For the men...

This is a message for straight, white, and non-disabled men who follow my work in some way. Others are welcome to listen along, but I want to start out by being clear who I am trying to have a conversation with.

To my fellow straight, white men: I am one of you. I have always been one of you. Your culture is my culture. Like you, I am trying to figure out how to live a good life, and treat others fairly.

Like you, my life has not been easy. In my case, I have struggled with being bullied, obese, learning disabled, autistic, a survivor of suicide attempts, and a survivor of sexual assault. Who knows what terrible things you've had to struggle with in your life. Whatever those things are, I want you to know I believe you and I believe you struggled.

To me, part of treating others fairly is listening when other people tell me they've struggled--or are struggling right now. I grew up in a culture that said admitting when you struggle is weak, and that I should be self-reliant. In the last few years, I've seen the ways that's made me unhappy and separated me from people I love.

For the last several years of my life especially, I have been listening and learning from people who aren't straight, white men and learning about the ways they have struggled and are struggling. Can I tell you something honest? It's hard for me to admit it.

When I first started listening to black advocates, it made me uncomfortable how often they called themselves "black people." I wanted to chime in and say, "We're all just people--no labels are needed." After all, I've known so many black people who have struggled like I have: they've been bullied, or struggled with obesity. But, I've also learned that black people in America struggle in ways I never will.

I've never been pulled over by a police officer and worried that my life was in danger. I've never worried that my name, or even the spelling of my name, could cost me a job interview or keep my application for an apartment from being considered.

I'm learning that in addition to the *individual* ways that I've struggled, black people in this country also suffer from widespread problems with the systems of society. I've learned that this isn't unique to black folks either.

Hispanic and lantinx people face their own set of struggles against systems in our society. As to Asian Americans, Indian Americans, or any non-white group of people (often shortened to *people of color* as opposed to *white people.*)

Most of the systems that people of color struggle with every day were built on purpose, but I didn't know that growing up. I thought we lived in a country where all men were created equal. I thought America was a land of liberty and justice for all. Can I be honest again?

I didn't want to believe anyone who told me otherwise. It horrified me that some other person in America didn't have all the same opportunities that I did. And if, God forbid, someone started a tweet about racial injustice in America by referring to "white people," I'd lose my mind. I had an instant reflex to shout, "That's racist!"

I'm still working on that reflex. But, I'm learning that my reflex to interpret any critique of the racist systems in America (often collective referred to was *whiteness*), is a really incredible tool for shutting down essential conversations about equality in America.

But, this isn't a message fro white people. This is a thread for straight, white men, like me. That means we have to talk about more than just whiteness. We also have to mention that all women face the same personal struggles we all deal with, but also face a series of systemic, societal struggles which are often collectively referred to as *patriarchy.*

When anyone critiques the patriarchy by talking about "men," I get uncomfortable. I am a man, after all, and I've never assaulted anyone, or harassed anyone. In the past, I've felt that it was sexist for women to point out problems with men as a group, because not all men are like that, right? Because if all men are the problem them I am the problem, and I don't want to be part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution.

While men's professional ambitions are celebrated, women are often called "ball-busters" if they act in the ways men do every day. Women are poorly represented in both public office and corporate management teams. Worse, one in six women are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Did you know that? Most women live in a perpetual state of wariness about what a man may do to them, including men they know well.

In the same way my reflex to cry, "that's racist" shuts down essential conversations about racial equality, my reflex to say, "not all men," acts as a headwind to any conversation about gender equality. Friends, I have been guilty of both. Too many times.

And, I have the same reflex when the LGBTQ community talks about the struggles they face with society. No presidential administration, congress, or court has ever put up for debate my right to marry, my access to health care, or my full and equal protection under the law. But, that's happening right now for every trans person in America. And every marriage in America that isn't between a man and a women faces jeopardy in the days ahead.

Especially heartbreaking to me is the reflex I have when disabled people mention the utterly pervasive ways they're left out of society. Like so many folks, when faced with these issues, I silently withdraw, utterly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem.

Do you see where am I going here? I have struggled, really and profoundly, in my life. But there are struggles I will never have to face because I am a straight, white man. That is a problem, and it means that I am a problem unless I am part of making things better.

Anytime we, the straight, white men of America, shut down conversations about equality and justice because our feelings are hurt, we become part of the system that people struggle against. Anytime we threaten to take our ball and go home because we feel attacked, people sho struggle against the same systems that protect us are *actually* attacked.

That's why I'm writing you today. I've noticed that every time I talk about whiteness, or patriarchy, or heteronormativity, I get dozens (or more) messages from other straight, white men telling me you feel hurt, attached, betrayed, or abandoned by me.

I want you to know that I love you. I want you to know that I have no interest in making you ashamed of who you are--including the fact that you are straight, you are white, and you are a man.

Quite the opposite, I want to help you learn to live fully, with acceptance of yourself and genuine connection with others. But, to do that, we have to come to terms with bad habits that were conditioned into us. The fact is the straight, white men struggle under whiteness, patriarchy, and heteronormativity too. We struggle less, but we struggle regardless.

Straight, white men are killing themselves in record numbers. That's a terrifying testament to the loneliness, isolation, and fear we're dealing with.

So, please know I am not attacking you when I point out the problems that whiteness, patriarchy, and heteronormativity cause in our society. Instead, I am inviting you to learn (as I am learning) how to live in harmony with others. I'm inviting you to examine the ways in which you are not free to live as your true, honest self, and the ways that contributes to your relationships with others.

Perhaps most of all, I'm trying to get you to listen--really listen--to the stories of pain and loss that white supremacy, patriarchy, ableism, and heteronormativity cause every second of every day. I want you to listen, and to have empathy, because it's going to take our participation to make things better.

The psychological mechanisms that create defensive reflexes are well understood. I'm going to work harder to avoid triggering your feelings in justice conversations. In return, I ask for you to turn your gaze outward, to think less of how you feel judged or misunderstood by others, and instead build a daily discipline of active listening to people of color, women of color, women, disabled folks, and LGBTQ folks in your life and who do advocacy and education work in media.

There is nothing wrong with being a straight, white, and non-disabled man. But, the fact that a broad statistical majority of us minimize the suffering of others in our personal beliefs and political action is a problem. Please join me in turning the tide among our brethren.

Peace, love, entropy

Mike McHargue

(Science Mike)

My website is a safe place for people whose beliefs about God are changing. Many are recovering from spiritual abuse or trauma. Please remain civil and kind in the comments section at all times.

Books for People Who Want to Put a Dent in the Universe

We attract a different type of person — a person who doesn’t want to wait five or ten years to have someone take a giant risk on him or her. Someone who really wants to get in a little over his head and make a little dent in the universe.
— Steve Jobs

My friend Bradley and I hosted a webinar yesterday for creators who want to do public work. You can see it here, if you’re one of them—but that’s not what this post is about. During that webinar, several people asked me for book recommendations for people who want to start writing/speaking/podcasting but don’t know how to start/have trouble finding clarity/can’t get people to pay attention.

So, here are some of my favorites from my personal library. These are the actual books that helped me become a person who makes a living communicating and driving people to action.

On Facing Fear & Shame

There’s no way around it. Creating work for public consumption is a terrifying prospect. It means you have to tell your stories, and be accountable for what you say. It means you have to own your ideas and opinions. It means you have to face down the chorus of voices in your head that say, “yeah, but what do you have to say anyway, you idiot.”

This is very hard work. Therapy will help, but these books will help, too.

The War of Art - Honestly, this book should be handed out to high-school seniors, but they may not have struggled enough to appreciate it yet. Maybe you have. This book is about what happens in our heads and in our hearts when we try to create. Confession: I had to kick Resistance in the teeth this morning just to write this blog post.

Bird by Bird - This is probably the most emotive book possible in terms of what we face when we pull ideas out of our heads and onto the page. Don’t worry if you aren’t aspiring to write—this is true for any creative endeavor.

On Building Your Craft

Once you have the courage to put your work out, the small problem will be that your work will be terrible. Creative work is a craft, and even the most naturally talented craftsperson faces years of practice to make anything that isn’t shitty. So, grab an apron. You’re about to get messy.

On Writing Well - This book is the gold standard for writing well, which means it’s also useful for communicating well. I combined six sentences into that one sentence synopsis, in honor of the book.

Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit - It’s true. No one cares that you made something. This book is about how to make something people will enjoy and respond to. Hint: what you make is about your audience, not about you.

Save the Cat - This is how movies are made today. Structure and simplicity are the rails that effective storytelling runs on. Again, this is for anyone who communicates.

The Storytellers Secret - Have you ever noticed how viral TED talks are? Here’s whys.

The Seven Basic Plots - It’s like the Standard Model of Physics, but for storytelling. A massive tome that will ruin every movie you see for the rest of your life, but applied well teaches you how to tell stories people can’t turn away from.

On Building a Brand

Branding? Yuck, right? No. A brand is a way for an audience to relate to an organization or an idea. If your work matters, there will be an underlying idea that supports all of it. Branding is about you doing the work for your audience: they are busy and tired. So, make it obvious for them why why should pay attention to you. That’s branding.

Building a StoryBrand - Probably the most useful, practical book on marketing every written. Turn your brand into a story, and your audience will do what you want them to do.

How the World Sees You - Every interaction with someone is a branding moment. Here’s how to see what people see from you now.

Presence - Feel like no one pays attention to you? Here’s how to fix that.

Contagious - You can’t make something “viral,” but you can create work that encourages people to share.

What books/resources have helped you find the courage to create, hone your craft, or tell the world about it? Drop a comment below.

My website is a safe place for people whose beliefs about God are changing. Many are recovering from spiritual abuse or trauma. Please remain civil and kind in the comments section at all times.

Finding God in the Waves, Finally

I'm an author now. I never saw it coming, but with the release of Finding God in the Waves, I'm an-honest-to-goodness author. Words are my livelihood: podcasts, talks, articles, and now, books. I'm so thrilled, and so humbled. It's hard to explain.

I worked so hard on this book–to make it useful, evocative contribution to the intersection of science and faith. So many people today want to believe in God, but struggle to because of the (fantastic) insights we're offered by science. I've walked that road, and I couldn't find a better way to share it than 288 pages in book form.

I didn't expect to be so nervous. Or so excited. Or so moved by every tweet, every Facebook post, or every email where someone shares how the words on those pages moved them to laughter, or tears.

Or growth.

Criticism will come, probably when I least expect it. But for now, I will rejoice in this simple thing.

"My name is Mike McHargue, and I am an author."

In an age of cosmological insights, God can seem like an outdated concept-a relic from a more superstitious age. In this video, Mike McHargue explains why the word God still matters in this age of science.

My website is a safe place for people whose beliefs about God are changing. Many are recovering from spiritual abuse or trauma. Please remain civil and kind in the comments section at all times.

A New Video Series

Hey friends,

I'm so excited to share this with you. I've been working on a series of videos exploring the questions and themes covered in my upcoming book, Finding God in the Waves. We're releasing the first one today, with more to come over the next 9 weeks.

This first video is about who I wrote this book for. As I worked on the manuscript, I actually printed out emails and tweets from a certain kind of person to help me stay focused on what message was needed in this book. But what kind of person was that? Watch the video to find out!

Peace, love, entropy,
Science Mike

My website is a safe place for people whose beliefs about God are changing. Many are recovering from spiritual abuse or trauma. Please remain civil and kind in the comments section at all times.

A Dream of Jesus

Last night, I had a dream where I walked the streets of modern-day Palestine with Jesus–near the wall in Bethlehem. I've been a Christian most of my life, but I've never dreamed of Jesus before.

It was an extraordinarily vivid dream. I could see the details of his face and our surroundings, and our conversation seemed lucid and clear–not the kind of surreal exchanges common to our sleep.

As we walked, I asked Jesus a question: "Teacher, what do you believe about Black Lives Matter?"

Jesus told me the parable of the Farmer from Matthew 13.

"A farmer went out to scatter seed in a field. While the farmer was scattering the seed, some of it fell along the road and was eaten by birds. Other seeds fell on thin, rocky ground and quickly started growing because the soil wasn’t very deep. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched and dried up, because they did not have enough roots. Some other seeds fell where thornbushes grew up and choked the plants. But a few seeds did fall on good ground where the plants produced a hundred or sixty or thirty times as much as was scattered. If you have ears, pay attention!"

So I said, "I think I understand. Some people can't see the injustice faced by black people, others see, but can't process and accept the role their privilege plays in the oppression of black people, but a few see and understand and work to end it."

Jesus didn't say anything. So I said, "What can I say to hearts like the road or the shallow soil?"

Jesus said, "Tell them the Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast a woman mixes into three batches of dough. Finally, this yeast will make all the dough rise."

I thought and then responded, "Teacher, what can I say to those who struggle for the cause of racial justice?"

Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches."

There were a lot of other things in that dream. When I woke up and started to write it all down, I realized that Jesus spoke to me in passages from the Gospels–parts of Matthew 13.

I don't claim to speak for Jesus, or that my dream was some kind of prophesy. But, I do think we can read the Bible with an eye toward justice, and that the people who are walking on our city streets, working to show America what it's like for people of color in our nation.

Some of us can't see it. Others can, but won't accept. A few see and join the work.

For those who can't see, or see but can't accept, remember that the first-century movement we call Christianity was a subversive movement of marginalized people who lived under the rule of an empire–that the kingdom of heaven was yeast in dough that hadn't risen.

And for the people walking city streets, remember the mustard seed. One day, people will rest in the branches of the seed you plant today.

May all the people of God join the work of creating peace in our land.

My website is a safe place for people whose beliefs about God are changing. Many are recovering from spiritual abuse or trauma. Please remain civil and kind in the comments section at all times.