Category: Vocation

Globalization is routinely decried for its disruptive effects, particularly as it relates to local culture and community enterprises and institutions. Even as it’s proven to drive significant economic growth, questions remain about its steamrolling influence on the culture.

“Even if we grant that global competitive markets create prosperity, is it worth the fast food chains and the big box chains we see everywhere we go?” asks Michael Miller in an excerpt from PovertyCure. “What about a sense of vulgarity and bringing things to the lowest common denominator? And perhaps most important, does globalization destroy local culture?”

The threats to culture are real and pronounced. It is undeniable that globalization can and has and will diminish or destroy certain cultures, traditions, and enterprises. Yet as Miller and others remind us in, we are not powerless in our response, whether as creators or consumers. (more…)

evan-flow-all-is-giftThroughout the Christmas season, we are routinely reminded of our “gift nature,” whether through the transfer of presents, the confluence of family gatherings, the creative flurry of plays and performances, or, most importantly, the central story of the One who gives it all meaning in the first place.

Christmas is the story of the ultimate gift and gift-giver. As we embrace and receive and celebrate what that all means, we should be careful to remember that the corresponding Christmas traditions are not merely symbolic or celebratory of a reality in ages past.

The divine generosity bound up in the Christmas story represents an active renewal we were meant to participate in — day after day, year after year. As Alexander Schmemann reminds us, God sent his son “not as a rescue operation, to recover lost man,” but “rather for the completing of what He had undertaken from the beginning. God acted so that man might understand who He really was and where his hunger had been driving him.” (more…)

CarllLarsen-Directing2Carl and Angel Larsen are Minnesota filmmakers who founded their own company, Telescope Media Group, with a very specific purpose: “to glorify God through top-quality media production.” Christian belief and a passion for “God’s story” has always been at the center of their business.

Now, due to a state law and statements from government officials, their religious beliefs expose them to a range of new threats as it relates to filming weddings. Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the Larsens may face severe financial penalties and up to 90 days in jail for declining to create expression in support of same-sex weddings.

“A government that tells you what you can’t say is bad enough,” says Carl. “But a government that tells you what you must say is much worse. You can’t force people to promote things that violate their beliefs.”

In response, the Larsens have partnered with Alliance Defending Freedom to file a federal lawsuit known as a “pre-enforcement challenge,” arguing that the state law threatens their rights and runs afoul of First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. As the ADF summarized in a recent news release: “The Minnesota Department of Human Rights has construed that law to force creative professionals like the Larsens to promote objectionable messages even though they gladly serve everyone and decide what stories to tell based on the story’s message, not any client’s personal characteristics.” (more…)

3-ways1How are we to be in the world but not of it? How are Christians to live and engage, create and exchange, cultivate and steward our gifts and relationships and resources here on earth? Beyond getting a “free ticket to heaven,” what is our salvation actually for?

These questions are at the center of Acton’s film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, which begins with a critique of three common approaches to Christian cultural engagement: fortification (“hide! hunker down!”), domination (“fight, fight, fight!”), or accommodation (“meh, ok whatever”).

The framework comes from Pastor Greg Thompson’s paper “The Church in Our Time,” in which Thompson summarizes the paradigms as follows (bold emphasis added):

The fortification paradigm suggests that the fundamental calling of the church is to guard the integrity of its divinely wrought life against the assaults of the world. In this view, the basic task of the church is vigilant preservation and the basic threat to the church is the destructive character of the larger culture…

…The domination paradigm suggests that the fundamental calling of the church is to triumph over her cultural enemies. In this view the basic task of the church is to extend its own values into the world while the basic threat to the church is those whose values differ from its own…

…Contrary to fortification, the accommodation paradigm suggests that the fundamental calling of the church is collaboration with the world in the service of the larger good. From this perspective the basic task of the church is active partnership with its neighbors in the interest of social renewal, and the basic threat to the church is its own separatist tendencies.

Each stems from a legitimate theological starting point, but each also tends to falter, in part due to the typical confusions and conflations between the sacred and secular. In Thompson’s paper, he seeks to avoid these pitfalls, attempting to pave a “fourth way” forward by drawing on James Davison Hunter’s notion of “faithful presence.” In For the Life of the World, we see a similar but slightly different path, one framed around embracing a position of Christian exile and “seeking the welfare of the city.” Rod Dreher has been busy exploring yet another. And the list goes on. (more…)

thanksgiving-assortmentFamilies across the country are about to celebrate Thanksgiving, expressing gratitude for God’s overwhelming grace and abundance. And yet even as we offer thanks to God for his provision — materially, socially, spiritually, or otherwise — how often do we pause and reflect on the freedoms and channels that God uses in the process?

Will we remember that the very foods we are sure to enjoy on Thanksgiving Day required a great deal of investment, cultivation, and risk-taking? Will we reflect with gratitude on the labor it took to grow and harvest, package and ship, market and sell these items? It’s but one small window into the innumerable hands working together each and every day in service of the common good.

And will we recognize that this mysterious, creative activity is not only due to human hands, but that such dominion and stewardship mirrors that of a Creator God who so loved that he gave?

Whether we talk about this phenomenon in terms of an “invisible hand” (Adam Smith), “spontaneous order” (Hayek) “the magic of the marketplace” (Reagan), or a “great and mysterious collaboration” (Grabill), we’d do well to remember that even as we pour gratitude and honor out to our neighbors, we should be careful that we orient things before and beyond the work of human hands. “The price system is indeed an amazing creation, but of the divine mind,” ” writes Joe Carter. “It’s one of God’s means of coordinating human activity for the purposes of human flourishing.”

At Carpe Diem, Mark Perry dusts of a Jeff Jacoby column that beautifully explains this very point, and does so in the particular context of Thanksgiving. “Isn’t there something wondrous — something almost inexplicable — in the way your Thanksgiving weekend is made possible by the skill and labor of vast numbers of total strangers?” Jacoby writes. (more…)

816bkjgz2xLThe church has recently awakened with renewed interest in the intersection of faith and work, leading to a widespread movement in congregations and seminaries and a constant flow of books, sermons, and other resources (including a hearty bunch from the Acton Institute).

In a new NIV Faith and Work Bible from Zondervan, we gain another valuable tool for expanding our economic imaginations, weaving a rich theology of work more closely with the Biblical text.

Edited by David H. Kim, Executive Director for the Center for Faith and Work, and including a foreword by Tim Keller, the Bible offers a range of pathways and commentaries to assist Christians in connecting the dots between their daily work and the Biblical story.

Kim describes the Bible as a “unique and exciting combination of doctrine, application, and community experience,” with the goal of developing a theology of work that “will hopefully rewire the way you understand the gospel and how it has everything to do with your work.”

To accomplish this, the Bible includes, among other things, (1) specific introductions to each book that highlight key lessons and applications to work and economics; (2) a “storylines” feature that serves as an introductory study for those new to the Bible); (3) essays on doctrine as it relates to stewardship (e.g. dominion in Genesis); (4) historical writings written after the Bible; and (5) real stories of application in daily/modern life. (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Thursday, November 3, 2016
By

imrs (2)UPDATE: Given the recent attention drawn to this post, permit me to clarify that I do NOT endorse replacing education with paid labor, nor do I support sending our children back into the coal mines or other high-risk jobs, nor do I support getting rid of mandatory education at elementary and middle-school ages. Due to the confusion it brought, I have removed “bring back child labor” from the title, as many falsely took it to mean a call to “bring back” earlier laws, conditions, or jobs, which is not my argument. My recommendation here is simply that we challenge our cultural assumptions about labor at all levels, from parenting to education to policymaking, and ensure we take a more holistic approach to education that recognizes the dignity of each human person.

The abundant prosperity of the modern age has brought many blessings when it comes to child-rearing and child development, offering kids new opportunities for education, play, and personal development. Yet even as we celebrate our civilizational departure from excessive child labor, we ought to be wary of falling into a different sort of lopsided lifestyle.

Alas, as a day-to-day reality, work has largely vanished from modern childhood, with parents constantly stressing over the values of study and practice and “social interaction” even as they insulate their children from any activity that might involve risk, pain, or boredom. As a result, many of our kids are coming far too late to the arena of creative service and all it brings: dignity, meaning, freedomvirtuecreativitycharacter, and neighbor love.

Operating out of a justified fear of the harsh excesses of “harder times,” we have allowed our cultural attitudes to swing too far in the opposite direction, distorting work as a “necessary obligation of adulthood,” a gift too dangerous for kids. Working from these same distorted attitudes, the Washington Post recently published what it described as a “haunting” photo montage of child laborers from America’s rougher past. (more…)