Face to Face with Dr. Catherine Crouch and Andy Crouch

Anthony Barr

March 25, 2019

If you look at the staggering influence that Catherine and Andy Crouch have, you might be tempted to call them a power couple. She has her PhD in physics and teaches at Swarthmore where she is also a faculty director and noted expert on pedagogy. He is a celebrated author of several books on culture, technology, and theology, and the former editor of one of the largest Christian magazines. Together, the two seem like the kind of couple that could run the world. And yet, it seems odd to use the term power couple because as they sat together to share about leadership and friendship, we could sense their overflowing kindness, humility, and even pastoral care for us. This is a theme that you can see in their work as well. For example, in her positions at Swarthmore, Dr. Crouch does important work helping build structures for more inclusive education, particularly in helping underrepresented and first-generation students thrive in college.

The Crouch’s have a lot of wisdom to share, and in their prepared remarks they emphasized three main principles they have learned. The first principle is that leadership begins by asking, ‘what is God doing in the world?’ While there are general dimensions to this question, answering this question also requires discerning the concrete and particular details of our own time. Dr. Crouch emphasized that this discernment is best undertaken in the context of relationships with people who know us well and she noted that a full sense of vocation can take decades to develop, while Mr. Crouch explained that this process should include multiple modes of knowing, including intuition and objective metrics. A second major principle is that we will never be able to sustain difficult things without close friends who can rally around us, especially in times of personal or familial crisis. The Crouch’s emphasized again and again that the pursuit of our calling should always begin by deepening the relationships we have with those who are united with us in pursuing God. A particularly striking insight on this theme came from Mr. Crouch who said, “we tend to think that jobs and opportunities are scarce but that friendships are plentiful. But I think the opposite is true.” The third principle that the Crouch’s shared with us was that ultimately leaders need to create meaningful structures that allow others to join and participate. As an example of this, they shared about the Repentance Project and its American Lent initiative, a developed liturgy that helps us as Americans to grapple with the devastating legacy of slavery. This initiative began when a group of friends experienced a moment of profound lament, but through meaningful leadership, that personal moment was transformed into a structured opportunity for all of us to grow toward reconciliation.

Toward the end of the Q&A period following the talk, the conversation began to move toward questions about the nature of our society. How do we deal with atomization of individuals? What does it look like to foster authentic relationships with embodied persons? How do we deal with pervasive loneliness? Mr. Crouch said that he thinks the more power or cultural status one has, the harder it is be deeply embedded in authentic relationships. That strikes me as being profoundly true, though I’m not sure I have ever heard that point made before. And I suppose that leaves me with two main questions to take with me as I prepare to graduate:

1. What does it look like to choose communities over positions of power in my own life?
2. How can I make friendship a consistent priority when I’m no longer on campus?