My Response to Facebook’s Gender Confusion.

Facebook switched our accounts today. Their efforts to broaden the spectrum of gender means that we should kindly acknowledge the trans-pan-bi-genderqueer struggle for identity. Let me tell you why this bothers me.

We don’t hear the word “hedonism” much these days. The word inspires in my mind the picture of a fat, bald, Southern preacher screaming hellfire and brimstone. Try to scrub that image from your mind, and focus: At its core, hedonism means self-pleasure is the only intrinsic good. In other words, being good equates to feeling good.

This isn’t hatred or ignorance. I’ve spent large amounts of time with individuals who struggle with their masculinity and femininity. One of my best friends battled demons that few people will ever face. Significant sexual abuse, prostitution and gender twisting were all a part of his memories… his earliest, and his most vivid memories.

By opening this door, we (society) are championing the most significant erosion of the family we have ever seen. This is not just allowing individuals to express themselves; this is encouraging gender exploration, self-gratification and hedonistic investigation in a way I was not even aware was possible. There are now 57 – FIFTY SEVEN – gender labels according to Zuckerberg’s team:

Agender

Androgyne

Androgynous

Bigender

Cis

Cisgender

Cis Female

Cis Male

Cis Man

Cis Woman

Cisgender Female

Cisgender Male

Cisgender Man

Cisgender Woman

Female to Male

FTM

Gender Fluid

Gender Nonconforming

Gender Questioning

Gender Variant

Genderqueer

Intersex

Male to Female

MTF

Neither

Neutrois

Non-binary

Other

Pangender

Trans

Trans*

Trans Female

Trans* Female

Trans Male

Trans* Male

Trans Man

Trans* Man

Trans Person

Trans* Person

Trans Woman

Trans* Woman

Transfeminine

Transgender

Transgender Female

Transgender Male

Transgender Man

Transgender Person

Transgender Woman

Transmasculine

Transsexual

Transsexual Female

Transsexual Male

Transsexual Man

Transsexual Person

Transsexual Woman

Two-Spirit

My heart goes out to those who struggle in their sexual identity. Being inter-sexed, for instance, is a very difficult thing in any culture, and we should show compassion to those who are burdened under the yoke of physical gender confusion. I am not as understanding for those who see their gender as a thing formed into whatever shape pleases them today. Offering this sort of assistance is an explicit encouragement for hedonism under the guise of “helping”.

Approximately 1.2 billion people use Facebook every month. Many of those are teenagers who are undoubtedly questioning their value, purpose and yes, sexuality. Facebook, you’re not helping them.

Any you might say, “so what”. To that, I offer my primary reason for my rant: Facebook should be a neutral social platform. It is the biggest, most influential website in existence. It is the most influential social tool ever, fueled by the growing hedonistic wants of our society and led by individuals who have a motive to take us somewhere we might not want to go.

When I ask for neutrality, I mean that when an issue like gender identification comes up, why can’t they leave the field blank? (A la Twitter or Instagram) I’ll give you a hint: we’re not the consumer, we are the product. I don’t believe Facebook is an honest capitalist exchange. I think they want both my money and my mind, and I am bucking against the yoke.

Now, to post this on Facebook.

Resignation from Rooftop 519

Yesterday morning, I submitted my resignation, effective immediately, to Rooftop 519. It isn’t easy when you help birth an organization from idea to fruition, but it is easy to take action when there is only one option.

I love our purpose and our team. Some of the best adventures of my life were done under the banner of Rooftop. We did incredible work in the lives of the kids we help. Equally amazing is the change in hearts of those who help these little ones.

My resignation was based on a perpetually divided vision… a difference in culture and values. The most recent being a belief in how to address conflict. When a personal difference developed to an impasse, I asked for a “mediated reconciliation”. I called a special meeting this Monday night to discuss it with them. This follows a Matthew 18:15 process of restoring relationship.

Our meeting began at 7 p.m. The board chair prayed. There was an instantaneous (and scripted) motion to adjourn the meeting. The majority ruled in favor of adjourning. My formal grievances and proposed solutions were never heard. It was over.

I wrote and submitted my resignation the next day, Tuesday. That night there was another board meeting. The board chair prayed. There was an instantaneous (and scripted) motion to terminate a very good man’s position on the board of directors. He asked for a reason, and he was simply told they didn’t need one.

Here is the resignation I submitted on Tuesday:

June 11, 2013 

Dear Rooftop 519 Board of Directors,

Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this organization. I appreciate the gifts of time, talent and treasure you have all brought to our effort.

This letter serves as my resignation. I had proposed for reconciliation, but it appears we do not have the same objectives. Therefore, I can no longer remain in my position.

Please select a board representative to work with me through this transition. I intend to have all Rooftop 519 responsibilities completed by the end of this month. Should it please the board, June 28, 2013 will be my final day as President/CEO.

Sincerely,

Shawn Manley

One Wednesday I received an email that acknowledged  receipt of my resignation. They had not accepted it. They would not give me a liaison. They would not give me a timeline. They made unreasonable demands. It mentioned that they were praying for me a couple of times. I was forbidden to contact individual board members. Not one of the remaining board members called me, or would even return my calls. One board member sent a snarky follow-up to the initial email from the board chair. Proverbial salt in a wound.

I am not sharing my second resignation letter because doing so would uncover individuals in a dishonorable way, not because I dishonored them, but because there is gross negligence by key leaders. I don’t make that statement lightly.

My resignation leaves them in a difficult position. Rooftop 519 is an organization with no financial partners, no volunteers, huge liabilities and no leadership. I didn’t set them up to fail, but instead, they have rushed head-long into a path of oblivion.

God doesn’t really care about organizations. He cares about people. I am excited because the people of God continue to march forward, and a 501 (c) (3) dissolution (or whatever action) doesn’t stop Kingdom work.

I am working with my highly trained and capable friends to bring Elijah to the healer. We really have an amazing team. We may carry other children to healing in the future, but for now, I am just focused on each hour of each day. Elijah will be here this August for treatment at Shriner’s Hospital in Portland.

elijah cover photo-01

This is Elijah Anderson. He will be coming from Liberia to Portland Shriner’s Hospital this summer for skin grafts.

I would like to offer my public apology to any volunteer or partner that I offended through this process. Experiencing a loss is never easy, and I although I am not perfect, I am making an attempt to bring honor . I humbly confess to being stretched incredibly thin these last several days, and frankly, I don’t have the answers to many of the questions.

My sincere thank-you to everyone who has sent me nuggets of love an encouragement, especially my awesome wife. For the first time ever, my monthly cell minutes are gone. My phone rings off the hook, and my text inbox is bursting. You are awesome friends, and you are the reason why my faith and hope are greater than ever.

My cell is 424.653.8323. Call or text me… I would love to hear from you. May God work all things together for good, and may he grow something great in our ashes.

Through the Roof,

Shawn Manley

Proverbs 24:14 Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.” William Aurthur Ward

Effective Altruism

TED Talks on Mondays are a staple for me. This compelling talk by Peter Singer is wrong. Let me share why.

1. Dr. Singer’s most telling question is founded on the UNICEF statistic that 19,000 children under the age of 5 die from preventable, poverty-rooted causes each day. “Does it really matter that you don’t have to walk around these children as you walk down your street? “I don’t think it does make a morally relevant difference. The fact that they’re not right in front of us… none of that seems morally relevant to me.”

I could not disagree more. Proximity matters. Relationship matters. I am not morally responsible to respond to every person in need, and I have a greater responsibility to those who are nearer to me.

Both Dr. Singer and I make our decision based on our faith. My faith is in Jesus Christ, and his is in humanity.  One of my favorite stories comes from Luke chapter 7. Jesus sees a widow draped over the coffin of her only son. His heart breaks, and he takes pity upon her. Now, I have to imagine that there were thousands of widows all over the world at that exact moment who were grieving a horrible loss. But Jesus took action this time. He was moved by what was right in front of him. 

Another example comes from a parable. Jesus tells the story of a man who is robbed and left for dead. Several religious leaders ignored the dying man, but a Samaritan brings the man to an inn and cares for his needs. Jesus did not tell a story to systematically end robbery. He did not propose a global solution to murder. He told the story of the good Samaritan, not the good statistic.

Statistics are helpful, but they are often used to over-simplify complex social problems. The fact that people are in need right in front of us matters.

2. The lion’s share of Dr. Singer’s talk is about what should be done. What success means, what is right, wrong, good, bad, etc. I believe very strongly that why is the most important question. Towards the end of his argument, Dr. Singer shares why he is motivated to help:

“I’ve enjoyed giving… it’s something that is fulfilling to me. Being an effective altruist helps us to solve the Sisyphus problem.”

Sisyphus is the king in Greek mythology who is sentenced by the gods to eternally roll a rock up a hill, and each time he gets to the top, he has to start over again. I can relate to Sisyphus each time I go to the DMV.

Dr. Singer says that our lives as humans are a bit like a “hedonistic treadmill”. We look to make more money to buy more stuff and make ourselves happy. On this point, I share some of Dr. Singer’s passion.

In stepping off the hedonistic treadmill, we must step somewhere else. What he doesn’t realize is that he’s stepping onto another hedonistic treadmill. Hedonism was proposed as an ethical construct by a student of Socrates. He believed that pleasure is the highest good. This is almost identical to the argument that Dr. Singer makes for giving. Effective altruism is motivated, for Dr. Singer, by an increase in self esteem, meaning and fulfillment. In other words, we give because we feel good, and in feeling good, we are back on the hedonistic treadmill again.

Rather than being motivated for effective altruism that makes me feel good, why not search for being a good steward, recognizing that my brief stay here on earth is not a story for my glory? I am motivated to serve my Lord, and live in a way in which he will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.

3. Three people are highlighted as the ultimate examples of giving. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Melinda Gates. Better than Carnegie or Rockefeller. The Gates Foundation is huge, and they’re doing great work. Their story contains no obvious parallel moral truth for my life. The giving of these people may be record-setting, but they do not give in a way that even closely impacts their standard of living. Also, their extreme wealth makes relationships with the poor practically impossible.

The Life You Can Save is a website that Dr. Singer started to help people make informed giving decisions. If you run the income/giving calculator, a person who earns around $500,000/year should be giving almost 10%, and a person who makes $50k/year should be giving around 2%.  These percentages are nearly meaningless and distract us from the real model of generous living.

What I see in scripture is that generous and sacrificial giving is my Lord’s expectation. Every act of generosity in scripture is tied in relationship (people who know or see other people in need). Giving is a partnership, awash in humility, hospitality, caring, compassion and trust. For Dr. Singer, giving is efficiency and (statistical) effectiveness. Where is the biggest bang for the buck… the greatest ROI?

I actually made an appeal to a mentor recently for the charity I lead. After he said yes, I asked him a little about how he makes his charitable decisions. One of the things he told me was, “I try not to over-think it”.

I know he has thought thousands of hours about why he gives, and thousands more building relationships with who he gives. Over-thinking it is what we do when we don’t have a relationship. Over-thinking is the byproduct of believing that we actually own our money. We are more simple than we think. We do our best giving when we see a need and fill it. The poor, widow, orphan or stranger. We take care of those in front of us, and we expect God to do something greater than our calculations.

Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

James 2:15-16 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

 

 

One Believer’s Response to Crisis

Mondays are my day off. My sabbath. Yesterday, I hopped in my Prius for a drive from my home in La Quinta, CA, to idyllic Idyllwild. A beautiful mountain village near Mt. San Jacinto. At the end of my six-mile hike through beautiful pines and gigantic squirrels (reminiscent of the Princess Bride’s rodents of unusual size), I checked my facebook to see that the Boston Marathon was the target of a terrorist attack.

Several news headlines this morning that there is an all-out effort to find out Why. At the risk of sounding simplistic, this is sin. Evil exists, and it will take every opportunity it can to kill, steal and destroy. It’s our honor, as believers, to bring life in the midst of pain. When crisis strikes, we are peace makers. We bring serenity.

Evil loves to create panic and angst. Evil can inflict trauma on people who are not physically present in crisis. In fact, the most insidious thing that evil can do is to bring down or incapacitate someone who isn’t even what we would consider the target. It’s a different type of collateral damage… the emotional and spiritual wounds inflicted upon those who watch the news. Fear. Anger. Fear. Frustration. Fear. Worry. Fear. Fear. Fear.

Because evil wants me to fear, I won’t. I’d rather be inspired by people like Emil Kapaun who looked evil square in the eye, and with steely resolve, conquered the fear of death. I want to cling to Psalm 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. I want to give God the thanks he is due for giving us hope and strength.

God brings us peace in the midst of pain. It’s a gift he offers to all who are a part of his family. We will grieve, and we will recover, but it is less because of the good in people and more because of God in people. I’m sorry Patton Oswalt, we are not good people. We need a savior. We need a hope bigger than our own.

Lord, bring your peace to this broken world. Would your healing come here on earth, as it is in Heaven. Help me to bring peace to those around me. I ask for your righteousness and justice in this situation; be with the families of the wounded, the dead and the hurting. Use me as an ambassador of your love, and give me words of compassion for those wounded. I give you today. 

Justice 2013

One week from today I will be in Philadelphia at the 2013 Justice Conference. Rooftop 519 and Artists Inspring Action have teamed up to create Justice Does, a huge, interactive mural that will engage people in stories and themes of Justice.

See the wallpaper on my blog? That’s a tease of the artwork we’re creating for this experience (credit to Jacob Herring and Pope St. Victor for their work).

This vision started one year ago at the 2012 Justice Conference. Now is our opportunity to use beautiful, meaningful art to depict our growing theology of justice. We have the chance to inspire more people to serving the poor, widows, orphans and strangers.

Biblical justice will never be boiled down to a description, a soundbite or tweet. It is a holistic experience and understanding of the compassion, complexity and beauty of the heart of God is bending towards those in need. Thousands of us will push together at the Justice Conference. Would you please push with us by telling our story? #JusticeDoes