Most people work in the private sector, and specifically for a business enterprise of some sort. When we think about workplace renewal, we should consider issues pertaining to work within business enterprises. To be clear, when we speak of business we mean the creative process that is for the purpose of producing and delivering products and services that can be profitably exchanged with others in the marketplace. This is quite different from, for example, using political or family influence with governments to control resources and capture subsidies, or using social coercion to maintain a privileged economic position.
Underlying much of the “faith and work” movement and many of the books on the subject is the assumption that religious people want to connect their faith and their work. In a recent presentation to the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Rice University sociologist Brandon Vaidyanathan questioned this assumption and made some very interesting observations based on his research.During his presentation, he raised the provocative issue that perhaps people usually see faith and work as two competing spheres with separate devotions and would actually prefer to keep them separate.
I think he is on to something important, but I think the problem is not so much that there is a necessary conflict between faith and work, but rather how we understand (or misunderstand) the nature of one or the other or perhaps both.
Different spheres of life have different grammars. By this I mean that not only do we use different words in different spheres, but that the logical rules and structural relationships between the words can be quite different as well. This can create a problem when we are trying to connect our faith and our work — two domains with two different sets of grammar. This is especially true when the differences are unconscious.
Compare the grammar of business with that of the “typical” church.
We are pleased to offer on our Work as a Calling page (link) an article (link) by CFE friend Tony Mulkern on the value of business and business vocations. (Serious Business: Why It Matters). Tony summarizes some of the arguments made by Michael Novak during his CFE sponsored speaking tour a few years ago, and then concludes with his own advise to business owners:
“When you wonder if it is all worth it, remember that you are a symbol, an example, and one of the drivers of a free people freely creating wealth, a society, and a world in which all can pursue their dreams, consistent with the freedom of others.”
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