Essay

James Comey’s Dinner Invitation

By June 9, 2017 3 Comments
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An interesting piece in the New York Times compares Comey’s experience to what women regularly endure in the workplace, including sexual harassment or sexual assault. The title of the piece is Women Say to Comey: Welcome to out World of Sexual Harassment in the Office. Fear, intimidation, retaliation—it’s all there. So is the imbalance of power, the weight of an office and a persona against an employee. The smearing of one’s reputation, the questioning of loyalty, the questioning of one’s character, the questioning of their sanity—it’s all there. I listened to Comey’s testimony yesterday while I worked at the computer. The abuse of power sounded very familiar, right down to the request to eat together (Without the Russians of course).

You’d think that Christian’s would be better—that we’d value virtues like honesty, fairness, and justice. Unfortunately, we’re not. In fact, we’re often worse. Take all of the business guru rhetoric that sees life as a negotiation, a power struggle, add some God talk and bible verses, and you have the potential for one great big abusive cluster bumpkin.

Leadership strikes me as a quality much like humility—if you think you have it, and you make a point of saying you have it, you don’t have it. Good leaders?—they just lead. They value the input of others, they demonstrate the ability to truly listen, not just play the listening game – you know, “I hear you saying…” or “I can see why you might feel that way”.  Good leaders know how to listen, how to empathize with others, how to make hard decision without alienating everyone in the process. This type of leadership is difficult, and it’s not necessarily compatible with our current cultural situation. Branding, sound bites, spectacles—not conducive to this type of leadership. They do exist—I know…I’ve encountered them. I’m sure many of you have encountered them too. You don’t always know it right away, it’s usually after some reflection, some “a-ha” moment when you look back and are grateful for the way someone quietly led the way.

So this morning I’m very grateful for people who say what they mean, who practice patience and compassion without abandoning discipline and accountability. You may not recognize yourself, but we know who you are. For those ready to break into some jargon filled chant? Well… we know who you are too.

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

3 Comments

  • asipoblog says:

    Don’t know who you are, but I appreciate your observations.

  • Anne Weirich says:

    Amen.

  • Tom says:

    Although, I must say I’m puzzled the NYT writer’s take on the situation (Mr. Lief, it’s not clear from your post if you’re in agreement on the harassment angle, or just commenting on leadership qualities in general). I’m puzzled that the writer treats this as evidence of discrimination of women when in reality it seems to suggest that bad leaders are non-discriminatory in their poor treatment of people.

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