Review: Hope for the Workplace, Christ in You
Acton Institute Powerblog

Review: Hope for the Workplace, Christ in You

Bill Dalgetty’s Hope for the Workplace, Christ in You is rich with stories of people in business who are struggling to integrate their faith and work lives. Weaving biblical parables with dozens of real life stories gleaned from his experience as president of Christians in Commerce International, Dalgetty points—usually explicitly and sometimes in a more nuanced way—to universal truths of human conscience.

Dalgetty, a career attorney and executive for Mobil Corporation, is sensitive to corporate America’s overly PC culture. He acknowledges that living one’s faith in corporate America is often times difficult because a culture of “inclusiveness” means overt expressions of religious faith are forbidden. In plain, un-lawyer-like language, Dalgetty translates his ardent Christian faith into universal values that would be acceptable in any secular workplace.

The author’s own journey of faith can be pieced together from various anecdotes in the book: He was a highflying attorney for the huge multinational energy corporation and worked primarily in New York City and Northern Virginia. Little by little, his career ambition eclipsed the time and energy he put into his family, his health, and his faith. He continued to go to church, but admits that the faith was only superficial.

That all changed when his wife invited him to a “Week of Renewal” event that was being held by a local Catholic parish. There, he had mystical experience which is described in great detail. As a result of this experience Dalgetty was inspired to begin intentionally fostering a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. While it is clear that the author is a devout Catholic, he is strongly influenced by the mystical and more charismatic communities, giving Hope for the Workplace an ecumenical appeal.

The association which he helped organize, Christians in Commerce, is an ecumenical fellowship of business people who want to bring their faith into their work lives. Stories of mainline Protestants, Evangelicals, and Catholics seem more similar than different: all stories men and women of conscience who feel called to bring a higher moral standard to their workplaces.

Standing for what is right—not what is most profitable or expedient—is never simple. Dalgetty is not preaching any prosperity gospel: Dalgetty’s Christianity requires sacrifice. Most of the stories he relates demonstrate a degree of sacrifice on the part of the faithful. Many of the stories end with material and/or career success, but some of them don’t—and this isn’t ignored or glossed over.

Midway through his career at Mobil, Dalgetty was offered a substantial promotion that would have fast-tracked his career advancement, but required he move his family to New York City. After agonizing for days over the decision, he declined the offer. “It did have a negative impact on my career for a number of years,” he admits.

In another anecdote, a woman who had struggled for many years to find a full-time employment was finally hired on a temporary basis to oversee a major government-funded project at a local college. University officials promised her a full-time position if she exaggerated some of the reporting she was required to submit to the government after the project’s completion. She declined and, as a result, never received the job offer from the university.

Dalgetty explores the most difficult and complex issues that touch folks in the workplace: coping with death and dying among co-workers, chemical dependence, and abortion. He culls the stories from a diverse array of industries: military, medicine, business, nonprofits, government, and education. A theme emerges from the stories: there is no way to avoid the messiness of our lives in our workplaces and that this messiness sometimes requires more than sanitized platitudes of a PC culture; it requires a deeper faith.

If you enjoyed Acton Institute’s latest film project, For the Life of the World, you will find many of the same themes explored in Hope for the Workplace: how to be in the world, but not of the world; how to be a good steward of God’s gifts; how to treat others—even the disagreeable ones—as if we truly believe they are made in God’s image.

If you are looking for a deep exploration of globalization, modern commerce, monetary policy, and the secularization of business ethics, you won’t find it in Dalgetty’s book. He does touch on these ideas, but never in the macro sense. The stories illustrating global trade and huge multinational corporations are fundamentally personal. Even when he describes the ethical failures of huge, modern companies like Enron and WorldCom, the stories are about personal struggles of the people who fudged the numbers or lied to investors.

The whole book can be read in a few hours and it is the human element to all the stories that make it a pleasure to read. The workplace dilemmas presented in the stories are anything but pleasant, though. They are real, difficult, and complex. It is striking how the biblical parables peppered throughout the book speak to modern day challenges. The reader gets the sense that Hope for the Workplace is a compilation of contemporary parables: at once emotionally accessible in their humanness, but also pointing to a more mysterious struggle to grow in faith and in one’s personal relationship with God.