(From the project Dialogues with Julian Moody: On Life, Business, Sustainability, and Other Things by Julian Moody and Brandy Walker)

BW: I know, for the most part, you dislike philosophical, political, and religious discussions so I have purposefully steered clear of all that. And in discussing business, generally, it is easy to avoid the topic of religion and God, but since you lived a long time and have a lot of experience in many areas, I can’t help but touch on the topic. And I promise this won’t be a long discussion. First, can you explain why you don’t like these types of discussions?

JM: I’m very oriented towards people and situations. My mind doesn’t do well with abstraction. I don’t have an academic mind. I’m situation and process oriented, so I get lost in something like theology or political theory. I like practical problems and being immersed in a real world problem. Also in my experience, people talk a lot at the expense of concrete action. I’ve found that people who talk a lot in an abstract way tend to be MIA—missing in action—when it comes to the difficult work of getting anything real accomplished. Not everyone—some people are natural talkers and they’re good at backing up their words with action, but I’ve also met many, many people—all they do is talk and not much more. They give God and their beliefs or politics good lip service, but little of their action matches what they say. They don’t walk the talk, in other words. I was very privileged to have people in my life who actually walked the talk. Thelma, my wife, was very knowledgeable and very oriented on the teachings of Jesus as they are written in the Bible. Her father was an itinerant preacher and every night, they had a prayer session and read from the Bible—her whole life—so she knew it from start to finish. After all, when I married her, she was thirty-one, and she had been living at home with her father since she was born. And so every night, they had a prayer session and read for a half hour from the Bible.

BW: Was he a full-time preacher?

JM: Actually, he owned and ran a family hardware business that had been in the family for years and years. That’s how he earned his living, but he was a very devout Christian and so on Sundays he offered himself to any church anywhere to come and lead the singing and preach the sermon. So he went from church to church. He was a great man. His name was Fred Berner. Of Buffalo, New York. And oh yeah, his sermons were beautiful. So as I said, Thelma lived with him until she was thirty-one and so she knew the Bible inside and out. We tried a number of churches over the years. We liked some of the churches and we liked some of the ministers, but a bunch also tended to be legalistic, dogmatic. You had to believe exactly their way or basically there was no value in going to their church. And of course, we observed a number of people who called themselves Christians, but they were really not operating according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Not that we did so perfectly ourselves, mind you, least of all me.

BW: That’s unfortunate that was your experience with some of the churches you tried attending and also the experience of many other people. People see the hypocrisy, rigid legalism, religiosity, corruption, and scandals in some churches and unfortunately assume that is reflective of the whole religion. There are good churches that do a lot of good work that goes undocumented. The faith communities do a lot in areas of helping the poor, homeless, defenseless, and marginalized, among other things.

JM: Likewise, there are honest businesses and honest business people even though businesses can be very much corrupted by things like greed and ego or motivated strictly by self-interest and the bottom line—and there are many of them—but not every business is greedy, shady, or selfish.

BW: And one of the things faith groups provide is community, especially for people who don’t have family to turn to. As we talked about in the topic “A Few Things Learned in World War II”, people have a need and desire for community.

JM: That’s true.

BW: But there is no such thing as a perfect church.

JM: Just as there is no such thing as a perfect business or organization. Because they’re made up of people.

BW: But churches, businesses, and organizations could use more people who walk the talk, like Thelma. That’s very fortunate that you were married to her. You seem to have learned a lot from her.

JM: Like I said, Thelma knew the teachings of Jesus inside and out—maybe I was lucky and some of Thelma’s sincere knowledge and practice rubbed off onto me.

BW: I think so. I think you were fortunate to be born with a naturally calm personality and loving parents, but I think you also absorbed a lot from Thelma. You certainly exhibit the fruit of the spirit described in Galatians such as: patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, self-control, love, joy, peace. You can read and study a lot, but sometimes it’s difficult to put something into practice until you’ve met and been around someone who has actually spent many years putting something into practice.

JM: Thelma certainly embodied scripture and I was very fortunate to have her in my life and to have absorbed quite a bit from her.

BW: Some scripture jump to mind. I like how your life embodies certain principles so I’ll touch on a few of these here. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive or comprehensive list, but just what jumps to mind right now. In the past, you had mentioned you and Thelma used prayer a lot, so what comes to mind is Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” When you reflect on your life I am struck by the lack of reference to any kind of anxiety. Even though you experienced tremendous difficulty and uncertainty—you lost many jobs, you experienced the bankruptcy of your business and the loss of your home to foreclosure—you didn’t seem to be anxious at the time. You didn’t seem to worry or have fear.

JM: No, I didn’t have worry or fear. I did have concerns—that’s very different than worry and fear or anxiety. At times, it was very confusing. But no matter what happened, it seemed like I was moving in some direction. I had a lot of faith. Even though I did not know where I was going.

BW: Did you have any clue or indication of where you were headed when you found the dialogues of Socrates when you working as a truck driver?

JM: No, none whatsoever, even though that became a big influence in my work. As we talked about in the topic on failure, no matter how hard we try, we don’t know where we are going. A lot of people think they know where they’re headed in life, but they really don’t know. I realize now that most of life is a mystery—it’s magical. In hindsight, as I look at it, there was a constant flow that was moving me toward what really was my calling. But at the time, I wasn’t fully aware.

BW: You seem very comfortable with the unknown. And the whole time you were struggling, you seem to have trusted that God was providing every step of the way.

JM: Yeah, I just trusted that and kind of flowed with that. Of course, I did the best that I could do in terms of work, but I also trusted that.

BW: We had talked about in the topic “The American Dream vs. True Wealth”, what we normally consider to be security, such as material assets, isn’t really security. The only true security is spiritual.

JM: Yeah, what we normally think of security isn’t secure at all.

BW: God is really the only security, if you think about it. Generally, you are very averse to giving people advice, but once you did give me a bit of advice which I have found to be very valuable—“Don’t think too far ahead,” which, of course, makes me think of Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” And from Matthew, “Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

JM: That’s one thing I’ve learned in my long life. You can’t really know what is ahead, all the ins and outs of everything, every situation, every person you’re involved with. So it’s a waste of energy to worry and to try to think all that through. You’re better off spending all that energy on what’s right in front of you. Thinking too much was also a big hindrance in my consulting work.

BW: When I reflect on your consulting career, what fascinates me is that you were uneducated, in many ways very foolish, very much a fool—not in the negative sense of stupid, but in the sense of innocent and empty-headed, completely unhindered by the knowledge, wisdom, and theories of men. You didn’t have that baggage. Your mind wasn’t cluttered up with, say, whatever theory was in vogue at the time. You didn’t have that filter, lens, or prejudice. Because of that, you were very sharp and perceptive and able to help people in powerful positions self-examine themselves in a way that many other consultants weren’t able to. God does choose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. He often can’t use people who are respectable—they typically have their own agendas and are trying to achieve or maintain status. You certainly didn’t have any respectability especially at the beginning of your career. You essentially had nothing to lose.

JM: No, I didn’t. I really was a fool. The field was in its infancy. I was flying by the seat of my pants actually.

BW: And in discussing your life and work, what I am continually struck by is a lack of cynicism and pessimism. You, of all people, have earned the right to be cynical and pessimistic. You grew up during the Great Depression, you served in World War II. Your generation saw the Nazi rise to power. You saw the devastation in Europe and you saw many people die senselessly. You helped collect the bodies of dead soldiers after the Battle of the Bulge. You’ve been through some very difficult personal circumstances such as bankruptcy, losing your home to foreclosure. Your father died of cancer, your sister was disabled by polio. And you certainly learned a lot about human nature in your work. Yet you’re one of the least cynical and least pessimistic people I’ve met. One of the most common objections to a belief in God is the fact that so many horrible things happen and exist in the world. The reasoning goes—how is it that you can believe in God if all those horrible things can occur?

JM: For the most part, all the problems that mankind deals with are created by mankind except for the natural phenomena like earthquakes, forest fires, droughts, that sort of thing, or many diseases. But everything else, basically, if you stop and think about it, mankind creates it. Through free will, free choice. Things like the Depression, wars—they are created by man. He creates most of the problems that he deals with. God is good. And our God is a loving God.

BW: In spite of your experiences, you believe and know God is real, God is good. You learned a lot about human nature in your work. Why do some people not believe in God or that God is good?

JM: There are many different reasons unique to each individual. Some have many negative experiences in life they haven’t fully healed from. And some have a lot of pride and they shut themselves off to God out of just plain stubbornness. And some people, they shut themselves off out of fear and guilt.

BW: And I’ve observed that people with broken or difficult relationships with their fathers or other significant people, understandably, struggle with faith that God could be good. As you said, there are many individual reasons. And then some people—they seem very attached to their view or ideal of how things should be in the world, and if things don’t match what they expect or want, then they reject God and a belief in God.

JM: That’s true.

BW: I was raised to be an atheist, and atheism has its own rigid, dogmatic system of narrow-minded doctrines. For example, a typical tenet is: if it can’t be explained in any kind of rational way that a human brain can understand, then it doesn’t exist. Another one: if it can’t be perceived through the senses or an instrument or if it can’t be summed up in a formula, again, it doesn’t exist.

JM: Those that tend to have a lot of pride, especially intellectual pride, don’t have a realistic understanding of the limitations of human beings. Which of course, often shows up in a host of problems related to arrogance, pride, hubris. And in many ways, it’s also easier to not believe in God. Then you are never disappointed. Again, there are many reasons.

BW: In your business career, you were in a unique inside position to observe many, many human problems. And you lived a long time through some historically significant circumstances—and in going over all that sometimes I wonder, is it all just simply a matter of we forget that God is good?

JM: God is good and we forget that. That’s part of the problem. We create messes in trying to be little gods. We put our faith in trying to be little gods and in all sorts of other things thinking and hoping that will bring us the satisfaction, approval, or love that we are looking for. Sadly, we usually end up finding out the hard way that they don’t.