Embodying Community with Jimmy McGee | Podcast Season 01, Episode 02
Listen and Subscribe on: Apple | Spotify | Amazon Music (Audible)
In this conversation about embodied community with Jimmy McGee, CEO and President of Impact Movement, Inc., we dig into the ways in which technology, the pandemic, and a generational shift are affecting the way we socialize with our communities. From sitting around a pot of gumbo in New Orleans with cousins to connecting over Zoom, join us as we consider how the elements of an embodiment are evolving.
About Our Guest:
James is often referred to as Jimmy McGee. He was born in Milwaukee, and later moved with his family to the Southside of Chicago where he grew up. He returned to Milwaukee to attend Marquette University, graduating with a Bachelors of Art in Sociology. After college, he relocated to Atlanta, Georgia to serve with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. For ten years he served Black students who attended the Atlanta University Center. (The Atlanta University Center is a consortium of Historically Black Schools, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College and Morris Brown College.) In that capacity he has impacted college students’ lives through mentoring, training, and directing conferences. During his tenure with InterVarsity he had other responsibilities before leaving InterVarsity December 2004. His last role was as the Director, Pilgrimage For Reconciliation (2002-2004): a program to help InterVarsity grow deeper in its intent to become a welcoming organization to all ethnic communities by looking at racial/ethnic conflict domestically and globally through the lens of Shalom Theology.
Jimmy is now the CEO/President of The Impact Movement, Inc. Similar to his work with InterVarsity. The Impact Movement is a 501(c)3 ministry that is focused on reaching Black students in the academy. Formerly associated and linked with Cru, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ. Impact is in partnership with Cru, serving students at HBCU’s, Primarily Black Institutions, and Primarily White Institutions.
Jimmy has a Masters of Arts in Applied Anthropology from Georgia State University. Jimmy is the founder and president of The Bitumen Group, Inc. Married to Genie, together they have 3 sons; James (Jay), Noah Aslan, and Asher Cross.
Find the Community Support You Need
- Embodying Community with Curt Thompson, MD, Psychiatrist, Speaker and Author | Season 01, Episode 01
- Embodying Community with Coté Soerens, Neighborhood Pastor | Season 01, Episode 03
Kate: Our theme for this season is embodying community. And we set that topic as a very relevant one as, um, you know, we’re in different eras of navigating waves of COVID and what it means to gather or to gather virtually. Um, and also as we are figuring out how to be a community of many different communities and the community across differences nationally, and curious how embodying community is showing up in your work and your thoughts, and also just where your mind goes and what your hopes are as you, um, think about the phrase. So that’s a big field and I’ll let set the direction of where you want the conversation to go first, Jimmy.
Jimmy: So, you know, I think the whole imagination, I, I was thinking about, um, even in the idea of the conversation in the United States, uh, earlier writings, I think Adam Smith and others always talk about the United States as an experiment that is evolving, that it was not something that was already baked, cooked that we walking in, but that the whole evolution of our democracy, uh, is just that it’s a place of experiment learning from mistakes and correcting, course corrections. I would argue that where we are in this stage, when I think about communal embodiment, uh, and I think it’s, it’s been an ebb and flow for us, uh, meaning that, uh, the country’s culture is so profoundly individualistic. That embodiment, even when I use the word, there’s an assumption of attachment of our lives together, uh, this reality that we are connected, I would argue that that is really true as I reflect upon the scripture and when I reflect experientially. But I think because individualism is so profoundly, strong and power powerful, it gives us this false illusion that embodiment can exist independent of attachment to people. And I would argue that’s a big, big falsehood, uh, and I think that that’s why, uh, the gratitude I have with the, the pandemic over these past two years, even though it’s been horrific, I think we’re over a million deaths in the country. We still have more cases than anybody else in the world. And we’re the ones who have the vaccine. And yet we’re the ones who are losing our minds. Uh, it gives us the opportunity once again, and we’ve had many instances to press the restart button, to go back to the experience of life in this nation to say, Hey, we failed. This gives us a chance to reboot and give a second effort to get it right. But, and I find that the profound power of the culture of the United States penetrates even our Christian ethos, our Christian imagination of what we read in the scriptures, which at time rubs the idea of democracy in this nation, but it, but it also moves us towards embodiment. And the most profound example I can think about is grief. And I think grief is the thing that I think about the most coming out of the pandemic and that when, when we think about loss in this nation, we tend to think, okay, my mother died. It’s my mother. My father died. It’s my father, whether he died of COVID or not, it’s just something trapped because I lost my daddy. I lost my mommy. But the fact of the matter is that person is not just yours. That person is my adoptive surrogate. That person is my neighbor. That person is my church member. That person touched me with their vocation in my life, so that we experience grief without articulating it and even tapping into it. And so our search for embodiment causes us to think about how do we engage with each other, not just in terms of existence, but by experience the idea that we, we embody each other by the journeys that we take, because we’re not siloed. And I think that’s the encouragement I find in Jesus, his encouragement of embodiment is to mourn with those who are mourned. And I think part of the dilemmas coming out of this pandemic is that we certainly have not had reinforced theological imagination of how we share life with each other and how we’re embodied together. And I think that’s why I’m, I’m, I’m somewhat excited that coming out of the pandemic, we can press the restart button and we can reimagine what I think God intended for us to have, and the realization that we’re not just independent, but we’re interdependent. And I think that’s what we lose so much in this country. Y’all tracking with me on this one.
Derek: Yeah. I, I want to kind of, um, kind of highlight a little bit that individualism. Um, and I don’t, I don’t want it to be kind of much like, um, we sort of communalism is bad and so we switch swung to individualism. Now individualism is bad. We’re gonna swing to a sort of all kind of loss of a sense of agency. And I think we are struggling with the issue, both agency and communion. And, you know, I think some of our, the ways we’ve done the market, if you will, you know, I, I, I can get my individual package something or rather, and I remember growing up, you know, you shared stuff
Jimmy: That’s right.
Derek: Um, you shared food, you shared, you didn’t have everything individually packaged or individually. I didn’t have my own phone. I had to share a TV. I didn’t have a computer, you know, so I think there’s a lot of, uh, the sort of, um, both technology and, uh, commercial market life for us that has pushed us towards a sort of hyperindividualism. And so sometimes it becomes hard to figure out where does community really hold my body? What community does really hold me. And I think this sort of current moment, um, our individualism is, I mean, we talk about the notion of tribal, but usually those tribes are singularly focused. They’re not, they’re not church, if you will. Um, they’re focused on a particular aspect of our identity or a particular aspect of our interest or a particular aspect of our vocation. And they don’t actually allow us to interact with our differences, um, in an embodied sort of way in a sense that, Hey, I’m an older African American man. And what does that mean for a younger European American woman? Um, or what does that mean in terms of say a transgendered person? Um, who’s European American versus so I think we, we, we have lost the spaces to talk to each other, um, because of individualism, it’s an interesting sort of tribe as an interesting sort of individualism coven, if you will. I mean, it’s a way of hiding out and feeling safe, but it’s not embodied community. It’s not bringing myself to something that is a bit more different than me that I’m asked to submit myself to, or be in communion with and to be in communion with anything means I submit part of myself to that thing to belong. And so I do think what is a positive quality kind of being individual and have a nice, distinct identity. I can say who I am, if you will, without that sense of connection and submission to something larger community. I think it’s a little distorted. So I would call us a distortion, um, as opposed to individualism is bad, but we are in a distorted state where we have a huge devaluation for communion. It’s a frightening, potentially traumatic space for us. And, uh, I think this struggle to be embodied community is I think what you’re saying is, you know, the extreme right now, the distortion individualism, and how do we find our way back to communion? Um, and that’s risky. And particularly if we pick out one part of our identity and highlight that as the identity of belonging.
Jimmy: You know, I, I would agree with you. I, you know, excuse me, a second Kate, I think you were about to kick in. I, I think what we do, we vacillate between either or, or both/and. And that’s what you’re talking about, Derek. And I tend to lay, lead into both/and. So my communal experience is also dependent about the confidence of me emerging in myself, because the stronger I began to be settled in both my strength and my weaknesses means I’m the best participant in a communal space. That means there’s a sobriety of realizing what I have to offer and what I need to receive. And I think that’s what we need. The reason what your question Kate is so pertinent to me is because I don’t think coming out of this pandemic, we, this is the first restart in many instances in this country. I think it’s just another one. And there’s many instances that we’ve had restarts and we failed, you know, I think a William Faulkner in his word, he says, the past is never dead. It it’s not even the past. And what we also do in this country, we also have intentional amnesia. So we can’t even, we can’t even access the past to learn from its lessons to inform our future, our present so that we can have a different future. And I think that’s why I think it’s important to, to realize that when we talk about this embodiment, this embodiment is also chronological. Meaning like I’m attached to my communal past with the idea of imagine of an imagination for a communal future. And that’s both and both individual and collective.
Kate: Hmm. Yeah, I was, I was thinking Derek made a comment about the, uh, technology being such a source of individualism. We all have our own screen that we interact with and through and thinking about how interested I was early in lockdown back in 2020 with, uh, what it meant that we had to now reckon with being people who are embodied and incarnate and use virtual things. Um, my husband’s a programmer. So, uh, I think there’s been kinda a wall between theology and tech world for a long time of like, oh, those are people who are disembodied and disembodiment is bad, cause anything virtual is disembodied. And then when our screens became our only portal to community, to relationship to church, for many of us, then we had to say like, oh, there’s actually something more nuanced and complex going on here. And I was really excited about that possibility now that we are two years into most of our engagements being through technology and the uptick in road rage. I got a headline yesterday about, um, Girl Scouts has reported that there’s an uptick in people going on tirades and lectures to girls selling cookies, um, about health consciousness or about the false rumor of ties to planned parenthood. And like they’re lecturing these eight-year-old girls on which, and I’m just like, what is wrong with us? Like, what are we like? And, and I’m wondering like, oh yeah, this has been our connection to the world, but it’s been an entirely individually chosen world where you go to the webinars and the events of people who already agree with you, of things that are already of interest to you and Jimmy, what your point out is both in a, in a geographic space, in a time space where you have to reckon with things that aren’t what you would choose, where there are things that have happened on this land that I wouldn’t have chosen, wouldn’t have condoned. And yet I live here and when I actually start to engage my space and the people here, I, I have to integrate those things into myself. And I, I think I, and you, you keep using this sort of experiment, which I’m loving and is so far from, I think, how so many people view Christianity or patriotism, they view it as about tradition and stability and to say, no, the most patriotic thing we can do is continue to experiment. And a very Christian thing we can do is continue, continue to imagine it’s just a very different space, different feel than I think how Christianity is so often portrayed to us.
Derek: I think the other thing Kate raises, um, just how both stressful, I, the last couple years have been in terms of pandemic and hopefully we’re exiting it. And one, the sort of our bodies have gotten used to being isolated. And so I, you know, still uncomfortable for me to be around a lot of people. And so that, which would be kind of a source of healing and regulation now is uncomfortable for me, it’s a threat, it’s a risk. And so when we say what’s wrong with us, we’ve in some ways, those things that were safe are no longer safe and those things that we hunger for are no longer, um, available to us. And so it’s a hyper vigilant sort of state of, you know, cookies don’t have enough nutrition in them or whatever. Uh, um, but I think that the, the challenge is one, how do we work with our bodies getting back to each other as well? And I’m sure there’s both a sort of isolation or fear of, or a hunger and aggressive towards, um, a consumptive quality or avoidant quality that I think we’re gonna have to go through as we kind of reemerge and reconnect. And, you know, I think, again, it just speaks to how strained the bonds have been and Jimmy, your conversation about reset and, you know, resetting is frightening. You know, I means if we kind of acknowledge that, you know, even the metaphor of experiment says, I don’t know what’s next. And we’ve been living a couple years with, I don’t know, what’s next, in fact, it’s back, forth, back and forth. And I think it’s another sort of factor when we’re talking about embodied is we had to really work with our bodies around the sense of unsafety about what it means to return to each other and try to explore each other as opposed to label from a distance. And that’s the safest thing to do. If I see somebody across the street that’s dangerous, I’d rather kind of identify them across the street than let them get close. And so that avoidant piece and that sort of danger piece, that’s sort of, what’s safe, what’s not safe, is probably heightened, which then makes us a lot more irritable. Um, and confused about what safety looks like in community.
Jimmy: Well, you so where the conversation is going now. So let me let, just say a couple of things even about technology, because before the pandemic happening, there are a lot of institutions that say, Hey, we need to come up with online services. We need to create online curriculum. And I think that was appropriate. I think the indulgence over the last two years have shown huge amounts of inequities, uh, and that everyone didn’t have to the technological resources to pull off online. And we’re not talking about just institutions, we’re talking about individual families and students. I think the other thing about it is it also expose also the weaknesses of online education. The idea that some people just don’t learn in a didactic environment, or even if it’s quote unquote rooms and zoom, that’s not the same of being in the classroom and rubbing up or being in a laboratory to have those experiences. So I think when we think about technology, I think we vacillate between indulgence and that means too much of it and moderation. So do I, I think online classes are about to be abandoned and that we’re gonna leave it. Oh, no, I don’t think so. But I think what we’re gonna have as all the experts are now doing an analysis on the K to 12 experience for our students and they need to rise, raise that up to our collegiate level is that they, that they’ve, they’ve ultimately think that we’ve lost ground in our education and that’s across socioeconomic as well as racial lines. So they gotta figure out. And of course, people who on the lower end of the spectrums probably lost more than others, but there was a loss there. I think the other thing that we need to realize it’s about embodiment, you know, I’m in my fifties now. And if you ask me about embodiment now than when I was 20, I would say, I know more about embodiment now than I did then. I have more knowledge of what I feel like I am losing and what I really need. I mean, in one way, if we talk vocationally, it’s not about embodiment, it’s about ego and my own success and my own way to perpetuate my own brand. As older, I said, oh, wow, there were deficits when I was younger and not realizing that my success and my, uh, my way to move forward in my career was really codependent upon my ability to work together and to build team and to dream with others, not using them, but coming alongside people. And so I would say that embodiment, this is a great part, least for resetting, because I think we had limited knowledge of what embodiment looked like because we were coming out of such compartmental lives prior to the pandemic. And then this new compartment of being isolated, insulated, having all these restraints from embracing. I mean, I found myself not even the other day. People wanted to reach out and shake my hand and I was fist bumping. And then looking for my, uh, my hand sanitizer right afterwards, cuz I didn’t want their touch that long on my hand. I mean it, whereas, or sometime ago I would’ve gladly, shook someone’s hand, embraced them, held them close for intimacy. Now I want none of that disease near me. And so I’m trying to push some differences. So that means I gotta relearn what it feels like to be embraced and I have to relearn what it means to embrace. So, and, but again, this is all part of a learning posture of rediscovering, what full embodiment is. And, and frankly, I’m convinced that this learning curve is steep because just now, if you mentioned just church, cuz we’re going back and forth, they got people saying, well, you know, I’m a member of a church that church is five states over now. Now they know very well in their subconscious when they get hungry aint nobody coming over there to say hi to them. When they need the pastor to come, pray for them, he ain’t coming over to give it. On communion Sunday. They gotta go get their own crackers and wine. They have of communion because they’re not bricking bread with somebody in person they’re breaking bread by themselves. And so this is something, again we have to reimagine because I personally feel this imagination of virtual church has so much limitation to it. That it’s going to find ourselves with deficits that may even further plummet than what we had during the pandemic.
Derek: I, I think I wanna hopefully kind of, I, I wanna push on that a little bit. My, my hope though is, um, again, and I don’t like to use the word balance cuz sometimes balance is overused. Um, and I probably think of it as tensions, but my hope is still that that person who’s five states away can still feel some sense of connectedness through, uh, an electronic vehicle. And again, this is a hope for me. I’m still trying to figure out again, trying to imagine what it means to be embodied in community and on some real levels. When I think about embodied, I have to kind of think about, Hey, I, I, I didn’t get here. Poof. People’s bodies joined and that then started something, a different body, my body. And so I’m indebted to bodies for my existence. I’m indebted to bodies for my, um, survival, I’m indebted to bodies for my sense of social communion, uh, my sense of network. And so our very beginnings is in the sort of joining of bodies, um, communion, if you will. And I’m still though, because we have this tool, I don’t wanna trash it as much as try to figure out, okay, it has its limitations. It has its inabilities. What are those ways we can use it to facilitate linkage, um, or deeper linkage. And um, so of my brain has moved to not just what’s wrong with it, but what’s our imagination for these things that can be more connective and embodied and linked, even though they won’t be sufficient, um, they won’t be fully sufficient, but can they then draw, begin to invite people from afar, closer? And so I start to wonder about those things because these tools that we have, they’re not going away, we’re still gonna use them. They, you know, they they’re, they’re effective in certain ways efficient in others. Um, they’re not, we’re simply saying for me, they’re not the cure all, but they do connect in some ways. And I think that was the benefit of two years. I would’ve thought, uh, online education. Okay. I, I, I can appreciate it, but now I guess the question is, you know, when I hear of complaints about our kids and online and I think you’re right, Jimmy, the, the inequality has to be raised, but I also hear complaints about the social maturing of our children, not the information in other words, can I, can I do math? Can they, can they be exposed to science? I’m not hearing kind of the knock on that. I’m hearing the knock on, they need to be socialized. And so we’re really talking about the formative aspects of education as opposed the informative. So I think that the tool can still be used for information, but the formative pieces we’re, we’re talking about how do we form? And that does mean a closer to each other that does mean a drawing close.
Kate: And as a interesting years before COVID hit. We were having conversations about soft skills and how soft skills were things we kind of societally took for granted like, oh, people know how to be polite, know how to formally address someone. Um, a lot of just socially held things that in recent years, the, the language around soft skills has transitioned to being about essential skills because they are so essential. And it was only when a generation came up where they hadn’t been as ingrained that we started to realize, oh, these are things that really need to be taught. How do we teach those who’s, who is responsible for teaching those? Is that part of formal education in school systems. Is that on parents? Is that in, um, other institutions like churches? And I think that’s, it’s, it’s going to be a lot louder, of course, for this younger generation, um, where socialization is largely in your own home and tying this back to, um, like as, as we’re now starting to reenter and look at what are the things that we’ve were really missing and needed. The lack is one way to look about that. And Jimmy to use your language of reset in an experiment. Like what do we hope that reset is? Like if the experiment of individualism failed, what is it that we’re resetting towards or hoping to shift our communities towards in our reset now,
Jimmy: You know, so we, we need to agree that the pandemic was not a new space for us, technologically. I think what it did, it just pushed us further down a road we were already on. So let let’s get an example. You have a four member family going out to dinner before the meal comes 30 years ago, they would have a conversation they would talk about, How was your day? What do you think about happening? Make observation of somebody in the room these days you have four individuals, both parents and children, having their phones in front of them, entertaining themselves, either by Tiktok, or some of those funny games that you’re moving or just reading news without actually talking across the table. That’s perpetuated. So I think that’s what the pandemic further. It, it was almost like giving a harder narcotic to people who already addicted. It was just… That was a hard push. I would also argue too, that we have to look over the course of life. So for my mom who for all intents and purposes needs to get her knees transplanted, but she’s not, I mean, you know, replaced, she’s not gonna do that. So for zoom is the highlight of her life. So she don’t have think about the agony of going up and downstairs, getting in and out of a car, but now she can see all the people she normally would see without leaving and causing more pain for herself, with her cane, for her, this is enthusiastic. Uh, this is something she lives for. And so excited about. Yet. What we also know when we talk about essential skills, we’re talking about the height of violence that is occurring in our interactions now that we are and proximity of each other, that it’s not only just domestic violence and alcohol consumption, but the violence is with our younger children to adults, uh, killing in some cases, individuals, and we’re talking not just simply from stranger or peripheral, rural individuals, we’re talking about even within families, that kindness is a lost art. So I would argue in the midst of the essential essential skills that you mentioned, Kate and not necessarily always, uh, always mentioning that is that I think one of the most sought after character risks we need, and I think would be significantly important to embodiment is the idea of being kind to each other. You know, if, if we, if we went the extra step, I remember just even a few years ago that this one church for, uh, I think during lent just had this creative way of how they engaged the community. So, and the church was rather large. And what they would do is you found multiple, multiple members of the church, they’ll be in a drive through. And as they go through the drive through to pick up their food, they paid for the car that’s coming behind them. So that that person will go up and notice that their food was paid for they’ll go at, they will go into restaurants and identify a family or a table and say, you know, what can I have their check? I don’t really wanna know what they order, but I just want to pay for them. We’ll be in the line of the grocery store. You know? And just the other day I saw that a guy said, Hey, would you buy my, this cup of water? I lost my wa my water. I mean, my wallet, would you buy this bottled water for me? And three or four people said, no, I’m not gonna do that. You looked like you could pay for it. I’m not gonna do it. And then finally, this one woman said, oh, I gladly do this. Oh, ma’am, you’re so kind. And because of that, I’m gonna pay for all your groceries. So he paid $350 for groceries. See that, that type of behavior, to me, that’s embodiment that, that, that’s, that’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about back in the day in the Mennonite world, when someone needs their barn repair, that wasn’t for them to think about the costs and the budget and the time to do it, the whole community then creates a whole eating and frenzy around that. Cuz we are gonna gonna correct this, this barn on one day as a communal experience. So what you’re talking about, then I hate to say it, we’re gonna have to teach kindness both as both a value that is actually taught, but then in the terms of Jesus actually lived out so that people can see it and, and to see how attractive kindness is to our very embodiment. And I think that, and, and for Christian people, especially those who are excited about evangelism, they need to know, uh, you don’t want to use it as a bait and switch, but they, they need to know that’s the intriguing part of our faith. That’s what people were attracted to Jesus. Not that he did a bait and switch. They were attracted to his kindness, his generosity, his, his touch. Um, and I think that’s something in our embodiment that we need to pursue.
Kate: Yeah. That the bait and switch is the, like that, that’s the piece that we, we in Christian world get wrong. Is we like an inauthentic kindness? Because it’s unto the end of I’m gonna try to get you to say a prayer and that’s not the same as being in community with someone. Yeah,
Jimmy: Exactly. Exactly, exactly.
Derek: But, but I wanna, I want to, again, it’s interesting. I want to keep nudging us cuz I, I feel like if I didn’t learn that superficial ideal, I wouldn’t eventually move to something authentic. And so we’re talking about, Hey, gonna have to learn to, I learned to be kind from my mother, both in terms of what she said and probably more so from my father in terms of what he did, um, he served communion and we would sit in the car and wait for him to serve communion. Now we were just in the car we didn’t have, but I learned in some subtle ways, it was more important than to feed us is to feed people. Even on the way home from church. And so the question for me is where are these formative spaces? It’s not, it’s not just something do we have to learn? Yes. But I think we’ve lost the formative spaces because my kids had a different sort of upbringing in a way because they had more competitive messages to them about, well, yeah, that’s nice. But just kind of, you know, I can still recall my, my nephews saying about not liking Jesus cuz Jesus was a loser and he was very much in the video games at the time. It’s like Jesus died and you, so his narrative, the narrative by which he was socialized was much more mixed than the narrative I was socialized with. And so I think as we’re talking for me, Jimmy, even telling the story of that, Hey, the people behind me I’m gonna pay for them is a socializing tool. And I wonder where our stories are told. Um, cuz in some ways when we say go back, I, I think we need to keep going forward and say, where are the stories now of generosity, um, of generativity of giving to, of we’ll need those stories, but they’ll also need to be rooted in I’ll call a deeper narrative, uh, a deeper narrative of why. And so my parents’ narrative was Jesus, quite frankly, you know, you do this because you do this because, or this is the way I’m acting because, and I think those sort of dual notions of story, both the ancient ones or the ones we pull forward, as well as the current ones and the future ones will need because it won’t be a, you know, it won’t be what I say to my kids, Hey, you need to do so and so. And I they’ll hear that, but if they don’t have reinforcing pieces in what it means to be a successful person in life, um, or connected person life or an embodied community person in life, they don’t have those stories to pull them forward. They will struggle with living it on their own. And so I think I’ve become very, uh, um, not concerned, but yeah, it is concern. Where are the places that our stories can be told and held? Um, where do those stories get repeated? Both the deep stories. Um, they have a mythic quality, a mythic quality in the sense of how should we live? How should we be? What, why are we here as well as the stories of how I treat you, um, how I treat you, Kate, how I treat you, Jimmy, those stories are necessary for us. And I think we’re losing the spaces to tell those stories, particularly in the context where we don’t know what to believe anymore. Can’t believe news can’t believe media can’t believe each other can’t believe. And so in a context of not being able to believe because we’ve distorted our stories, it becomes hard to know where those safe socialization places of what it means to be kind. So I, I love this notion of we have to teach kindness. The question becomes, where are those places of engagement? If I can say that are transformative, we can teach kindness.
Jimmy: So based on this, this is the tension when I hear listening to a story. Um, and, and the challenge of what we need to do is to do some angioplasting on our attention span. Because you don’t listen to a story on TikTok, right? You just don’t do that. I mean it, because folk are not gonna listen. So that means we gotta grab their attention. Now, what I have found with college students, uh, in general, and they’re on the lower end of the spectrum, cuz older people get narratives per se. I find, uh, being incarnate, being in proximity to them while telling stories, stimulates their attention span to listen more and to ask questions. So my question then acts of kindness means being in proximity to touch for me. It’s the idea of, of, because what we’ve done with this digital stage, it’s the absence of touch. And I would argue, I was just talking to someone the other day, well, how can we grow our ministry? And I said, well, you know, when I came to impact some years ago, we had distant coaching, uh, as a part of it. But we also saw morale and decline of our, because our students in general came from distant places, places that people weren’t in a proximity to them to touch. And I said, I think the access to this is not just our biblical acumen, but our ability to be proximity, proximate to our students. So I said, let’s increase, it touches to five or six times a month, a month. And then students began to say, oh wow, this person must actually care about me. They’re invested in. Then we tell stories. So kindness, I think is attached to proximity. I think kindness is also attached to the, the ability to touch. And I think kindness is also related to time. So that means investment, all this means investment. Uh, and, and so when I think of reset and I think opportunities, it doesn’t mean that I’m, I’m swinging a pendulum from this inundation to technology to now this world, without it completely. No, I think the reset is to say that we’re gonna understand moderation of technology, but then we’re gonna have this intuitive, longing that we desire to be, uh, communal and to have embodiment. Cuz to me, embodiment is not just a destination. I think it’s an actual appetite that is fostered in people to know that embodiment is attachment too. And so I want that I’m longing for it. Now the problem is they may not necessarily understand what they’re pining for. And so for some of a older we, we wanna stimulate that. And then when their endorphins kick in and say, oh no, this is it. That’s when they begin to say yes, yes, this is a part of my embodiment. It’s not just individual. It’s my, my attachment to communal it’s not just something that I do. It’s a part of who I’m becoming. I think that’s some of the things that we need to reflect on.
Kate: Hmm. And I’m feeling, Ugh, like so much of what you’re I’m like, oh yeah. Like that is what kindness is. And that sounds so beautiful and so good. And I was not at all formed that way. I was not brought up any of these ways. Um, like, like, oh, adopt me into that, that community. Um, cause I, I was brought up in this very, um, and I think this is white and I think it’s also maybe, uh, really exacerbated louder in Dutch American spaces. Like my parents were so proud of themselves for giving my sister and I good night hugs every night because they never got that from their parents. And this was like a choice they made, like we were going to hug our daughters every night and it was the only time we touched. But like that was their commitment. And still like my, my dad and his sister will talk about their grandma and how distant she was standoffish. And that’s just like being close enough to touch. Like she might be in the room, but you are not getting within arms length of her and everything in her body is conveying that to you. And I think what, so I was thinking as we were speaking like, well, so I wasn’t formed in this sense of loving kindness, like this incarnate way of being. And I think I was formed in, um, very heady ways of knowing and like the way that, you know, God or Jesus is all cerebral. Um, and also I think I was formed in niceness, which is the illusion of kindness. But without that sense of depth that Derek you were speaking to it’s, it’s just the it’s often lies like little white lies to make people feel good, but then no tells you, like, I’m gonna say we have such a great smile as a way to like draw attention to, I hope you noticed you have broccoli in your teeth. Um, like where you say a falsely nice thing, hoping someone catches the corrective, they want, they want to actually convey. And it would be kind of just to say, Hey, you got broccoli in your teeth, but we, we can’t be that honest with each other. And I’m, I’m in some ways zoom has made that like acceptable and maybe more like explicit in a way that I don’t know. And like there’s something that’s been comfortable about it and it highlights the deficit of, um, yeah. As, we were just talking like, oh, I want, I, I feel the lack in myself of that kind of formation and like a young part of myself that kind of formation.
Derek: Hmm. Yeah. I, I think that you raise an important piece about the, the cultural nature of it. And I, I, I, and, uh, just different cultural notions of touch and, and what embodied means, what it means to be close. I can recall years ago I was in India and I was visiting a friend. Well, his friend brought me to visit his family who did not speak any English. And I met his father and uh, standing next to each other and I think we were actually going to a church service or something other, and he was so glad to happy to meet me. And we didn’t couldn’t exchange language, you know, anything but smiling cues. It’s like you pleasant, you’re pleasant. And he kind of, he was shorter than I was, but he kind of wrapped his arm around my waist and he was patting me on my behind and he just kept patting and I’m thinking, okay, what are we doing? Um, and it was touch. It was touch. Um, and again, different cultural view of touching high is a little bit more, uh, sacred to space if you will, than touching low. And so he, he was pat, he was very encouraging. And in that context, it made a lot of sense to me. Um, in this context, I probably have more questions, uh, like, what are you doing? And, but I wanna bring out how sexualized touch is in this culture. Yeah. Yeah. So what we, you know, in terms of both a generational piece and maybe cultural piece, we’ve done more sexualizing of touch in the last bunch of generations. And so that the hunger for bodies and the consumption of bodies is a natural hunger for touch that’s then been shaped sexually. And, um, so then our identifications of ourselves are, are much more sexual identifications of ourselves or gendered in a certain type of way. And it’s not so much, that’s not true of who we are, but it’s accentuated. And so then touch is not safe or touch is casual or touch is, you know, so in some ways, the way we’re fooling with touch and to be touched, you know, are then less clear at times, or maybe more clear, explicit at times, or, you know, we’re trying to work with touch as a human part of us. Um, this is a human need, hunger for us. So I think when you talk about embodied communities. It suggests by definition, we need each other’s bodies. So closeness and proximity are important. I think there’s also the socialization and the sort of raising Kate as you, you know, of how I use my body, how can I safely bring my body to yours and be embraced? Yeah, yeah. And be known. And that not be a violation, that not be a traumatized experience where I’m shut down, but I think we’ve done so much in a way that’s kind of shut down bodies. So that coming alive to be embodied community is frightening because it has, is rot with, okay, am I gonna be explicit or subtle or what or sexualized in our touch? Well, that’s start connection mode.
Kate: It’s not even just, am I going to be that way? It’s is my reaching out to touch you, going to be perceived that way. Am am, are you, are you going to view my ask for connection as an invitation to something more than what I’m intending it to be? And in that sense, like being embodied lead is risky, inherently risky in a way that is less, um, I, I don’t like it kind of breaks kinda romance of what we’ve all been missing. I’m like, oh, I don’t miss the risk. I don’t miss the being misunderstood.
Jimmy: You know? It, it, what, what, what we’re talking about now is just distortion of, of embodiment. Mm. That, that, so there’s a false illusion to what embodiment offers. Certainly when you talk about sex, that’s a false idea because we’re such a sexualized culture that we forget all the things about with sex is a culmination of intimacy. It’s not just the act itself. That’s intimate, it’s a culmination of intimacy. Uh, and I, you think about people who are alone, uh, I’ve read stories and I’ve watched it where you offer a meal. And what they’re looking for is a conversation. And they don’t really care what the conversation is. They just have never sat down for such a long time, just sharing a meal with somebody and hearing another person’s voice versus them chewing, whatever they’re eating. That that’s a gift. And I, when I think about kindness, I about my dad grew up in Algiers. Uh, the, the it’s called the west bank in new Orleans. And I remember, I, it, it had to be on an instance where either my grandmother had died or we were visiting there as 14 year olds. But I think it was when my grandmother died. And I remember my dad walking through the neighborhood and said, son, we were poor here. And then he juxtapose poverty to what he was seeing poverty as a later version of it. He said the poverty, we had son, we didn’t have much money, not at all, but we never kept doors locked. And in, in New Orleans, if you ever been there, it’s just an unusual spot. And that I remember on one occasion, my wife and I, we were coming through for vacation and we dropped by some cousins. And, you know, after we conversing, as family members always do, Hey, you know, I got a pot of gumbo for you. I put it in the freezer, I’m gonna pull it out for you. And I told my wife, I said, now, when she says pot of gumbo, that’s a normal pot in your, in your house, which was just a normal size pot that we use every day. But that’s not what they cook in. They cook in army stock pots at about 10 gallons tall. And, and, and I’m talking about not just for the gumbo for red beans and rice with stew, everything is in these big army pots. And so what my dad, when we walked through the neighborhood, what he remembered was the children in our neighborhoods were never hungry. Kindness was, uh, as I, I have on my, uh, Facebook child, uh, Facebook that I got from South Africa was that any child is my child. And that’s what he grew up in Algiers knowing. And so that was a part of his orientation of embodiment. Embodiment was not just his home, his family, his food, embodiment was if somebody’s visiting us and there’s food on the table, they are automatically invited to eat a healthy portion of food. Now that is not something that is well taught, but that’s something that my dad intuitively gave me not in Algiers, but in Chicago. That, that value to realize that my humanity is really attached to yours. Dr. King said this too. You know, when I think about what’s going on with Russia/Ukraine, he says, it’s no longer violence versus none. Violence is either non-violence or non-existence. The idea that either we’re gonna be non-violent or we’re all going to perish is the reality he was trying to show us. And I think his words still echo into today’s existence. So again, when we talk about invite embodiment, that means we gotta now start charting courses, both virtually and in person to get us to that destination and to realize it’s not a, a didactic experience of, of that. We hear it. It’s actually a modeled experience that we feel. And that we do. That is a part of our being that we’re, we’re talking about embodiment. So coming out of this reset, now we got a new imagination now. So I was thinking about what Derek just said about one of his family members. Well, the reality that we’re gonna have to settle in, uh, is a whole idea of COVID orphans. These are people who lost both set of parents because COVID, and that the highest percentage, 65% of COVID orphans are black and native. That means we got children who are coming out of this, this pandemic who lost both mom and dad. And so there was , is a time that it wasn’t just extended family that would step in to adopt them. The community themselves would step in and adopt them. That’s kindness. And if we do it well enough, it can spread like the virus spread. But part of the problem is we got to do some work in realizing that this is also good theology. And, and what we say, what you were really implying Kate, is that we think good theology is something taught. This is something academic or cognitive. Good theology is not just cognitive or good statement, good theology. It’s something that is seeped in practice. The scripture says it and Jesus says it to. He says, be doers of the word. And, and that’s a idea that good theology is kindness. That is experience versus something that is explained. And I think that’s where we need to move towards.
Derek: And I, and I agree with you, Jimmy. I think that my, um, my desire is to see us in some ways recreate, maybe rebuild, um, or create the sort of institutions that can hold the socialization. And that’s, that’s, I think, you know, my, my critique of media is even that it’s like media taught my kids a great deal about what it means to be celebrity.
Jimmy: Yeah, sure does.
Derek: And I pine the whole time, it’s like, oh, but that’s what they learned. That’s what was, and so in some ways competing forces of, um, this sort of, and then I think the political environment is teaching, you know, don’t trust folk, uh, or be on, you know, so I think these, these, these socializing messages are all over. And particularly when we feel like, Hey, the, this, this sort of family, and I’m not talking about out nuclear, but extended is what we’ve been talking about. In essence, it’s not able to hold that sort of space to socialize. Or schools are maybe doing more informing than forming, cuz we don’t trust the formation they would present and where churches are fragmenting and falling apart. The, the question for me is where are those spaces? And we might say, institutions are social networks that hold. You and I are talking about a generational social network. Kate really said, Hey, I wasn’t raised that way. She has a different social network. And so you’re right. It it’s both a, I’ve gotta get the narrative because I’ve gotta have that principle when I apply myself to the problem. So it’s a story, but it’s a story in action. It, it’s an activated story. It’s a live story. You touch me. You know, it’s not just something I heard about you with the hearing my ear, but now I see you for myself. I feel you for myself, I know you for myself. And so I think it’s on all those levels. And I don’t know, you know, it’s hard for us to do that individually. And so what are the organizations we have to engage and build and partner with to be the social safety net, to teach a social ethic that we don’t kill each other. We don’t despise each other. We don’t devalue each other. How do we hold and love and care for each other for some ultimate purpose? And so I think you’re right. I think for me, I wanna push into the, and what do we have to build now? Because the old things, some of which I am no longer capable of holding, they have stories around them of corruption or stories around them of abuse and stories around them of not seeing, not accepting, not taking in well, what are the new, new stories in places? And I don’t mean a new, new, new as, and get rid of the church. I really mean what’s the revitalization. What’s the hope. What’s the possibility of new communities being reconstructed.
Jimmy: See, see, so now Kate, I’m gonna jump in real quick cuz now he’s getting me excited. So, and, and that’s why I love the space that I live in and, and that, you know, for a pastor, I think their job is harder than anybody else because they’re trying to pivot people over an hour and a half over 52 Sundays in the year. And you gotta think about that in terms of the economy of time that they’re going against, because there’s so much time in the next day that drowns out that hour and a half, they gave you on Sunday. So we’re talking about a Monday through Saturday transformation. So now what we’re talking about an institution that is not wrapped around listening to me, but building institutions that actually inform, invest and develop people, both pedagogically and experientially. See, that’s what I get excited about, uh, because whatever I aspire and I’ve been saying this for the last 10 years now, 15 years since I’m at this stage of my existence. And let me just be clear for everybody on this podcast. I’m not saying I’m old, I’m just saying I’m smarter and wiser, but I haven’t said that.
Kate: Still young.
Jimmy: Um, exactly. I got enough energy to fill up a lot of tanks. But my, my concern now is that what, what Derek and what this whole conversation is about is giving people experiences that they are pining for. And they don’t know what it looks like. They don’t even know what it is, but once they get it, it’s like a narcotic because they want more of it. And, and my, my deepest desire, then what you’re talking about is then the idea of actualization. So there’s nothing new about younger generations being frustrated with older people because they see hypocrisy, you know, the old folks you should say, don’t, don’t do what I do, do what I say. And they’re like, oh, well, you ain’t even living what you said to me. It’s foolishness. I don’t want nothing to do with this. They they’re pining for authenticity and integration that what people say they actually live out and then they experience the living out. And so one of the greatest things that I love doing is cooking. And I can remember in my earlier stages and even most recent when all of our staff get together, well, I plan on cooking. And one of my staff said, you know, that’s not what the president should be doing. You should be doing more important things. And I’m just like, no, I shouldn’t. I should be serving and cooking. And I got there early. I was marinating all kinds of meat. Uh, on another occasion, I, I, I prepared my homemade sauce that some people replicate and now cook and, and my greatest joy was not only cooking for them, but serving the food and enjoying the conversation and their face and the itis, after they slept after eating the food that we gave them. I mean, that’s what, that’s what your grandma and our uncles used to do. They used to enjoy when they fed us and, and came in and had the conversation and all those things going to us. See to me, you can teach so much when you do that type of framing. When you create that frame, you can teach some truths, you can model out joy. You can also even create, uh, a platform for grief, where people get to share their pain and their agony, because it’s, it’s what, it’s what doing is diffusing and allowing guards to come down, to engage us and to have the embodiment that we’re talking about right now. That’s the stuff that gets me excited. And so, so, so I have no hope. And I mean, this, no hope for any of our students to live an, embodied life. If we don’t give them lessons and experiences right now, before they leave college so that they can replicate it in their future, that that’s. So if, if you don’t give ’em chance to practice it out, then they won’t have it to do. And they will continue to live in this never ending cycle of pining for something that we never have. So you got me excited right now. I mean, I’m so excited. I’m ready to make me a pot of gumbo. No, I’m not, not gonna be go gumbo, but I I’m excited cuz my son is now cooking tonight. Shrimps Scampy so I’m enjoying my meal with him tonight.
Kate: I’m what, but I, okay. I’m gonna say, and then Derek, I’m what you painted an image of. I love, and that’s an image of something real and like a positive formation. I think so much of where we are. And this is maybe especially true in, um, like white people’s awakening is we wanna be against things. I’m gonna be anti-racist I’m gonna be anti-capitalist I’m gonna be. And at some point that’s not sustainable because who are you going to become if you succeed? If, if we, if we were to succeed in getting rid of racism, I mean, we can dream then, then what, what are we instead? How are we with each other instead? And I think so much of our formation, we try to talk about deconstructing and what you offer this image is inviting and constructing, constructing a meal together, constructing a conversation together. And I’m like, it, it gives me a feel of, oh, that’s a direction to go towards. Not just something to run away from Derek. You were, you were laughing. I wanna hear.
Derek: Was gonna ask, I was gonna ask you a question, but I, I like thought because I think it’s, it moves us away from, well, it moves us towards something and where I think the phase, the first phase is deconstruction. It’s necessary to pull apart, tear up, pull down, root out, but then plant/build and that build towards something, you know, again is probably the question I’m for us and, and people listening. What are the things we need to rebuild? What are the things we need to pull up, tear down uproot. And then what are the things we plant and build that’s right. And so there is in the text, Jeremiah, it’s basically saying, Hey Jeremiah, you’re gonna do these four things that are deconstructing. And these two things are reconstructing. And I think we’ve gotta think about, so anti-colonialism, anti-racism not bad at all necessary, but it’s not the end state. It cannot be the end state because then you get stuck bogged down in anti and there’s no building in anti you’ve gotta find where it is. What’s the you in the sense of the beloved community, what’s the community that we must build. And I think that, you know, the, how we listen, our spiritual lives around that embodiment. In other words, we don’t separate bodies and spirit, but we see ourselves as embodied spirits. If you will, um, having life and vitality, those things feel important. So yes, there is an excitement. Uh, Jimmy, I love the, you know, again, chief chief bread breaker, um, the necessity of breaking bread. And, but Kate, I was gonna ask you a question again, cuz you, you, in some ways you got a podcast with two identified, cisgender are males. African-American men who have history and some ways you said earlier history,
Kate: But still you.
Jimmy: That’s a nice way of saying we’re old.
Derek: I didn’t say you said, you said old. Say we have history
Jimmy: That’s that’s right. That’s right.
Derek: So I’m curious because there, I, I, I don’t wanna lose the distinction and difference of the socialization because there’s a different generational socialization. There’s a different external environment be socialized in my parents socialized me because they were post depression, children, babies, and they had a certain, we wanna make sure you survive and have it with the, that survival looks like. And so clearly some of that linkage, Jimmy culturally was about survival. If you don’t hang together, you’re gonna fall apart. Exactly. And so some of the messages weren’t even, they weren’t inherently Christian, but they were inherently Christian because that’s what they drew upon in the context of survival. Kate, that’s different in some ways. Um, and curious about, you know, as we talk about formation and spaces for forming, what does that mean? Um, to someone who in some ways is raised differently than the two of us.
Kate: That’s such a big question and I, yeah, I, I think, um, and, and like my family heritage, um, because my family is gypsy, Dutch, gypsy, and lived in west Michigan, which is a very Dutch community. We were pushed out. We were, people didn’t believe you were, are Dutch. We’re too. Our, our coloring isn’t right. We’re too dark. Um, and it became like a survival for my family is to try to get in, but also you can’t actually trust they’re gonna be taken in. So there is a, you know, you have to be able to rely on yourself and rely on so such heavy savers. Like we, like, we’re not gonna make a whole pot of gumbo to share the blog or make pot of gumbo in case we can’t get someone to hire us next week. Like, and it’s not gumbo it’s, I don’t know, what’s a really Midwest food. Um, so, but there’s, there’s that kind of formation towards, um, self-sufficiency. And I think when part of what I so enjoy about our conversations and, you know, we’re pretty regular conversation partners. The three of us is, uh, adoption into different method of survival and a different culture of how to be surviving and together at the same time. And I think that’s shifted the way I think about what it means to be a Christian and, you know, Paul, especially adoption metaphors are everywhere. Um, and what does it mean need to be adapted into the people group that is oppressed by the empire as someone who was raised by the empire. Um, and really that’s, that’s the narrative of the growth of Christianity is how, how do we become faithful to a way of living and relating? That is the way that I formerly oppressed. Um, so I, I, I think I, I’m going through a kind of reformation in, in this stage of my life as I start to examine what was I handed and, and that’s what was I handed, but how, how were these other people living? And can, can I internalize and embody more of that too, even though it will feel unsafe to me, how do I, um, live more into that?
Jimmy: I, I do want to, to join in answering your question to Kate. The, my existence does not, even though I would argue there’s a dominance of European education that makes me more familiar with European cultures, but it doesn’t mean that I want to rid myself completely of them. It there’s an appreciation there. I mean, I, I got a book now. All right. It’s not hard for me to see. I got a book now between the world Between Two Worlds by John Stott and I’m fascinated and always have been by John Stott. I think he was ever a student, but the way he appreciates, uh, Christian living is something that has been attractive to my own personal formation. So I, I would argue that there is a give and take Hmm. Uh, uh, between being a part of an oppressed group and then realizing even within the oppressor and all in, within the oppression, there are some positive attributes that we could adopt. Now, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s not a way of life, but it certainly gives us some positive attributes, uh, that we want. One of ’em was the whole idea of reading, uh, that those are attributes that our community long for, pine for and eventually acquired, uh, because we saw people reading and we weren’t. Uh, and I think, I think that attribute has been very positive in my life to be really honest. So I don’t wanna say that there is like an abundance in one part of the world and complete deficits in the other. Um, when I listen to, to Derek, I hear, I see Bergman’s idea of prophetic imagination, uh, a disdain for the status quo and a, a pining for something that causes me to leave the status quo. And I think that’s what I hear in this conversation a lot.
Kate: Hmm. Hmm. I that’s a lovely place to land. Um, and also before we close, I wanted to, um, Jimmy give you a moment to, uh, let people know where they can follow you and your work, um, support you. What, what the places on the internet or elsewhere might be, where they can learn more about what you’re up to with the Impact Movement.
Jimmy: Well, I mean, certainly, uh, if you, uh, go to Instagram where impact move, you can follow us on Facebook where the impact, uh, movement Inc. Uh, you can follow us. I don’t know, I think a little bit on Twitter and certainly we have a webpage, uh, uh, a webpage called impactmovement.org. Those are the places that as we, and to evolve coming out of the pandemic with new ways to tell stories, I think that’s the beautiful thing about life we’re in a place of telling stories. So you can follow us in those spaces. And of course I have all my individual spaces that are just mine alone. Uh, and I would like to say, and I think Derek and you would agree, there are places that you would see impact intertwined in the Seattle school’s story. And so if you paid attention to us, you should pay attention to you because, uh, you may on odd moments, see impact in the Seattle School’s spaces. Um, just being a part of each other’s story. Um, those are the things that I love and I’m, I’m really, really excited about.
Derek: I, I just wanna say, I appreciate that sort of, um, commitment to weave stories together, um, that we, we talk about embodied community. And that really is the, the shared story of us. Um, the story of us, not just the story of me, but the story of us. And I appreciate that commitment. Let’s keep weaving our stories together. Yeah. And in some ways that’s a weaving of a community that’s both embodied and an ideal and, uh, as we struggle with what that means in the ideal and the embodied parts. And so thank you for, for being a guest with us, as we explore what transforming engage engagements really mean.
Jimmy: Well, you know, it was a privilege.