Books on Christianity will not trouble those outside the faith, wrote C.S. Lewis. He recommended “more little books by Christians on other subjects—with their Christianity latent.” Latent means underlying or hidden. It fits human design (creation) yet recognizes human corruption (the fall). Sequencing: Deciphering Your Company’s DNA is a case study in latency.
A lot of Christians don’t like latency. They imagine it as lying. Not so. Latency has to do with shaping proper delights. Augustine said the soul delights in particular what it learns indirectly. Indirect learning occurs when truth is discovered as you live, not when its delivered in a lecture. Educators have long understood this phenomenon, describing it as “incidental learning.”1 Lecture truth is direct. It feels denuded. It’s like a room with no furniture. You can live with it, but you don’t want to live in it. Indirect truth is latent truth. Its circuitous route requires storytelling. Stories are the furniture and floor coverings that warm a room and make it delight-full. Latency makes truth delightful.
Latency not only fits human design, it accommodates our fallen nature. We still delight in the indirect, but knowledge can make us arrogant. We think we know more than we actually do. Our delights then are deceived, or infirm, wrote Emily Dickinson. Pride blinds and truth no longer surprises. We still need the truth, but “tell it slant,” wrote Dickinson.
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant –
Success in circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise.
As lightning to the child eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.2
Holding the tension of creation and corruption accounts for Sequencing: Deciphering Your Company’s DNA, a new book with theology latent. It takes a circuitous route, starting with the story of Francis Crick and James Watson. On February 28, 1953, they announced the discovery of DNA. Scientists had long suspected that such a code existed. Once DNA was discovered, there was great enthusiasm for deciphering it, or sequencing. This was the work of the Human Genome Project.
The deciphering of biological DNA changed the game yet raised a question. We know DNA tells us what makes us tick but does it explain why we do what we do? Is there a behavioral DNA in every institution and individual? And if properly sequenced, would it help companies and institutions flourish? Sequencing says yes, there is a behavioral DNA. Properly sequenced, it can change how companies do performance reviews, bonuses, and incentives. It can enhance how companies hire and help colleagues thrive. Sequencing our behavioral DNA could enrich firms, factories, and even families since everyone—whatever creed, gender, or ethnicity—operates by this behavioral DNA. It’s latent in everyone. Sequencing could bring people together as never before. This would be a game changer for faith communities, since we live in a time when people are increasingly opposed to the faith or equally common just plain over it.
C.S. Lewis recognized this better than most. After the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Americans became more aware of differing faiths. The most dynamic figure at the Parliament was Swami Vivekananda, who brought “the all-religions-are-one message of his master Sri Ramakrishna.”3 Eighteen years later, at Cherbourg School, a young Lewis was drawn to one of Vivekananda’s disciples, an instructor named Miss Cowie. Her latent universalism undermined whatever vestiges of adolescent faith Lewis had when he entered school. Coming to faith later in life (1929), Lewis recognized that Christians needed books that could “get past the watchful dragons.” We didn’t need more “Christian” books, Lewis wrote.
What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects—with their Christianity latent. You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way around. Our faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, Politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defense of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian. (God In the Dock: Essays on Theology & Ethics)
Sequencing: Deciphering Your Company’s DNA is an “inexpensive popular introduction” to human nature applied to corporate management. It is written for Steven Jobs at Apple and John Mackey at Whole Foods. It is written in street language yet informed by scripture. Sequencing starts with lived experience with Christianity latent. The words are drawn from the boardroom yet are derived from the Bible.
To watch a brief video about Sequencing and to purchase a copy, please visit the book’s website at:
Many of the themes in Sequencing have been worked out in conversation with you through this weekly commentary. I trust the dialogue can be furthered with the publication of this book. As C.S. Lewis noted, we need more books that “get past the watchful dragons” so that people of faith—and no faith—can together learn to love their neighbors and assist in renewing culture-shaping institutions. Sequencing is a way to enact shalom in Corporate America… and might just be the “troubling” book that keeps Jobs and Mackey up at night.
1 A. Rogers, “Learning: Can We Change the Discourse?” Adults Learning 8, no. 5 (January 1997): 116-117. McGuffey’s famous readers—widely-used in 19th century U.S. schools to teach reading—used stories that contained important morality tales to accomplish incidental learning.
2 Poem #1129, from “The Riddles of Emily Dickinson.” Obbligati (Atheneum, 1986)
3 Alan Jacobs, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), p. 39.