Though some work may seem useless, Christians understand that all work is God’s work. Our work only seems insignificant because we fail to grasp the big picture. This is what economists refer to as the “knowledge problem.” The knowledge problem means we can’t always see the big picture because knowledge is dispersed among many people; no one person knows everything. In the vocational sense, this means we may not understand how our work is part of a much larger economic dynamic. If we can’t easily see how our work contributes to the common good, we may understate the effect of what we do.
Some positions make it difficult for workers to see the end product, but that certainly does not mean that their work is insignificant. Just because a factory worker doesn’t receive the instant gratification of seeing the final product that he helped to create doesn’t change the reality that his effort contributed to that product…
… It’s important to remember that the value of our work may never be fully realized in our lifetime. In medieval times, it could take hundreds of years to build a single cathedral. The laborer laying the cornerstone might never live to see the top of the steeple. (more…)
The day Pope Francis was elected, I went directly to the bar. It was about noon when I first got word that white smoke had been spotted outside of the Sistine Chapel. Soon after, my phone began to flood with texts declaring “Habemus Papam!” I called up a few of my Catholic friends and we decided that the best place to watch the announcement at St. Peter’s was none other than our favorite college pub.
The bar was empty so we asked the bartender to change the TV channel and ordered our first round. Our celebration had begun.
I remember the intensity in the room leading up to the reveal of our new Holy Father. When the announcement finally came, it was followed by a dramatic “Who?” None of us had heard of this beloved Cardinal from Argentina nor considered him in our discussions about possible Papal contenders. (more…)
The problem, Kruse argues, is that such a strategy doesn’t exist:
As leaders, we need to realize that to make faith and discipleship integrated in our congregations, we cannot do it with our congregation’s existing knowledge and skills, requiring those in our congregation (including ourselves) to make a shift in our values, expectations, attitudes, and behaviors. You see, while some of us sense a need for better integration of faith with vocation, there are significant obstacles.
Most Christians do not have a theological framework that accommodates the integration of faith and vocation. Many are even hostile to the idea. They are more comfortable with a life that is not integrated, compartmentalizing work and discipleship. Any attempts at integration feel like intrusions into their private lives. Worship is viewed as an escape from “secular” concerns. And let’s face it, if we really pursue integration, we will discover uncomfortable things about our lives.
Indeed, as the Acton Institute’s Stephen Grabill points out in his foreword to Lester DeKoster’s Work: The Meaning of Your Life, despite many Christians having an “implicit sense that work is good because it carries out the cultural mandate,” we have failed to grasp that work is, further, “one of the core elements of discipleship and spiritual formation.”
To start chipping away at this convenient and comfortable disposition, Kruse offers some basic and broad ideas to help church leaders begin the integration process with their congregations. (Amy Sherman offered a similarly themed set of recommendations a few months ago.) (more…)
We are now witnessing how some make the tie between human tragedy and federal spending. Just yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shamelessly implied that the accident that killed seven Marines in Nevada is tied to spending cuts from sequester. Hollywood actor Harrison Ford lamented that “accidents are going to happen” in aviation because of sequester. It’s almost if more government spending is needed to appease the wrath of the Divine State. If not appeased, wrath will reign down on humanity and nature if not given due alms. We know from Exodus that the Lord our God is a jealous God, but is the federal government a jealous god too? Slowing the rate of growth of this god stirs up anger.
We are being told by lawmakers and citizens that we can’t afford to cut federal spending. Never mind that almost every single American has noticed no change from a paltry and temporary slowing growth rate from sequester. But we are told it’s far too dangerous for our safety and humanity’s future. Never mind that we read absurd stories daily about federal spending initiatives that study why lesbians are fat or why they drink more than the general population.
Washington now has the inability to come together to at least make any responsible strides to curtail our spending crisis. Even throughout American history it has generally been understood by both parties that the federal government can’t or shouldn’t solve all of our problems. Instead, we see lawmakers almost ritualistically dancing on the dead bodies of innocent victims in their call for more spending and government involvement in our lives. It’s becoming a gruesome cult like practice.
In Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver declares, “It is likely that human society cannot exist without some source of sacredness. Those states which have sought openly to remove it have tended in the end to assume divinity themselves.”
This summer I am teaching a class at Acton University titled “Religion and Presidential Politics in the Modern Era.” I’ll touch more upon the the topic of divinization of government in that lecture.
We’re witnessing increases in attacks on religious liberty, sin taxes, and massive centralization and debt. We need to ask ourselves going forward if a jealous government god is going to want to continue to compete with the Church?
Discussions about faith-work integration are on the rise, with an ever-increasing number of related books, sermons, and blog posts (ahem) appearing with every passing day.
Just a cursory glance around the faith and work landscape, and you’ll find a bunch of middle class white men (with the occasional woman or Asian). So what’s going on here? Does integrating your faith and work only matter for white professionals and not African-Americans or Latinos? (For the sake of this post, you’ll have to excuse some generalizations.)
After offering a brief history of 20th-century American prosperity and the widespread self-actualization that followed, Haanen offers his hypothesis:
Twentieth century America did not bless all ethnic groups evenly with wealth and comfort. African Americans lived under the thumb of institutionalized racism even years after the civil rights movement, and struggled for years to acquire the kind of jobs, and thus material comfort, that their white counterparts did. Today, it’s mostly Latinos who occupy the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder; they make even less than blacks per capita across age groups.
All that to say this: while white guys were wondering about their purpose in life, blacks and Latinos were just trying to survive. When I was a pastor of a Latino congregation, it wasn’t terribly surprising that questions of existential despair or vocational fit never arose. Dignity and providing for the family trumped “fulfilling the cultural mandate.” Getting a job and paying rent was a bit higher on the hierarchy of needs.
Haanen’s point about disparate shifts in the makeup and distribution of work is an important one. The minimum-wage McDonald’s worker will likely face a host of spiritual challenges distinct from those faced by the white-collar executive. Likewise, the differences in time and comfort outside of that work will play no small part in defining that struggle. As Haanen also indicates, “intangible” factors like racism are bound to transform these struggles further, even among workers in the same job type and industry.
But having recognized all of this, it’s also important to recognize that just because a worker hasn’t the time, resources, or energy for armchair theologizing on “vocational fit,” it doesn’t mean that meaning, purpose, and transcendent activity isn’t taking place amid the strenuous circumstances. Whether or not we are actively thinking and talking about “cultural mandate,” the basic dignity of our work and the basic activity of serving society and providing for one’s family is an integral part of fulfilling that mandate. At a certain level, “needs-based” work has a forceful way of tempering our individualistic inclinations, and at that level, I think we need to seriously reconsider how closely we’re aligning “vocation” with our own personal preferences or our end-game goals. Does God not also call us to that initial job or task that begins a longer trajectory filled with other more “fulfilling” things? (more…)
New England Patriots’ punter Zoltan Mesko is undoubtedly upset that his team didn’t make it to the Super Bowl again this year, but it’s hardly the toughest ordeal of his life. As Romanian refugees, Mesko’s family endured Communist oppression, deprivation and violent revolution. Mesko, who holds an M.A. from the University of Michigan, shared his family’s experience and how faith plays a role in his life in an interview with the National Catholic Register.
When asked if he found it difficult to adapt to American culture, Mesko responded:
Not really. Romania was a very harsh place to live while the communists were in power. They portray it as equality for all, but the equality you get is everyone being equally miserable. Government control of everything results in less prosperity for everyone…My mother and father are both engineers, so we had quite a bit of money. However, because of hyperinflation, the money couldn’t buy much. We lived paycheck to paycheck in Romania, so the transition to American culture wasn’t too tough. I found things to be so much easier here.
As a part of our evangelical outreach at Acton, we have commissioned four primers from different evangelical traditions on the intersection of faith, work, and economics. The books will be written from the Baptist, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, and Reformed traditions and will be released throughout this coming year.
The first book released is the Baptist primer written by Chad Brand. Chad is professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY as well as the associate dean of Boyce College. He has served as pastor of three Southern Baptist churches and interim pastor of several others.
In Flourishing Faith, Dr. Chad Brand shows how by examining key issues of the history and theology of political economy: work, wealth, government, and taxation with its various implications. Brand then explores the philosophy of how government relates to political economy and highlights how Baptists have contributed. Insightful, provocative, and generous.
Regarding Flourishing Faith, Dr. David Allen, dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary says:
Chad Brand has helped to fill a lacuna on the subject of work, economics, and civic stewardship in the Baptist tradition. Serving as something of a primer, Flourishing Faith examines key issues related to political economy such as vocational calling, wealth, government, and taxation. Interesting, informative, historically and biblically based, Chad’s book is an important and helpful addition in this sometimes neglected, but currently crucial area of our national life.
Christian’s Library Press has published this book and it is available here. Acton will be exhibiting at the Evangelical Theological Society’s annual meeting next week. This book along with others will be available for discounted purchase at Booth 121 in the Exhibit Hall.
Joseph Pearce offers a controversial (and irrefutable) argument that faith is a prerequisite to true freedom:
In an age that seems to believe that Christianity is an obstacle to liberty it will prove provocative to insist, contrary to such belief, that Christian faith is essential to liberty’s very existence. Yet, as counter-intuitive as it may seem to disciples of the progressivist zeitgeist, it must be insisted that faith enshrines freedom. Without the shrine that faith erects to freedom, the liberties that we take for granted will be eroded and ultimately destroyed. Faith preserves freedom. It protects it. It insists upon it. Where there is faith there is freedom. Where faith falters, so does freedom. This truth, so uncomfortably perplexing for so many of our contemporaries, was encapsulated by G. K. Chesterton when he asserted that “the modern world, with its modern movements, is living on its Catholic capital. It is using, and using up, the truths that remain to it out of the old treasury of Christendom.”
“I do my religion on Sundays.”
That was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s answer to a press conference question on the Catholic Church’s stance on contraception, according to The Washington Examiner. Pelosi has consistently backed the Obama administration’s call to force employers to offer abortion, sterilization and birth control as part of employee health care, despite many organizations’ ethical, moral and religious objections (Acton’s PowerBlog offers more here on this topic.)
Pelosi’s answer is telling: Her faith should not affect (or infect) her work life, or even her daily life; it’s reserved for one day of the week only. Is that what Christians are called to? It hardly seems so. One of Acton’s initiatives, On Call In Culture, speaks directly to this: You can put in your hours, do the things you like to do on your own schedule, but what opportunities are you missing by not putting yourself in the hands of God? The fact is, Christians believe certain immutable truths and those truths don’t disappear when the clock strikes midnight on Sunday, when one walks out the church doors or when one sits down at the computer on Monday morning.
Recently, Cardinal Peter Turkson wrote to business leaders on just this topic, to people who ‘ … daily strive to witness to your faith in Christ and his charity at work in the world… ‘, reflecting, as the Cardinal says ‘ …on what it means to be authentically human in history, society and culture… ‘ The Cardinal – of the Church that Ms. Pelosi believes should be part of her life only 1/7 of the time – affirms that faith should infuse the social order daily in order to create a society where all people’s beliefs are safeguarded, and a government does not dictate behavior.
Ms. Pelosi can choose to believe whatever she wishes, but being a “Sunday only” Catholic isn’t truly an option for her. One either believes – day in and day out – and acts accordingly, or one does not. There is no “religion on Sunday” for Christians.
Reading as many blogs as I do, I’m always grateful when I stumble on a great blog post that is not only thoughtful, but relates to some aspect of our work here at Acton. Jason Summers over at Q Ideas has written an interesting piece titled Where Angels Cannot Tread: Science in a Fallen World. In his discussion of science, he notes humanity is uniquely equipped by God to engage with science.
I believe that we Christians especially should listen to what wise men say, and proceed thoughtfully and with prudence where angels cannot tread. In our efforts to study and learn from the creation and in our critiques of others’ efforts to do the same, we should seek to reflect and embody a right understanding of the theology of science, the nature of scientific practice in a pluralistic society, and the role and authority of institutions of science within that society.
Summers concludes due to the position we have received from God, a proper understanding of the theology of science along with the nature of scientific practice and the place of scientific institutions is critical. He discusses these areas in the post.
Among other things, a knowledge of the theology of science is needful for a correct hamartiological understanding of man. Due to man’s fallen state, labor is needed to grasp the “true nature of the world”, a task which Adam was able to do more intuitively. Additional, a correct theology of science will help one understand the inherent lack of neutrality extant in science.
Check out the full article here.