A conversation with Rev. Dr. Shawn Moore, DMin, M.A., ORSC
The Rev. Dr. Shawn Moore is adept at juggling complexity. As an ex-Navy security specialist with a DMin in public theology, a pastor and professor, a martial arts instructor and former police officer, he has learned to see beyond polarities. Shawn's training in Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC™) helps him in supporting others to find common ground.
In addition to being an ORSC Trained coach, Shawn holds a doctorate in Ministry and Reconciliation from the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, a Master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology and Missiology from Northwestern University, and a diploma in Law Enforcement from North Hennepin Community College. Among the many hats he wears are those of coach, reconciler, public speaker, and cultural diversity and de-escalation trainer.
In this RSI Concepts in Action interview, Shawn speaks about a deep belief in unlocking potential, our need to think beyond good and bad guys in tearing down walls, and how creativity lives in all of us.
On his career journey
I was in the military for four years, as a Navy security specialist. After four years of being with the military police, I started doing security at the Mall of America. They saw something in me that I didn't see in myself.
They sent me to Florida to go through verbal judo training, learning to de-escalate violent encounters. After the first session I ever did, I was asked by an officer, "So how many years have you been teaching? This is pretty phenomenal." And I said, "Well, they sent me on Thursday, and today's Monday." They said, "Man, you're a natural." I did that work for seven years.
Then I went to a law enforcement program to get retrained in light hand-to-hand combat. I would teach an officer everything they needed to know, including the verbal judo. I went to school for two years while I was working at the Brooklyn Center, completed my degree, passed the POST exam, and boom, I was a cop. After three and a half years, I stopped doing law enforcement and went back to school. I got my Bachelor's, then my Master's, then my doctorate.
I'm classically trained in cultural anthropology - the study of rites, rituals, traditions, customs and habits of other people. My Master's is in anthropology and missiology, what's called global and contextual studies. It's a hybrid degree. What does it mean to have a mission, whether it's God's mission or your mission? How do you know you're doing it correctly? All humans are on a mission. Whether you know it, that's neither here nor there. But you're truly on this path of doing something really, really awesome or staying blinded.
My doctorate is in public theology, studying how God lands in the secular setting. How would you talk about God if you couldn't use God's name?
I work at Bethel University as a professor. I'm a learning partner. I'm also a senior pastor of a church in Minneapolis, and I have a side business called the Center for Reconciliation, a non-profit teaching skills to people that are dealing with conflict. I'm part of a small company that trains cops. I take on the verbal de-escalation, racial discord, and policing in community - the softer side of the training.
On when he is most on purpose
I am most on purpose when I'm firing out of my creativity, and using creativity to address the issues that are in front of me.
On his superpower
I speak in word pictures. What does it look like, taste like, smell like? For example, a conversation might be very sour, like lemons or pickles. People understand what I'm talking about - it's sour, it's sweet, it feels like sandpaper.
My superpower is metaphors. Metaphor is something that I've always been able to do, even as a kid growing up. How do I take this idea and move it forward?
On becoming a coach
In teaching officers, I couldn't figure out the connecting point between getting officers to unlock things that were built up, and unlocking the greatest potential that they had.
Someone asked if I'd ever thought about coaching. I had no clue - "What do you mean, coaching? Softball coaching?" No - coaching life skills and unlocking people's full potential. That's something that I was always into. There's something inside of you that needs to be cracked open, brought up and developed.
Coaching, in my opinion, is very Eurocentric. It is very much geared towards white middle-class executives. When you look at the birthplace of coaching, it started out in businesses and corporations. Hispanics, Native Americans, African Americans - they don't have easy access to that.
Some other coaches asked me to join the International Coaching Federation (ICF) board in Minnesota to address that issue, and we created a diversity team.
On what piqued his interest in ORSC
School - a Bachelor's, a Master's, a Ph.D - is like a recipe on a card. The actual how to make it is coaching.
My first introduction to coaching was about the individual. There was a small section towards the end on groups, which seemed the same - you do this for one person, or do the same thing for three people. To me, that didn't seem logically correct. Each person would be different. You couldn't do the same thing. An opportunity came up to do ORSC. That interested me, because most jobs in North America have to do with being in a team or group.
We live in a day and age when if something is going wrong, there's a bad guy. We like to punish. But as it relates to racism - systemically - there are no bad guys. We are navigating systems of different cultural normalcies that rub against each other.
My favorite tool so far is Lands Work, especially as it relates to law enforcement.
I use Lands Work every single time I'm doing a workshop with law enforcement and community members. What does it mean to have mostly European males as law enforcement in neighborhoods that are mostly people of color? I use that work probably 90% of the time, to line people up to be on the same page. It makes sense - there's your land, there's my land, then there's our land.
The issue isn't whether or not there are good and bad things going on. There's good and bad in both law enforcement and in our communities. What we need to figure out are the things that we agree upon, and then work on those things. You can't really do that when you have people pointing out that what you're doing isn't appropriate. That's the biggest thing that I see - that what you're doing is not appropriate. And the response on both sides is - that's my culture, or that's just the law. But you don't have to enforce it like that.
There's the racial component, there's black and white, there's gender. Then there's the generational thing. The silent Greatest Generation, the sound of the Boomers, GenXers, Millennials, Gen Y, Gen Z. I'm constantly talking about what does it mean to take a look at someone else's land.
Lands Work is the one tool that literally works across the board.
On being a pastor
I've always been a spiritual, faith-based person, helping people unlock what's inside of them. People go to church because they've got something that they need to work out. Within Christianity, there's this understanding that sin or breaking moral standards puts binds on you, and keeps you locked in a certain position or a certain place. Unlocking those handcuffs allows you to move down this path of joy, peace, kindness, service, loving others, and gratitude. You're able to move forward as a spiritual person.
I believe that we are spiritual people engaging in a spiritual landscape through physicality. I can see, I can smell, I can taste, hear and touch. These are all transistors to my spiritual self. Being human is a pretty special deal.
On true reconciliation
Back in grad school, I was curious about racially-infused trauma. Most of the time when you experience a traumatic racial event, you're experiencing it based on coming in contact with something that you perceive as being racist, or that is indeed racist. There has to be more than one person involved. You don't normally experience a traumatic racial event just standing there on the corner reading a newspaper.
Now I'm wondering what parts of Lands Work can be used to look at reconciliation and trauma, that idea of yours and mine and ours. I'm starting to explore what it means to do group coaching and individual coaching from the standpoint of dealing with someone's racialized trauma.
I've created a model for reconciliation, a recipe card. How do you make a reconciliation pie?
The model starts off with sawabona - African for "I see you." I see your full humanity. You really can't move into any type of work with someone without seeing their full humanity. You have to go to their land and vice versa. Once you have sawabona, you have community.
The second part of the model is co-creation. How do we co-create a new reality based upon our differences?
Then we move into what's called covenant-making, kind of like a marriage contract. I promise to do this, you promise to do that. We go back and forth making these promises. How do you write out a covenant that has equality?
Next you have what's called mastery - critical practice. You get really good at catching yourself doing the things that you should and shouldn't do. Then you go back to step one again, this time asking - how did we do? Oh, we did a really good job except for in the covenant part. You go back to the master, back to the covenant, and then you do it all over again.
It's like taking an apple, and putting it in a peeler. You cut and cut until you get to the seeds. That's where life is, right? You can take those seeds that have been infused with community building, with co-creation, with covenant writing and mastery. After a while, you become a reconciler in a community that's filled with compassion, joy, and love for everyone.
On his heroes
My minor heroes include Charles Bukowski, the German poet. He's a madman. His poetry struck fear in people because he was so honest in his reflection on life. He has one poem called "Give It All You Got." Basically, if you're going to do something, you should put all of yourself into it - even if it costs your mental health, your wife, your family, your kids - if it is what you truly want. Give your whole entire self over to it and see what happens. He smoked too much, he drank too much, he died way too soon, but his words linger. The truth - when you read him - "Ooh, I don't feel good about that." But when you're being authentic, it's not good or bad. It's the real world.
David Goggins, an ultra-marathon guy who said "Embrace the suck."
Another is Erwin McManus, a pastor and a creationist who truly believes that to be an artisan, you have to engage your spirituality. Artistry and spirituality go hand in hand. The more you create, the more you increase your spiritual girth. Expanding spiritually doesn't mean taking up all the space. It means that you grow so big that you recognize when you shouldn't speak. It's the idea of knowing when it's your time to do what you need to do. You want to expand spiritually all the time.
But my greatest hero is myself, and I think that's how everyone should answer that question. Who inspires you? Who motivates you? Who do you want to be like? You can only be yourself. I can't be like anyone else. If I tried really, really hard to be like you, I would still be a fake. But if I see what you're doing and get inspired by it, that makes me a better person.
So I think we are all heroes. Who knows you more than you? You can be married to someone for your whole entire life, and they won't know you as well as you know you. I may see the reflection of you, but you know what's going on in your head and in your life.
On what he’s reading now
James Smith's "You Are What You Love" lays out the psychological and the spiritual aspects of why we say we want to do something but do just the opposite, even if it's harmful.
"The Meaning in the Making" and "Steal Like an Artist" are both books about how to become more creative. A lot of people don't recognize that they're truly creative people. "I work with numbers all day long. I'm a computer programmer." Okay, but I believe that to be creative means to use your imagination in new ways. We lack imagination and creativity because we're consistently being told that artists only paint, dance, write poetry, or work with clay. You can be an artist and be a journalist, you can be an artist and be a nurse. We are all creative.
"We Always Begin Again" and "The Way to Love" are about how to grow your spirituality. "Do Story" is about how to tell your story. If there's only one story you should know forwards and backwards, it's your own. It's funny, it's dramatic, it's scary, it's epic. Your story is powerful. All you need to change someone's life is to just share your story.
Podcasts by Jocko Willing and David Goggins - I listen to a lot of former military special ops guys, because they recognize one true fact. When you're a warrior, you work in the dark arts of killing. And when you kill, you recognize that there's reverence in the loss of life. Warriors are disciplined people who recognize that we're on a mission, and it's life and death. Every mission of a Navy Seal is life or death. There's no such thing as a mission where you're not putting yourself into jeopardy. When you do, you can't make mistakes. If you make mistakes, people pass away.
For the majority of the world, you can make a mistake. You can do things that are disrespectful and dishonouring to other people, and it's okay. For certain groups of people in our society, it is better to die a good death than to live forever in a cowardly fashion. I like to listen to those people, because they tend to have their heads screwed on straight about what is important in life.
There are multiple consequences to not doing things to the best of your ability. If you truly believe that you have a spirit and a soul, that soul one day is going to go on to the other side, and will have to adjust to what you did on this side. If everything you did was about me, me, me, more, more, more, then when you get to the other side, you haven't built up any sweat equity.
On why systems coaching is important now
This work of becoming more compassionate, becoming a society where there's equity - it's group work. You can't change a system by yourself. Systems require systems work. If you want to go canoeing but no one wants to move the canoe, guess what? You're not getting in the water.
Think about how you dismantle racism. That's group work.
On his world work
As a reconciler, that's what I do. The word that I use for reconciliation is apokatastasis, which is a Greek word that means to remove barriers that hinder authentic relationships.
People think that reconciliation means I need to go to you and say I'm sorry for what I've done. If instead you go to the wall that has been created and dismantle the wall, you can start to have an authentic relationship. We are all responsible for putting up walls between ourselves and the other. Removing the wall - that's the work that we need to do. It isn't about traffic stops, it's about the precursor to that. What needs to be eliminated?
Again, we tend to think that we were the bad guys. A good guy needs the bad guy. Well, everyone's a bad person. Right? We're all good and bad.
Any given time that I can lend my skills, I will. I don't need to get paid every single time I teach or train. I think there's this understanding of once you have fork to potato, potato to mouth, what more do you need?
Every individual is worth more money than the planet holds. We are priceless. That idea of you're going to pay me what I'm worth - if I can take care of my bills, my food, my house, that's all I need. We talk about the majority of the world's worth being in the hands of 10% of the people on the planet. What are you gonna do with it? You could be sending it out to the world.
Listening or Viewing
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