Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sheryl Sandberg's New Book, 'Lean In--Women, Work And the Will to Lead' With Its Remarkable Lack of Transcendence

HAVE TAKEN TIME OFF THIS WEEK TO TEND TO SEVERAL WORK PROJECTS AND ALSO READ A REAL BOOK. My read du jour is Victor Davis Hanson's new release The Savior Generals --How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars that Were Lost From Anciet Greece to Iraq. I know nothing about military history past or present. However, this week, I began to learn, especially with the book's section on William Tecumsah Sherman's Civil War victory in Atlanta and subsequent March to the Sea in 1864. It's a real eye-opener that I highly, highly recommend But more about that some other time.

Today however,  I want to post a review of a book I have not read and which I am more interested in reading the reviews for than the actual book.  Called Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg of Google and Facebook fame,  I think its critique by Kathleen Nielson at The Gospel Coalition has as much if not more value than the book itself. That's because Nielson opines that while Sandburgs writing and wishing for exact eqaulity for men and women in both the workplace and home and her definition of ultimate success (money, power and influence) are interesting, if not novel ideas, there are several reasons it fails to satisfy: it's because  Sandburg lacks an eternal perspective among other things.

To wit:

For Sandberg, success is tied up with money and influence. She asserts “earning money increases [women’s] decision-making ability in the home, protects them in case of divorce, and can be important security in later years” (118). If this life is all there is, such logic might suffice. For good reason, then, Walsh’s final question about Sandberg is whether she realizes she’s someday going to die. What stands out in Sandberg’s values, in other words, is a dramatic lack of transcendence. If she thinks there’s anything beyond the good of this material life, she’s not talking about it. 
Rich and Powerful--- 
Such values determine Sandberg’s overarching goal, which, at first, might appear rather grand and unselfish: she wants equality for the human race. The irony, however, is that she herself has determined what’s good for all human beings and constructed it in her own image—that is, in the image of a rich and powerful leader.

Oh what a privilege it would be to discuss with Sandberg the good news of a God who made all of us—women and men alike—equally in his image, who desires good for us, and who sent his Son to make that good possible even though we in ourselves fall helplessly short. That good doesn’t have anything to do with this world’s money and power, either; it has to do with the goodness of God himself, who came in weakness to die so that by faith in him we might forever live and reign with him in glory.

In the context of such biblical values and goals, we can indeed talk about “leaning in” to utmost excellence in every dimension of our lives—for God’s glory, according to God’s Word, by God’s Spirit, and with results left to him. No doubt all of us too often settle for less excellence and fruit than we’re capable of, in all sorts of ways and workplaces, by God’s grace. But even with differing values and goals we can learn from people like Sandberg about certain kinds of excellence—being challenged, for example, to honor each other as women and men more thoughtfully and respectfully. Leaning in to our work sounds a lot like work. It strikes me, then, that Christians have the liberating privilege of leaning in not simply to our work, but to the very presence of God himself—invisible yet with us in Christ and through the Spirit. There is the source of ultimate power to wield, the ultimate treasure to seek.
I couldn't agree more with Nielson: While worldly success can be achieved and enjoyed for what it is for both women and men, nothing takes place to the real, long-term leaning in to God and the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This world is fleeting and the success we've attained here can't be taken with us.  So it seems important to have both a temporal as well as a long-term spiritual measure of  true success. And it's not always dictated for us by the prevailing, popular, feminist worldview of the day.

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