share with you the beauty, grace and hospitality of the African American community in Indy.

6. Finishing up on Thursday, September 17 We will be wrapping up by noon on Thursday, September 17. You can decide to fly out later on Thursday, or on Friday, or if you want to stay and checkout the documentary on Saturday, 19th, you’re welcome to do that too. Iwill be recruiting some guys who live in Indy to come in on the Thursday, 17 and Friday, 18, to work on the house so that we are able to get a full week of work done. But as I said, you are released at noon on Thursday, 17. 

7. Cool Story: Last week I reached out to an old friend Kourtney Zahn who I knew from Redeemer where he attended for a while. He was trying to figure out his calling, whether to be a full time youth minister or to go full steam ahead in a masonry business he had started. He ended up starting Masonry Outfitters and his business has taken off. During Kourtney’s time at Redeemer Indy, he, my brother Jed, Donteau and Doug Jesch, a member of Redeemer Indy, took a trip to attend Redeemer New York’s Faith and Work conference. So Kourtney knew Donteau from that trip. Anyway, I shared that Donteau needed to have some work done on the foundation of his house. Kourtney said that he wouldbe happy to look at it, and if it was something that they could work on that he would like to donate it to the project. His generosity brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes. I’m excited for you to meet Kourtney. 

Please let me know by August 10 if you are willing and able to join us on this work project or not. Thanks Jim!

Grace, Jason

Place Matters Seminar

A couple of years ago, Jenny and I met with Steve Garber at Zoka, my favorite Seattle coffee shop in Seattle. Years before I spent hours each week when I worked as an assistant pastor at Green Lake Presbyterian. We had returned to the Seattle area after serving thirteen years at Redeemer Presbyterian church in downtown Indy. I was trying to get my feet under me as the pastor of a small presbyterian congregation on the east side of Seattle also named Redeemer.

I had met Steve during a work-faith cohort that I had participated in with a number of other pastors from across the U.S. During that cohort, I came to value Steve’s wisdom and vision for a holistic life of faith and work. Somehow Steve had the capacity to befriend us too. He didn’t just talk to us, but shared his heart and life with us. So when I learned that he would be in Seattle, I reached out to Steve to see if Jenny and I could meet with him. He said yes, and we made arrangements to meet at Zoka. In the course of the conversation, I brought Steve up to speed on the Identity Mapping ministry that and asked him advice on next steps. He listened carefully, then shared this.

Steve said that he felt strong that the Identity Mapping ministry needed to be connected to the art studio and gallery that Jenny and I had been developing on Camano Island. He said that he felt that there should be a strong tie between that creative place and identity mapping. I’m sure Steve said a number of important things. But that is the one thing that really registered with me. At one level it made sense, but at another I just didn’t see how it would work. After all, the focus of our ministry is in Redmond and not Camano Island. Nevertheless the idea planted itself, and I pondered it.

As I was developing the Identity Mapping this spring, and taking the next step to organize and communicate the Identity Mapping ministry, it dawned on me that we could offer seminars at the studio. Half-day seminars would be doable for members of our congregation, as well as for others who would be interested to dive into the subject matter. I realized if we provided a meal it would really hit the mark of one of our values which is to build community.

All of that to say that on Saturday, August 29, we will be holding our first Identity Mapping seminar at Sunnyshore Studio: Place matters. Here are some more details.

Place Matters Seminar

In “Country Roads” John Denver sings

“Country roads, take me home to the place I belong”

Place evokes powerful longings in our heart. We feel we belong to places. We long for places. But does place matter to God? What should the Christian’s attitude to place be? And how are we to be fully present in the places God planted us and to long for heaven at the same time?

In the Place Matters seminar, we will explore place in the Bible, paying special attention to Jeremiah chapter 29 where God instructs his people in how to live as “resident aliens.” We will listen to Dietrich Bonhoeffer who says that we should embrace the Old Testament attitude toward place with a “holy wordliness” and that they way to look and long for heaven is by “drinking the earthly cup to the dregs.” You will be challenged to “represent your place” and “bloom where you are planted” as a citizen of heaven. You will enjoy a tour of Jack and Ann Dorsey’s place and hear the story of their engagement with place. You will have time to map your places, and prayerfully set goals for engaging the places where God has put you. And you will enjoy a delicious lunch by Chef Dismas Smith and have plenty of time for conversation and interaction with seminar participants.

Schedule

  • 9:00-9:15am arrive at the studio and get signed in.
  • 9:15-10:15 Seminar lecture and discussion by Jason Dorsey
  • 10:15-11:15 Tour of Jack and Ann Dorsey’s home and garden and their story
  • 11:15-12:00 Alone time to pray, journal
  • 12:00-1:00 Lunch
  • 1:00-2:00 Seminar participants share their goals for engaging their places

Social Distancing

Our plan and hope is to be outside for the entirety of this seminar. The end of August is usually quite nice in the northwest. For the first hour we will meet under the studio’s balcony. We will be outside for the tour at Jack and Ann Dorsey’s home and garden and hear their story on their spacious deck. Lunch will be back at the studio again under the balcony. In the event of rain, we will meet inside the studio which is large enough for us to maintain social distancing. To maintain social distancing requirements we are setting the limit of seminar participants at 12.

Cost

The cost of the seminar is $25 per person. This cover the cost of food. Copies of Jason Dorsey’s Identity Mapping handbook The Name will be available, but these are optional.

Registration

To register contact Jason at identitymapping123@gmail.com or 317.209.6768. Space is limited to 12 so please be sure to RSVP.

A Discipleship Journey for Pastors & Spouses & Couples in Ministry

Are you weary in (not of) ministry? Have you been wounded by “friendly fire?” Are you in a transition in ministry and/or life? Do you want clarity on your particular strength and voice in ministry? Would you like someone to cheer you on just as you cheer others on?

In September, Pastor Jason Dorsey and Jenny Dorsey are launching an Identity Mapping cohort for pastors & spouses and couples in ministry. Jason and Jenny have thirty-three years of partnership in ministry. Twenty-two of those years has been spent in ordained ministry. They have experienced the highs and lows, the wonders and wounds, and the surprises and sadness of couples partnering in ministry. Jason is currently pastor at Redeemer Redmond in Redmond, WA. Besides being a mom and first lady of the church, Jenny is a professional coach. She coaches women professionally and pastor’s and church planter’s wives through Parakaleo.

We have space for up to twelve individuals/couples to join this cohort. We will meet via ZOOM, 2X a month on Tuesday evenings. The first meeting on Tuesday, September 22, 4:00-5:30pm Pacific Standard Time, will be an orientation to the curriculum and a chance to get to know members of the cohort. Besides this first meeting, we will meet sixteen times on Tuesday evenings over the course of nine months:

  • October 6 & 20
  • November 3 & 17
  • December 1 & 15
  • January 5 & 19
  • February 2 & 16
  • March 2 & 16
  • April 6 & 20
  • May 4 & 18

The session’s will last for 1.5 hours, 4:00-5:30pm. During each session we will discuss one chapter from The Name and the Tool that goes with that chapter.

The cost is $100 per person which covers the cost of the curriculum. The basic discipleship curriculum of Identity Mapping, The Name, has 14 chapters plus a prelude and postlude. Each chapter is followed by a tool to help you apply its teaching to your life. There are over fifty illustrations. We encourage you to color these “theological illustrations” to help you process the content of each chapter. There is room on each page to take notes, and places throughout the handbook to make journal entries.

Identity Mapping is a big commitment. Don’t join us in the journey if you can’t make a commitment to it. We’d love to talk more and help you discern if it is a good fit. Reach out to Jenny or myself to let us know if you are interested. Contact Jason at: j.dorsey23@gmail.com.

Redeemer Redmond’s Virtual Identity Mapping Cohort

In September, Pastor Jason and Jenny Dorsey will launch the first virtual Identity Mapping cohort for the Redeemer Redmond congregation. We have space for up to twelve individuals/couples to join us. We will meet via ZOOM. While we will miss being in person, this allows for couples with young children who wouldn’t normally be able to participate.

The first meeting on Tuesday, September 22, 7:00-8:30pm, will be an orientation to the curriculum and a chance to get to know members of the cohort.

We will meet sixteen times on Tuesday evenings over the course of nine months:

  • October 6 & 20
  • November 3 & 17
  • December 1 & 15
  • January 5 & 19
  • February 2 & 16
  • March 2 & 16
  • April 6 & 20
  • May 4 & 18

The session’s will last for 1.5 hours, 7:00-8:30pm. During each session we will discuss one chapter from The Name and the Tool that goes with that chapter.

Jenny and I love leading members of our congregation through the Identity Mapping journey. It is a great way for us to get to know you and your story and to encourage you in your identity in Christ and calling for his glory.

Identity Mapping is a discipleship path that I’ve worked on developing since 2008. I encourage Christians to walk the IM journey every year. Its focus on knowing yourself with growing clarity and setting goals is a great process to go through annually. At the same time, there are seasons where Identity Mapping is especially relevant to one’s life. The Identity Mapping journey is especially helpful for people who:

  • young people who want to gain clarity on who they are and what their calling is.
  • middle aged people who are going through life transitions and want direction.
  • all people who want clarity on their identity in Christ and the calling that encircles them
  • all people who are ready to process heart wounds and want healing.
  • all people who are serious about leveraging their great strength for Jesus’ name

Identity Mapping is a big commitment. Don’t join us in the journey if you can’t make a commitment to it. We’d love to talk more and help you discern if it is a good fit. Reach out to Jenny or myself to let us know if you are interested. Contact Jason at: j.dorsey23@gmail.com.

Recovering Gracefully: Conclusion

We make plans, dream dreams, and want to be morally beautiful. But our plans get changed, dreams get shattered, and we fall short of our ideals. When this happens we should not give up on making plans, dreaming dreams and striving to be a morally beautiful person. We who believe in the God of grace can’t be cynics, nor protect our heart in a foolproof safe from pain. Instead, we need to learn how to recover gracefully.

In previous articles I shared how my daughter Jackie and I had hoped to travel from San Diego to Seattle on a three week painting trip. Covid-19 altered our plans. I canceled my sabbatical. We canceled the trip. But we didn’t cancel hope…we still wanted to do something special together. Years ago, as a young man, I had taken my siblings and younger cousins on a hike around the south end of Camano. I asked Jackie if she would consider hiking all 52 miles of beaches in four days, and invite family and friends to join us. She said sure. And we did. On Saturday, June 27 we set out with a group of fourteen. Others joined us along the way. Here is the story of the epic, 52 mile hike around Camano Island.

It turned out real great, more than I could have hoped and dreamed of. Along the way I did a short interview of Jackie about what it means to recover gracefully. Here’s what she said.

Recovering gracefully is a gospel skill that you can learn to practice when your plans go awry, your dreams are dashed and your sinful, broken heart is exposed. Here are three steps, really just doing one thing three times.

  1. Remind yourself that even though your plans got messed up, your dream is dead, your flaws got exposed, God your Heavenly Father loves you. He is sovereign. He is in control. He has a good plan for your life.
  2. Preach the gospel to yourself. Take yourself by the hand and say, “Self, don’t spiral down into despair. God has not abandoned you. He cares for you. He has a plan for your life, and good works for you to walk in. He is transforming you into the beauty of Christ. Get back up. Move forward!”
  3. And make a new plan, adapt. If God has closed one door, trust that He is opening another. When God says a little “no,” never forget that he has already said a MIGHTY YES to you, all of his promises are YES to you in Jesus.

When Jackie and my plan got dashed by Covid-19. We didn’t quit or complain. We recovered gracefully. We reminded ourselves of the truth. We preached the gospel to ourselves. And we made a new plan. You can recover gracefully too!

F.O.M.’s first official project: Creation of a “Home Base” of operations

In previous posts I’ve shared about my friendship with Donteau Gladney and our dream to create Faith of a Mustard Seed’s (F.o.M.) a social purpose business that would empower people of color in Indianapolis through home and business ownership. We’ve asked you to consider standing with us in this initiative. I’ve laid the executive summary of our business, which Donteau will oversee, here.

On September 12, a team of SEVEN men will begin work on a home that Donteau owns on the near west side of Indy. This home will serve as the base of operations for F.o.M. Our team of SEVEN will create the template for other teams to come to Indy and stand alongside the African American community is solidarity, hard work and growing friendship. We dream of the renovation of many homes, that will be sold at very affordable prices (due to the volunteer investment) and of the support and even catalyzing of many black led businesses.

Donteau sent me pictures this week of his house that we are going to be working on.

We’ll be working on the inside, painting the outside, and doing yardwork (which is my specialty!).

We’ll be partnering with an organization that trains young black men on home construction. They have an awesome program. More on that later. I’ll share in a future article ways that my Indy friends can come around and support us in this project. But for now I just wanted to share these pictures of the work we have ahead. Let’s do this!