CB FI 419

Circuit Break Podcast #419

Kent Johnson: Religious Diversity in Electrical Engineering

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February 27, 2024, Episode #419

Kent Johnson, Senior Corporate Advisor at the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation joins us this week to discuss the multifaceted role of religious diversity in the workplace. Topics range from addressing challenges, fostering inclusivity, and integrating faith with mental health support. We discuss authentic expression and trust building, social media's impact, interfaith collaboration, and the intersection of religion and science. Join us for this exploration of how religious diversity is an important aspect of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.

Contest Announcement

Introducing a new Circuit Break Contest! This contest is themed around building food-related electronic projects. We’re offering over $5,000 in cash prizes, themed trophies, and free prototyping from MacroFab. The deadline to submit is March 31st, 2024. Thanks to Mouser Electronics for sponsoring the contest prizes!

  • Defining Religion Broadly: Extending beyond adherence to sects and emphasizing shared values, principles, and beliefs that individuals adhere to with ardor and faith.
  • Religion as a Business Issue: Affecting employee retention and workplace satisfaction. Highlighting the importance of employees feeling seen, appreciated, and free to express their beliefs.
  • Challenges in the Workplace: Fear of disruption due to religious expression and the perception that religion is irrelevant to work, or prejudice for different ideologies.
  • Authenticity and Trust Building: Building trust in the workplace, emphasizing the positive impact of transparency and realness in fostering an inclusive environment.
  • Religious Diversity Initiatives: Faith groups collaborating on community service projects, and inclusive worship services during religious holidays.
  • Social Media and Echo Chambers: The impact of social media on amplifying echo chambers and reinforcing biases, contributing to increased polarization in society.
  • Religion and Science: The intersection of religion and science, highlighting potential areas of activity and dialogue around this topic.
  • Healing Through Interfaith Collaboration: The positive impact of interfaith collaboration, such as visiting each other's places of worship.
  • Authority and Religion in the Workplace: The impact of an individual's position on expressing religious beliefs in the workplace is discussed.
  • Wearing Symbols and Openness: Discussion on wearing religious symbols in the workplace as an invitation for questions and engagement.
  • Integration with Mental Health Support: Connection between faith in the workplace and addressing mental health issues. Highlighting the issue of loneliness in the workplace.
  • Avoiding Compulsion: Stressing that sharing about one's faith should not be compulsory, advocacy for an open-door policy rather than a forced one.

Relevant Links

About the Hosts

Parker Dillmann
  Parker Dillmann

Parker is an Electrical Engineer with backgrounds in Embedded System Design and Digital Signal Processing. He got his start in 2005 by hacking Nintendo consoles into portable gaming units. The following year he designed and produced an Atari 2600 video mod to allow the Atari to display a crisp, RF fuzz free picture on newer TVs. Over a thousand Atari video mods where produced by Parker from 2006 to 2011 and the mod is still made by other enthusiasts in the Atari community.

In 2006, Parker enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin as a Petroleum Engineer. After realizing electronics was his passion he switched majors in 2007 to Electrical and Computer Engineering. Following his previous background in making the Atari 2600 video mod, Parker decided to take more board layout classes and circuit design classes. Other areas of study include robotics, microcontroller theory and design, FPGA development with VHDL and Verilog, and image and signal processing with DSPs. In 2010, Parker won a Ti sponsored Launchpad programming and design contest that was held by the IEEE CS chapter at the University. Parker graduated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Spring of 2012.

In the Summer of 2012, Parker was hired on as an Electrical Engineer at Dynamic Perception to design and prototype new electronic products. Here, Parker learned about full product development cycles and honed his board layout skills. Seeing the difficulties in managing operations and FCC/CE compliance testing, Parker thought there had to be a better way for small electronic companies to get their product out in customer's hands.

Parker also runs the blog, longhornengineer.com, where he posts his personal projects, technical guides, and appnotes about board layout design and components.

Stephen Kraig
  Stephen Kraig

Stephen Kraig is a component engineer working in the aerospace industry. He has applied his electrical engineering knowledge in a variety of contexts previously, including oil and gas, contract manufacturing, audio electronic repair, and synthesizer design. A graduate of Texas A&M, Stephen has lived his adult life in the Houston, TX, and Denver, CO, areas.

Stephen has never said no to a project. From building guitar amps (starting when he was 17) to designing and building his own CNC table to fine-tuning the mineral composition of the water he uses to brew beer, he thrives on testing, experimentation, and problem-solving. Tune into the podcast to learn more about the wacky stuff Stephen gets up to.

Transcript

Parker Dillmann
Welcome to circuit break from MacroFab, a weekend show about all things engineering, DIY projects,

Stephen Kraig
419. This is episode 419.

Parker Dillmann
Circuit Breaker. From Macrofab. Hey, circuit breakers. We have an announcement. We're running an electronic design contest on our community forums.

Parker Dillmann
The theme is food devices. Go to forum.macfed.com to find out more information about the contest and how to enter. There's a category on the left side of the form that says contests, click that, they'll find it. For prizes, there's over $5,000 in cash and free prototyping services through Macfab. And the most important thing, a trophy to show that your design was one of the best entered.

Parker Dillmann
There'll be a link in the show notes where to find more information about this contest and how to enter, and thank you, Mouser Electronics, for sponsoring the contest.

Stephen Kraig
This week, we have Kent Johnson on the podcast. We had Kent join us back in January to talk about engineering ethics. So if you haven't already, be sure to check out episode 413, the gray zone. This time, we've brought Kent back to discuss religious diversity. Welcome back to the podcast, Kent.

Stephen Kraig
How has the last 6 weeks been?

Kent Johnson
Oh, it's been, eventful here, and everything's going great, And I'm happy to be back with you guys.

Stephen Kraig
Well, we're bringing you back to talk about the really easy topics like engineering and religious diversity and engineering.

Kent Johnson
I know. Well, this is this is an interesting topic, I hope, to a lot of people. But at first, some of them are gonna be scratching their heads. Right? I mean, what does religion have to do with engineering and technology and the workplace?

Kent Johnson
You know, and for a lot of people, it's a mystery or you wouldn't necessarily equate those things. But, you know, tech companies increasingly are embracing religion as a key part of the diversity, equity, and inclusion field. It's not just a fringe issue. It is becoming mainstream with a lot of companies. And so it's helpful for people to be aware of that and to understand why religion plays in the workplace, what relevance it has.

Kent Johnson
I work with an organization called the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, RFBF. And this is an organization that gives awards to the most faith friendly companies in the world. And among them, companies like Intel, they're number 1 this year. The most faith friendly company in the world is Intel right now. Then American Airlines, Equinix, PayPal, Dell Technologies is one of them.

Kent Johnson
Google is one of them. Some people say, my goodness, I I don't think of Google as being very open to religious expression. And of course, my alma mater, Target, a lot of the automobile companies have embraced the idea of religious diversity and emphasis specifically on freeing people up to bring their that part of their lives into the workplace. But let me frame it a little bit, and we can be having some interactive discussion about this. I think our starting point, good one is to define what we mean when we say religion.

Kent Johnson
Because most people think of religion as adherence to a particular sect requirement, certain place of worship, and certain hierarchy of figures in that, organization. But religion is really a much broader concept. If you look at, Webster's dictionary, for instance, there's one of the definitions. The second one I think is excellent for our purposes. Religion is a set of values, principles, and beliefs that one adheres to with ardor and faith.

Kent Johnson
Now think about that for a minute. Everybody has a set of values and principles that they live by. At least, hopefully, they do if they've given that any thought at all, and hopefully, they have. In that sense, we're all religious even I say even, atheists. In fact, our experience has been in our dealings with atheists, they're some of the most ethical people on the planet.

Kent Johnson
They really have a set of principles and beliefs that they adhere with with ardor. That's, emotion and heart. So the discussion today, as I see it, has relevance to our discussion last time I was on with you guys, which is the question of ethical behavior among engineers. What motivates it? When when nobody's looking, why would somebody not lie about the work done?

Kent Johnson
You know, yeah, I spent x number of hours on this or take credit for other people's work or maybe shift blame. I don't know if you've ever seen that in any of your workplaces, but shifting blame or any number of other ethical kinds of challenges. Why not? And I think in the end, if the belief is you'll never get caught, the only answer is that set of values and beliefs that you hold on to with ardor, with with your heart. That's what makes people decide whether they're gonna bend the rules, whether they're gonna lie, whether they're gonna, extort money, whether they're going to, you know, bribe someone to to do something that's in their best interest, they think.

Kent Johnson
So religion actually becomes a business issue. It's a business issue from the standpoint of employee retention, among other things. Companies just are trading their employees back and forth all over the place. Think about why you stay at a job and why you wanna leave. In a lot of cases, the reason you stay is that you feel like you're seen, you belong to a place.

Kent Johnson
The people care about you for who you are, not just for what they can get out of you, they appreciate you And you know that somebody cares about you personally, that goes a long way. It's not a it's not a panacea, but it goes a long way to motivating somebody to stick around in a particular workplace. The concept that we're there's mutual respect in the organization. And this also speaks to the whole movement in the human resource profession. There's a lot of discussion about how do you have your If you have an environment that says, look, it's just not appropriate to talk about your faith, you're cutting out a whole cross section of people and basically sending a message to them that, you know, your beliefs, your identity, your core identity, what you consider really the definition of you is not welcome here.

Kent Johnson
In fact, it's a hindrance. And if you were to express anything about your core beliefs, there'd be a problem. So shut up and go do your job. So the emphasis in diversity, equity, inclusion, at least the purported or the discussed goal, is to make everybody, all diverse kind of views and backgrounds, skin colors, sexual orientation, any number of things, all those people to feel like they can be themselves at work. You know?

Kent Johnson
And the obvious question, why would you wanna stifle that? You know? And I'll just toss that out to you guys. Maybe you have some opinions about what would cause a company to be wary of opening the door to religious expression in the workplace. What do you think?

Stephen Kraig
I I would say, just from my experience in professional jobs, it's always been a hush-hush kind of thing. It's always you keep that inside. That's your thing you do on the weekend. That's your thing you do outside this work. That does has no relevance to work, so, you know, put on your suit and tie, come to work, do work, and then do religion at a different time.

Stephen Kraig
And, there's always the perception that perhaps presenting whatever religious belief you have could result in offending somebody. And so there's always this fear of HR backlash if somehow you offended someone because of your beliefs. Because your beliefs may conflict with someone else, directly and in a profound and deep way. So my experience has always been that where, you know, keep this to yourself, or if you are gonna discuss it, you know, it's closed doors or something of that sort.

Kent Johnson
Mhmm. Well, Steve, you've nailed 2 of the major reasons that people put up for this. They're worried about disruption in the workplace because somebody's gonna come in banging a drum and making other people feel judged. That's one concern that some people have. And then the other one is it's just irrelevant.

Kent Johnson
What does it have to do? What does religion have to do with your workplace? But again, I would suggest that if you look at the broad definition of religion, it has a whole lot to do with your workplace. A set of beliefs and values and principles that you live by, that an individual has embraced as being part of his identity, as as being a in fact, the core of that person's identity. Think about this.

Kent Johnson
You have people in the workplace who are Muslim. Some of them have names that, make it very clear that they're Muslim. Mohammed, kind of a common name among technology people. And then others, you know, wear a yarmulke, and so they're spotted. And then, of course, you have Hindus, and then sometimes they have a dot on their forehead.

Kent Johnson
And they don't know about one another in typical workplace environments. They don't they don't go around talking about their religion all the time. In fact, most cases, they're pretty silent about it. And you have Sikhs who come with turbans, and you have others who talk about, oh, gee, what are you doing this weekend? Well, I'm gonna do a bible study here or something like that.

Kent Johnson
And when those terms come out, when the knowledge comes out of a person's religious background, there tends to be a fear or a apprehensiveness or a worry that's very common. One of the things that we've found when we open up the door to faith expression for all people is that those barriers, those fears are extinguished. There's cross cultural connection. There are friendships that are kindled across Muslim and Jew. And in these times, my heavens, does the world not need that.

Kent Johnson
And the people that we're working alongside, the people that are our suppliers and our customers, their adherence to all sorts of religions across the board. The multicultural nature of high-tech is strong and powerful. And, yeah. So the answer to the question of, gee, is it gonna be disruptive? If you look at these companies that I've mentioned, if you were to talk to the human resource professionals in those organizations and ask, has opening the door to faith caused friction in the workplace?

Kent Johnson
Almost to a person, they will say just the opposite overall. Now are there individual cases where somebody's particularly obnoxious and and causing a difficulty? Yes. However, when you open the door to religious expression, you also open the door to trainings about how to be respectful of people who have different views than your own. And those trainings go a long way to avoid, you know, the most worried about friction that takes place, if that makes sense.

Parker Dillmann
Yeah. To reiterate what Steven said, it's the biggest concern that at least, you know, when I have is, you know, is the friction that causes it. You know, if you break because it's the the idea of when you say you're whatever, it's the, I guess, stereotypes or baggage you carry with that label.

Kent Johnson
Right. Yeah. Well, that's absolutely true. You know, there are a lot of people who are worried particularly in the, quote Bible Belt about evangelical Christians that you give you open a door for them, they're gonna make people feel uncomfortable. They're gonna come in and say things about where they're what they face when they die, what's gonna happen, where will they go.

Kent Johnson
You know, those kinds of discussions are very, when you challenge Christian believers or any of these believers of different faiths, what are you trying to accomplish, and do you think that this will help you accomplish it? When they think about it, they realize, you know, those kinds of messages are counterproductive. You're driving people away. If somebody ever expresses discomfort with your discussion of your faith, you back off. You don't keep pushing it.

Kent Johnson
It's the opposite of effective for your own purposes. And, so that's been very helpful for some. Now, of course, some religions are not evangelical at all. They don't go out to try to convert other people. The Jews, in particular, by and large, are not out seeking converts to Judaism.

Kent Johnson
And they give a real solid perspective on all this and how they feel. So for instance, you can imagine this, you have a company that you walk the hallway and you see electronic billboards announcing different events, different types of things, And you see one that says, Passover Seder, and you see one that says, Easter celebration, and you see one that says, Ramadan celebration, and Chinese New Year, and all different types of things. This is an environment where people of all groups are encouraged to come out. And coming out has an interesting effect. All these religions, the major religions, have a set of principles.

Kent Johnson
The question of why they follow those principles differs from religion to religion, but the principles are largely congruent. Now don't lie, be faithful, work hard, produce excellent work product. A lot of the principles that relate to work specifically are in lockstep with one another. So consider a panel discussion. Now, this happens at many of these companies where you have a Jew, a Muslim, a Christian, a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or a Sikh, and they're up on a panel and they're talking about why does your religion, your faith relate to your work?

Kent Johnson
What does it have to do with your work? And get them each talking very personally about what it means to them. And you get some amazing friendships that grow out of that. You see trust building. You don't have to worry about, you know, geez.

Kent Johnson
Now it's not to say that everybody's aspirational statements about what they wanna do is the right thing and everything. They'll always be a 100% perfect in doing them. But having them say that, publicly has a positive effect. It sort of introduces a, accountability. So your coworkers, you know, oh, yeah, you're some sort of religious person and here you are behaving in this particular way that that your religion doesn't approve of.

Kent Johnson
You know, you're just a hypocrite. And that, that's a healthy kind of encouragement not to be 2 people, not to be double minded, if that makes sense. Does this, strike a chord in either of you guys?

Stephen Kraig
It does. And and something that I suppose is a fear of mine in many ways is working with perhaps somebody who is dogmatic enough in their approach to things that they may say, I can't work with someone who has x belief, who believes this. I can't even be in the same room as that person. This is barbaric or this is, this is just unacceptable in, you know, pick whatever year it is. There's always a fear in my mind, and I'm not saying that I have specific beliefs that would generate that.

Stephen Kraig
I'm just saying there is a fear that that that person could exist, even though I haven't necessarily run into that person.

Kent Johnson
Yeah. I think there are a lot of imagined fears, but that is that's a legitimate one for sure.

Parker Dillmann
I think, Steven, on that one I think because I had that fear too because Steven and I were like, we grew up with the Internet and that being a thing on the Internet, so you see that a lot. I think that's where a lot of that comes from, Steven.

Kent Johnson
Mhmm.

Parker Dillmann
This is like irrational fear that people are going to be irrational.

Kent Johnson
Yeah. Well, you know you know it's interesting. Think think about this. If you have that kind of suppose you have an employee who has that attitude. Again, have anything to do with, say, a Muslim purse, or I'm not gonna work closely as a colleague with a Muslim purse.

Kent Johnson
Well, that's a real problem. That's something that, you know, is really gonna negatively impact that person's performance at work. And the reason it is is because in many cases, you know, you can spot the Muslims in your organization. You realize that they're going off for prayer every day. You realize and some of them have outfits, and some of them have names, as I mentioned before.

Kent Johnson
You're gonna run into that. And my view, frankly, is that I'd rather have that kind of prejudice out in the open where it can be dealt with and challenged, you know, kindly and gently perhaps at first, but boy, if you've got people who say, I just I just can't put up with a boss who is x, well, that's a real problem. Putting it under the table and say, okay. We're not gonna talk about that. That's no nobody's gonna spend any time talking about that.

Kent Johnson
That is exactly the wrong way way to approach that problem. But, yeah, I agree with you, Parker. I think the Internet has succeeded in putting us into armed camps even more than we would otherwise be. Although it's human nature to kinda kinda be over on one side and the other and see one another as adversaries. So those people who have the beliefs that are contrary to mine, gosh.

Kent Johnson
They're

Parker Dillmann
Yeah. That that's a whole topic in itself is the Internet has connected us all together, but also amplified the echo chamber

Kent Johnson
Right.

Parker Dillmann
Of anyone's camp.

Stephen Kraig
Oh, to a deafening level.

Kent Johnson
So if you're working with somebody and you also happen to be on some social media platform and you say, oh my goodness. That person is a is a devout Hindu. And, you know, in India, and there's Hindu nationalism in India. And, oh my goodness, you know, the the fears kinda tend to spiral out if you're not careful. But, you know, authenticity speaks a lot, if you think about what what builds trust in the workplace.

Kent Johnson
You wanna be able to trust the people, the technologists that you're working with. You need to have a basic level of trust with them. What feeds trust? I think it's transparency or the sense that people are being real. They're not hiding a huge part of themselves that they have ulterior motives, and they're gonna get you when they can and stick a knife in your back.

Kent Johnson
Anything in my view that promotes authenticity in the workplace has gotta be a plus thing. But also there is there is pushback. You know, one of the areas of pushback is people who who are committed to certain value systems which are inconsistent with some of the religious views. For instance, the LGBTQ community was very apprehensive when we first started at Texas Instruments talking. This is more than 25 years ago, talking about the possibility of acknowledging religious diversity.

Kent Johnson
So, oh my goodness. First first thing out of the box, gee, are they gonna you know, is this open season on gays? Are are these people who have their rigid views gonna come in with placards saying, You're gonna go to hell if you don't, you know, embrace my values on that particular topic? It took months months, almost a full year of interaction. Frankly in my case, in the case of Texas Instruments, it was me and the leader of the LGBTQ group meeting together regularly.

Kent Johnson
At first, it was moderated by a member of the HR leadership team. I guess they thought we were gonna slug and start beating one other or something. They need a mediator to keep us we ended up being strong friends. We ended up going on a speaking tour together. I mean, several of them, as a matter of fact.

Kent Johnson
And and just I mean, I love this guy, and and he loves me. And it just took the air out of that fear. Not just that one individual could build a relationship with that other person, but the full throated support of the religious communities for we have to respect people. What does it mean? What does it mean to respect somebody who has a radically different theology than your own?

Kent Johnson
All of these major religions have the idea of human beings having infinite worth or having very high worth that they are valuable because they're human beings. And it doesn't really matter what belief system they ascribe to. They're to be respected as human beings. And Christianity made in God's image. How can I, you know, be harsh and rude to that person?

Kent Johnson
So those kinds of fears, you know, when one challenges the attitudes or the fears with the doctrines of the various faiths, people come around, begin to realize no, that's not what I'm about. I don't wanna be seen that way and I'm not gonna behave that way. So, the first day after we had management approval for the Christian we helped, establish a Muslim initiative. But when the Christian initiative was launched, the security folks were alerted. So we need to keep an eye out for these right wing people who are gonna go and confront LGBTQ employee.

Kent Johnson
It never happened. Never came close to happening. But that is a register of I mean, that's just a signpost of how apprehensive people were unnecessarily.

Stephen Kraig
Can you explain a little bit more about the Christian initiative? What does that look like as a whole?

Kent Johnson
Yeah. And, actually, all of the, different faith initiatives, I should say this. Let me back up a second and say that they're not all all identical cookie cutters. Some companies have umbrella organizations that are over all different faiths. Others have individual faiths only.

Kent Johnson
Most of them have individual faith groups that report up through an umbrella organization of all faiths to the DEI chair. That seems to be the predominant model. But specifically, let let me give you a little, vignette of the, the Christian group and the Muslim group. You know, one of the four pillars of Islam is what they call almsgiving. And that means just caring for the community, doing something kind to the world.

Kent Johnson
So the Christian group engaged with a Muslim group to go reach out to students in various areas in the Dallas metroplex to give tutoring services. We gathered together with the Jewish Initiative and the the Hindus and others to, focus on human trafficking. And what can we do to stop human trafficking? You know, doing things together is a big part of the charter of these groups. They are not just to take care of their own kind of inward looking.

Kent Johnson
They're encouraged to look outward. It's why diversity, you know, it's not diversity if everybody's the same and everybody goes into their own corner and just kind of feel good with themselves and then never connect with the others. But there also is this activity within. One of the things that we see frequently happening is that people will talk about the theology of work, and the Christians especially, but the Muslims as well. There's a fellow who's written a a book, called The Barak Effect and it's very fascinating.

Kent Johnson
It's talking about the productive Muslim. In fact, he's he's CEO of a company called The Productive Muslim. And, you know, you could look at his citations of the Quran, the particular passages in the Quran that support different business initiatives and say, I can cite 1 in the bible that says pretty much the same thing, and you see a lot of alliances there. But we have what we call discipleship I say we. Still talking as if I'm a Texas Instruments employee, but, many companies actually have this.

Kent Johnson
They they have bible studies and what they call discipleship groups, and they invite everybody in the whole company in. If you're wondering what Christian discipleship is, come on in. And people do. They come and they audit these courses and they talk about, you know, what is what does it mean to be a Christian engineer? What are we called to do in our everyday work, the way we treat our bosses?

Kent Johnson
How do we look at our bosses if we think our bosses are jerks? You know, how do we react to that? There are studies, scriptural studies on that. And interestingly, there's a lot in the Far Eastern religions that speak into that concept. So certainly worship services in the workplace.

Kent Johnson
If you were to go to Texas Instruments around Easter, you're gonna see things of them, you know, as I said, come to our Easter service and they have music and they have a speaker, usually an employee rather than a paid, clergy person. And it's challenging for lay people like us to step out of our comfort zone and to be, you know, to be the one speaking. So those are just some of the things. Oh, one of the things that's interesting is employee recruitment. A lot of the colleges have various religious organizations, and one of the ways they attract people of various faiths, I say, look, we have a Hillel society for the the Jewish people who might be interested in coming here, and we have a, I don't know, CREW organization and and, a reformed university fellowship and all these different groups.

Kent Johnson
And by the way, we have organization. Those same kinds of organizations exist in a lot of companies now or they're beginning to. And that is that is a real draw. That's part of the business case for action with us to make those people feel welcome. And atheists too, by the way, you know, you might ask with all this emphasis on religion, how does that make the atheists feel?

Kent Johnson
Very interesting. Now, you know, some people feel like, gosh, I can't come out as an atheist because people look down on me and people jump to the conclusion that since I don't adhere to a particular religion, you know, who knows what my ethics are. I might or I might be dangerous or something. That is a a lie. It's wrong.

Kent Johnson
It's just flat out crazy, and it's gotta be brought out in the open. So you get some people, and we had them at Texas Instruments, but also several of these other companies actually have atheist groups that are formed to encourage one another and to be an, a mouthpiece to the rest of the community and say, look, you know, I have values and beliefs that I hold to with ardor just like you. And give them an opportunity to really enlighten people who are bigoted against atheists or agnostics. And that's a big piece of this. You also see some activity around the whole question of religion and science.

Kent Johnson
You know, some people have this sort of bifurcated idea, you know. If you're religious, you can't be a scientist. Come on, you know, because science is based on observable truths and things like this. And that is a false dichotomy as well. And when people begin to really relate with one another, they can see, yeah, this, in fact, religion in many respects, you know, expresses the faith that there are repeatable circumstances.

Kent Johnson
There are things that can be replicated because the world is organized, And so science is possible because of their having been a creator in that idea. But anyway, it's debatable, but it is also is a very healthy debate when you get, people who had previously felt, gosh, as religious people, they're talking about, and there's a passage in the Bible that says, The trees of the field shall clap their hands. And all these religious people, literalists, they think the trees are clapping hands or something. Just not true. Anyway, any other thoughts, observations, concerns that you might have?

Parker Dillmann
Yeah. It's, the the whole aspect of, like, bringing it out into the workplace is how's that look like. You just actually talked talked about these separate groups or almost like you almost explained it like clubs, but that's not this whole idea of of that goes back to the whole, like, you know, everyone's going back to their corners, how you said it. But you you talk about these groups. So how does it actually work together at the workplace then?

Parker Dillmann
And how do they actually come together then?

Kent Johnson
Well, you know, there are these activities that are related to United Way, other outreach kinds of activities that the people of different faiths can collaborate on. One of the things that was has been really interesting is a trend a number of these companies have embraced it of encouraging people of various faiths to visit one another's places of worship. So you have Jews and Christians and and others going into a mosque and just saying, what what do people do? And most larger mosques have a situation have a place where, you know, non believers can go behind a glass wall and just observe what's going on and then hear the homily that's given and and, wow, that sounds almost like a sermon I could hear in my church. And those kind of things are, I consider them healing and really faith promoting almost because they bring people together.

Kent Johnson
And now it's not to say that it's a homogenization. You know, we're not the idea of diversity is not the melting pot. Everybody becomes the same. You know, you have your religion. I have mine.

Kent Johnson
I don't care what you believe. Everything's equal. We're all cool. It can't be that because that's not diversity, that's uniformity. But, you know, what I see is particularly powerful in this regard is that the culture of the world needs this tremendously.

Kent Johnson
How we can observe people of radically different theologies, you know, world worldviews coming together collaboratively, caring about one another, going to the hospital when one another are ill because they care about one another. Building those kinds of trusting relationships, that's cathartic. So we have people from various countries that are presumed to be against the United States, and they're and they're in this country, and they have different religious beliefs. And we engage them in this kind of activity, and they're shocked. You mean, I thought all of these evangelical Christians were out to get me.

Kent Johnson
They really hate me as a person. I'm seeing differently. And that's just one example, but it's across the board. The Jews are not against me, and they have relatives back in other country, in their home countries. Think about that.

Kent Johnson
How is the world gonna become more peaceful, more trusting, more civil? It's not gonna be because some brilliant person got on the internet and gave a great speech. It's gonna be interpersonal relationships. 1 on 1 over time. And then those people who are affected by those can go and tell their comrades and the, people of similar faith, look, these people aren't out to get us, and it's safe to engage with them on a more profound level and to come out as your religion.

Kent Johnson
It's okay. You can be authentic. You don't need to hide any longer. That's powerful, boys. To me, that's why I'm in this as a volunteer, you know, why why I chose do this after retiring.

Kent Johnson
If in some small way, I can pave a connection country So a company goes into India, for instance. India, frankly, wracked with sectarian violence, and China now increasingly as reverting to an earlier time when it was wracked with tension. Companies international companies that are engaging with them are bringing this idea of diversity into their international spheres. That's one thing I love about Brian Grim, the head of our foundation, a Religious Freedom and Business Foundation. He's he's spending lots of time in India, particularly right now, and throughout Europe and in Saudi Arabia.

Kent Johnson
I I mean, amazing places where people wanna do business with companies like the ones I mentioned, And that is a beachhead for civility and kindness. You know? So, obviously, I'm I'm I'm looking really big picture here and dreaming. Just dreaming. But if we can have you know, think just a couple of relationships like that, they can have a ripple effect.

Kent Johnson
And it is. It's happening. You go to one of our conferences and you see people of all different you see the Sikhs there with their headdress and we see devout Muslims, devout Jews, people who are Hasidic. And you see these people embracing one another and talking about, oh, man. This is a movement we can get behind.

Kent Johnson
And we're not compromising our faith in order to jump into this. And it just it gives you hope. Where do you find hope today? Now where where's hope that the whole world isn't gonna come into a big crashing nuclear bonfire? I mean, it's gotta be 1 on 1 relationships.

Kent Johnson
And where else are you gonna find this kind of interaction possible in tech, especially my friends? Tech is incredibly diverse, and it's incredibly world embracing. So, obviously, I'm passionate about this. Like, you gotta ratchet me back.

Stephen Kraig
I was about to mention, it's kinda fun to watch you go because because, yeah, this really does, permeate every fiber of

Parker Dillmann
you. Yeah. It's, you talked about a little bit of this about halfway back, I guess, at this point. It's, you know, treating it's hard to treat people as people when that person's leaving part of themself not there. Right.

Parker Dillmann
And so, you know, because I'm an atheist, but Steve and I talk about his faith all the time. It's

Kent Johnson
Mhmm.

Parker Dillmann
Normal, I guess. I think it's normal.

Kent Johnson
Yeah. Yeah. But that's, like,

Parker Dillmann
it's weird though because you don't really that's just because Steve and I talk a lot after work and stuff, you know, but not, like, at work, those kind of discussions don't really happen too often.

Kent Johnson
Right.

Parker Dillmann
For probably the reasons that, you know, we talked about earlier.

Kent Johnson
Yeah. Yeah. Well, the hope is, Parker, that you and anybody else that's engaging is don't feel like they're being attacked. And the fear of being attacked is real in a lot of cases for good reason. You know, you look at history and it's filled with all sorts of violence of one religion against another.

Kent Johnson
But we have an opportunity to turn that around. I really believe, and I've seen it. I wouldn't I wouldn't be on this horse riding it if I hadn't seen it time and time again very powerfully, And and people don't have to spend any time on this at all. You know the diversity thing for employees, they do have diversity chairs and, you know, vice president for diversity, and they're paid to do that stuff. But the everybody else, this is an activity that they engage in because they believe in it, and that's it.

Kent Johnson
They're not doing it for credit. In fact, if anything, it's kinda taken away some some of their bosses are probably thinking, no. This is wasting time. I shouldn't be doing this. So you have people who really believe in this, and more and more, and it has a positive effect.

Kent Johnson
There's hope. There's hope for the workplace. There's hope for the world.

Parker Dillmann
Yeah. I I guess my view is just the, you were talking about, like, where do you find hope? I think it's, for me, it's the opposite. It's thinking about the negative stuff or if someone out to get me if I bring something up. It's just that's just not productive thought.

Kent Johnson
No. It's not. You're you're spot on. It's just not productive thought. It is isolating thought, And it's also presumptuous, right, in presuming that that person is gonna have it out for you if if you don't believe the way they do.

Kent Johnson
You don't, you know, relationships require a a degree of risk. If you're going to be transparent with somebody there's risk involved. Risk of being hurt, betrayed, I mean, that's always the case. But without a close engagement if if all of our work is just business, in terms of meeting spec, and I'm gonna get out of you what I need to get out of you in order to, meet my schedule. I mean, first of all, people are not gonna be loyal to sticking around in that environment.

Kent Johnson
They're gonna take a job someplace else, but also it's just not a it's not a civil way to to be. Does that make sense?

Stephen Kraig
So so I'm curious about touching on authority and religion in the workplace. So there's something different, you know, if you're engineer 1 and there's no one working under you versus you being a manager versus you being a director versus you being CEO of the company? How how does that change the outlook, or does it change?

Kent Johnson
Well, that's an excellent question, Steve. And, you know, being a lawyer, I have to say there is a difference. If you're the CEO and you're coming out and you happen to be, let's just say, a Christian believer and you come out and start saying, oh, man. I think Bible studies are great, and let's just do all this stuff. That very quickly is translated by a lot of people as meaning you do that, and maybe you'll have a chance of progressing in the organization.

Kent Johnson
Well, that is that is diametrically opposed to what this activity is all about. And it's and it's gotta be leaned against. And so people in high levels of authority have to be especially careful the way that they express things. They have to be very vocal about the fact that this applies to all faiths and no faith, including atheist diagnostic. It we we are all in the same boat.

Kent Johnson
But not just saying it with your words, but really acknowledging it and celebrating it. So some people in in various sects feel like, oh, gee. I can't how can I celebrate a person who's Muslim who has a different theology than me, or or an atheist who's espousing these things? How can I say this is good that yes? You can because they're human beings and because all ideas I mean, which ideas are you going to stifle completely?

Kent Johnson
It's a downward slope from there. But it's, yeah. We management carries an interesting challenge. Now Intel, I mentioned, is number 1, the most faith friendly in the world right now by and and I could get into the details of what the metrics are, but you don't wanna listen to all that. But the president of Intel is Pat Gelsinger, who is a very open and out, evangelical Christian.

Kent Johnson
Now he teaches a bible study at work. He's real involved with the Christian group there, But he's also involved in the Muslim and Hindu groups. He's also engaging them and encouraging them and applauding them in a way that doesn't compromise his faith. And it's gotta be that way. And, you know, middle managers, it's the same thing.

Kent Johnson
And people on your team, you don't want you wanna disabuse them of the notion that if they join your group, they'll be favored. So make explicit. This is not gonna happen. I am dead set against it. It's not for those reasons that that anybody You think about it.

Kent Johnson
If if you're a strong adherent to a particular faith, do you want people, you know, sort of saluting your faith inauthentically because they feel like they have to in order to progress? I mean, what religion really thinks that? Now you could say, well, some do historically, but when you really challenge them, every one of them, you know, they'll think about it. And, boy, I love them thinking about it and us thinking about it. And invariably, in our experience, they've come back and said, look.

Kent Johnson
It doesn't help our cause to push our religion against somebody who's not willing. Make them inauthentic. It poisons the well. And, you know, then you don't know who is being authentic and who isn't. It's just the opposite of what we're trying to do.

Kent Johnson
And it it embitters people. That's the other thing. I mean, my gosh. So that's why I said, you know, be quiet. You know, there is a time to be still, and it's a lot of the time.

Kent Johnson
Be sensitive to the person who you're with. Listen to them. A lot of this is about listening. You know? You asked, well, what do they do to, there's training internally.

Kent Johnson
A lot of it relates to sort of training your own people how to relate more kindly and effectively in accordance with the faith that they espouse to people who don't ascribe to that faith. And that's happening. It is happening.

Stephen Kraig
You know, I have a practical example from work that I think would be fun to kinda touch on and and discuss. So there's someone, that I work with that is in management that is currently going through seminary to receive their MDiv and, become ordained in the Methodist church. So they are absolutely their intent sometime in the future is to go change from working in the space industry to be a pastor, which is which is kind of, fun. Now one of the things that they're struggling with, and they've actually spoken to me, sometimes about this, is the wearing of the clergy collar. So in the Methodist churches, the, pastors wear the, the collar like you would see in, in Catholicism.

Stephen Kraig
And is that something that is appropriate to wear in a workplace? And especially, is that something that's appropriate to wear if you were in management? Now, one argument that they've given that I, I hadn't thought of before that I think is actually kind of fun is if if you see if you see something happening, someone breaking the law, you go look and you see a police officer, they're wearing a uniform. You can go and point to them and say, you you can help me. If you see a building on fire and you see a firefighter wearing their uniform, you can point to them and say that.

Stephen Kraig
Well, in a any if there's a matter of, I guess, faith issues or a spiritual issue, you can point to them and they're wearing their uniform. That's someone you can go talk to. And that's their argument is that it is an outward showing of their capability of being they're wearing their uniform. Let's let's put it that way.

Kent Johnson
How interesting.

Stephen Kraig
So so I'm curious about your thoughts about wearing a symbol of that sort, especially in management.

Kent Johnson
So it's interesting. I'll give you an example. The head of air traffic control for American Airlines, Greg McBrayer is his name. He's an Episcopal priest and he shows up to work every day with a collar. Okay?

Kent Johnson
And however, I say however, but in addition, he has served as the I I explained that some of these organizations have umbrellas over many faiths. He has served as the focal point for that umbrella as well. So he's made it no uncertain terms. He's made it very clear that he is not and he's in high level management obviously. There he is not gonna permit any discrimination on the basis of faith or anything like that.

Kent Johnson
And also, he invites people to come by wearing that collar, he invites people to come up to him and and bear their souls. You know, people wear crosses and other jarmakas or whatever in a sent in an environment where it's okay to talk about faith, they're inviting questions and engagements. And one of the things we found most powerfully impactful in the workplace is when people have troubles, personal trials, and they don't know who to turn to, and they turn to a person who has this identifier or who has become known. And the head of the, the Muslim group, the head of the Christian group or the Hindu group, they've made themselves known. I mean, these are high profile positions in a lot of these companies.

Kent Johnson
They get people coming to them and saying, would you advise me? Would you pray for me? You know, it's interesting. Parker, one of our great speakers was an atheist, came to our, couple of our conferences, and he came after he and I had had some discussions about faith in the workplace, various kinds, of course, and I don't wanna get this wrong. Actually, it wasn't him.

Kent Johnson
It was somebody else who identified as as atheist who said it became known that he was struggling with a very severe, bout of cancer, a particular kind of cancer that was very severe. And I went up to him and I said, hey, would you mind if I pray for you? And his response was, go ahead and flap your gums. You know, you're kidding yourself, but, you know, I'm not gonna stop you. And I, prayed with him in the workplace.

Kent Johnson
This guy, I can see it right now. Remember it in his case. I put my hand on his shoulder. He didn't flinch away or anything and I just I prayed for him out loud in a conference room and I just prayed to my God. And I said I said the prayer over him that that he'd be healed and and that people would come alongside him and care about him and encourage him, be the lifter of his head and all this kind of stuff.

Kent Johnson
And he said, okay. You've done your thing. You know, you're you're happy with yourself, and he disappeared at that time. And it was months later, he came back. He was not fully recovered, but he was doing much better.

Kent Johnson
And he said, remember when you prayed for me? I want you to know that really touched me. Now he didn't convert or anything, but it touched him. What touched him? What touched him, he said, was that you care enough about me.

Kent Johnson
I know your prayer was in earnest. I don't in a sense, I don't even care whether you're really praying to some existing god or not, but I believe and so we connected without forcing anything. I'm a big believer in prayer in the workplace. You know, you're facing all sorts of time scheduled problems and things like this. And if somebody has an open door, not in a public place necessarily, but just, you know, you know, somebody's really struggling with a project, say, hey, do you mind do you mind if I I just pray for you?

Kent Johnson
I'd like to do that. Is that okay with you? And if the person says, yeah, okay, or, yeah, please yourself and do it, then do it. It builds bridges. Prayer builds bridges.

Kent Johnson
Yeah, you're notified. The other thing, an interesting, theme in some of these companies, Tyson Foods is one of the, leaders in this area and that is sponsoring paid chaplains, just like they do in the army. And these chaplains are not dedicated to any one religion, but they're there. They show up in usually manufacturing plants or different facilities of Tyson Foods. And some of the other companies are beginning to do that as well to pay chaplains to come and they're very much I identifiable.

Kent Johnson
But my hope would be that the laity just like people you work with side by side day by day would would care enough about one another to open that door and say I'm in here for you no matter what, and I'm not gonna judge you. You know, you're having trouble. So let me come. Let's go get a beer together. Let's you know?

Kent Johnson
And then and then go to the hospital when the person's in the hospital. That that speaks volumes. How many bosses do you know who actually do that?

Stephen Kraig
It is interesting because a lot of these companies that you're you're bringing up have a pretty large employee base. Yes. This can be a completely different challenge when you're at a smaller company and there's, you're the only person of that faith or maybe it's just you and one other person. It's a lot easier to find people in a company that has 30,000 employees, but I guess it scales differently.

Kent Johnson
That's a good point. And there are some companies that are led by very religious people who, you know, if you go into the boardroom, there's a thing on the wall that has a scripture thing or it's it's really in your face for a particular religion. In smaller companies, there are additional challenges. But we've seen it work in small companies where if the CEO believes in religious diversity, I don't want people feeling like they're uncomfortable. Oh, there's Coca Cola Consolidated, y'all.

Kent Johnson
The chairman of Coca Cola Consolidated is an amazing guy, and he runs his business as a, quote, Christian company. They have a lot of employees of all different faiths, and they go out of their way to make them feel welcome, not second class citizens in any way, to to care for them, and they have amazing employee retention across all different faiths. Coca Cola Consolidates is a great example. Now, that's a large a very large company. That's a it's a bottling company.

Kent Johnson
It's the largest bottling company for Coke and Coke products. But the smaller companies, yeah, there are challenges there, but I believe the same principles can apply.

Parker Dillmann
So back when you you were talking about where these comp like, Tyson was paying, Chaplains. Chaplains. Yes. To come in. What actually came to my mind is the big problem with mental health that we have in modern society.

Parker Dillmann
And where it's the whole thing with, you know, going to, therapy and that kind of stuff. That lends itself to that. Because on the flip side, you have HR, and you can't go to HR with personal problems, really. Unless it's, like, personal inner work problems between people and work.

Kent Johnson
Right.

Parker Dillmann
But if it's outside of work, you can't really come to them for that. So that gives you an outlet at work to really help through those problems.

Kent Johnson
Well, that's a very good point. You know, a lot of companies now, have outside organizations that help with mental health. In fact, the next conference, it's going to be in May in Washington, D. C. For the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation.

Kent Johnson
One of the breakout sessions is going to be for human resource professionals, How do you integrate faith, sort of ministry, as it were, into your, psychological help? Employee assistance programs. They're very common. EAP in large companies. How do you integrate that into, provision of psychological counseling and, you know, drug addiction kind of counseling and, all types of personal issues?

Kent Johnson
So that is beginning to happen. It is a a natural, you know, symbiotic connection for this faith in the workplace movement to seek to address these psychological issues. And, you know, one of the major psychological issues in workplaces is loneliness. Loneliness is rampant. People, you know, they're working at home.

Kent Johnson
There are many of them, but even if they weren't working at home, many of them feel like they're not an in group. They feel like they've been shunned. There is a, a, real epidemic of loneliness in American society. And, this kind of a focus on enabling people to bring their whole self to work and and their whole spiritual self to work as well has promise in that area as well, to try to walk into those situations and care for people And steer them sometimes to professional help when it's, when you're over your head. But you know, so much of it is addressable.

Kent Johnson
You know, it's interesting. I've been in, situations where there are mass layoffs and a lot of anxiety around that. And I've, been involved when we've had entire departments laid off. And, if you have leaders who really care about their people, it really affects them too. So they're torn up about this.

Kent Johnson
They're really upset about it. They're really hurting in having to let go people that they trust and love and and care for and who are real good people. The experiences that I had at Texas Instruments included, you know, the we made it known throughout the company that anybody who wants to come and and just vent or connect with somebody, we have these conference rooms which are dedicated to that, and we have people there to pray for you, to care about you. And we had a lot of people come in. There's one one that I I remember coming in, and they were comforting us.

Kent Johnson
They're saying, you know, I believe that I'm gonna be taken care of. Something's gonna break. And it was like, wow. This is fantastic. Then we also had leaders who came in broken about the fact that they were letting go some really fine people, and they need help too.

Stephen Kraig
Yeah. I think it's perhaps a little easy for us to fall into the idea that we are the cogs in the machine that makes the business go. And our entire purpose is to be there, do the work, and then leave. Because that's what our paycheck is, that's the purpose of the paycheck, and and I think

Parker Dillmann
That's what the job description says.

Stephen Kraig
Right. Right. Right. Right. Right.

Stephen Kraig
The job description experience or bring bring what we need. And so, being a complete human being is part of that.

Kent Johnson
Yeah. Well, the other thing that I wanted to mention is it should not feel compulsory. You know, you never want to create an environment where, okay, everybody, we're gonna go around the room and everybody's gonna open up about their deepest theological no. No. No.

Kent Johnson
No.

Stephen Kraig
God, everyone

Kent Johnson
hates that. Terrible idea. It's just it's it's for people who who desire to do that.

Stephen Kraig
Well, this was absolutely fascinating. We really appreciate you, coming on to discuss this topic with us. Ken, I'm curious, where can people find more about the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation?

Kent Johnson
Yeah. If you were to just Google RFBF, you'd find red fish, blue fish, but you'd also find the religious Freedom and Business Foundation. Religiousfreedomandbusinessfoundation.org is our website. Or you could just contact me. I'm glad to chat with anybody about this stuff.

Stephen Kraig
Well, fantastic. Thank you so much.

Kent Johnson
Alright. Thanks, guys. Yes. Thanks. Thank you, Kent.

Kent Johnson
Great talking with you.

Stephen Kraig
So thank you for listening to Circuit Break. We were your hosts, Steven Craig.

Parker Dillmann
And Parker Dillman. Take it easy. Thank you. Yes. You, our listener, for downloading and listening to our podcast.

Parker Dillmann
Tell your friends and coworkers about Circuit Break, the podcast from Macrofab. If you have a cool idea, project, or topic you want us to discuss, let Steven and I and the community know. Our community where you can find personal projects, discussions about this episode of the podcast, and engineering topics, and news of the industry is located atform.macfab.com.

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