A couple of months ago, Seattle Pacific University held a conference centered on a new book by Indiana Wesleyan University Provost David Wright, How God Makes the World A Better Place: A Wesleyan Primer on Faith, Work, and Economic Transformation. I was invited to introduce a couple of the meetings at the conference with some remarks tied to David’s work and to Wesley’s thinking on work and economics.
This is what I said at a breakfast event with a roomful of eager SPU school of theology students and fellow-travelers:
Where can we learn from Wesley in the area of work and economics?
Theological first principles
The focus of this primer is “Work as cooperation with God.”
“In the Wesleyan view, godly work is not defined by what one does, but by the way one does it,” says David. I think that’s fair to say, and I would add, not only the way one does it, but the motivations and character out of which those actions flow. In examining the motives behind John Wesley’s extraordinary lifelong dedication toward bringing material as well as spiritual flourishing to the poor, Duke’s Richard Heitzenrater argues that it comes most fundamentally from a Christian virtue ethic, not an ethic of obligation.
An ethic of obligation sets the rules and laws for behavior, and then lays down the imperative: Go and do it! A virtue ethic recognizes that despite what Nike would tell you, you can’t “Just do it.” You have to “be it” before you can “do it.” Ethical behavior flows from ethical character. And ethical character is not a matter of gritting your teeth and performing a series of actions. It is about having your heart changed. Continue reading
Good brief article from Wheaton English professor and C S Lewis biographer Alan Jacobs over at the American Conservative website.
Here’s how he starts off:
Am I a conservative? Heck if I know. All I know for sure is that the good people here atThe American Conservative are interested enough in what I have to say to give me a platform on which to say it. For which I am genuinely grateful.
I am not and never have been a Republican. I feel roughly as alienated from that party as I do from the Democratic Party. I hold a number of political views that strong-minded Republicans typically find appalling: I think racism is one of the greatest problems in American society today; I am not convinced that austerity programs are helpful in addressing our economic condition; I am absolutely convinced that what many Republicans call free-market capitalism is in fact crony capitalism, calculated to favor the extremely wealthy and immensely powerful multinational corporations; I think that for all of the flaws of Obamacare, it was at least an attempt to solve a drastically unjust and often morally corrupt network of medical care in this country; I dislike military adventurism, and believe that our various attempts at nation-building over the past decade were miscalculated from the outset.
So is there any sense in which I might plausibly be called a conservative? I don’t really know; I’ll leave that to others to decide. It doesn’t really matter to me whether I fit into any pre-existing political or intellectual categories. I can only say this: that I do have three overarching political commitments (or beliefs, or convictions) that are more important to me than any others.
Jacobs goes on to articulate three stances that he holds that may be considered “conservative”: (1) a consistent pro-life position, (2) support for the principle of subsidiarity in political and social thought, and (3) need to interact with tradition/the past.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the positions Jacobs identifies here. I am especially delighted to see subsidiarity articulately described and defended. I am with Novak, Nisbet, Chesterton, Belloc, certain encyclicals, and others on the necessity of protecting folks from “the ravishments of the centralized political state” (Nisbet). I also find this a powerful statement of one of our most urgent current tasks: “A great deal of suffering in America today is caused by the evacuation of intermediary structures: the church, the family, voluntary organizations. These intermediary structures are in desperate need of renewal and that can only happen if there is a systematic shift of power, wealth, and influence from state and national governments to local units.”
This is the second half of a two-part article that appeared in the Winter and Spring 2013 issues of InTrust magazine. Both parts, with full graphic treatment, appear here. This half focuses on what seminaries and churches can do to help heal the divide between faith and work in many Christians’ lives today.
Theology for Workers in the Pews
In the last issue of InTrust, Chris R. Armstrong wrote that churches are good at helping people find meaning on Sunday morning, but during the “other 100,000 hours”—the lifetime that people spend earning their daily bread — pastors often have little to contribute. This is unfortunate, because when people labor, it’s possible for them to be co-laborers with Christ who both build up the world, helping it flourish, and also grow in grace, learning new disciplines.
Read the full article at www.intrust.org/work.
In this companion article, Armstrong describes how schools and organizations are making connections between faith and work. In some cases, organizations are helping business leaders to think ethically and theologically. In other cases, they’re helping clergy to engage more intelligently with business leaders in congregations.
Let’s take as given that work matters—it matters to God, and it is most people’s primary arena of discipleship. And let’s agree that the primary role of seminaries and theological schools is to form pastors and scholars who teach and lead people in discipleship. Therefore, it makes sense that theological education should serve a vital role in making the connection between faith and work.
Yet most theological schools are not doing this well. Continue reading
English: Coca-Cola 375 mL cans – 24 pack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So let’s go down the list of the individual tools and substances used to make a can of Coca-Cola, and their places of origin:
Bauxite from a mine in the 4,000-person town of Pinjarra in Western Australia.
Molten cryolite from Greenland.
Bars of pure aluminum shipped from the port of Bunbury, Australia, to Long Beach, California and shaped into cans in a rolling mill in Downey, California.
Corn grown in any number of places, milled and processed in sophisticated ways to produce high-fructose corn syrup.
Vanilla from a Mexican orchid.
Cinnamon from a Sri Lankan tree.
Coca-leaf from South America, processed in a unique factory in New Jersey to remove the cocaine.
Kola nut from a tree in the African Rain Forest.
Processed in Atlanta.
Says the source of all this information (check it out–it’s worth the read):
The number of individuals who know how to make a can of Coke is zero. The number of individual nations that could produce a can of Coke is zero. This famously American product is not American at all. Invention and creation is something we are all in together. Modern tool chains are so long and complex that they bind us into one people and one planet. They are not only chains of tools, they are also chains of minds: local and foreign, ancient and modern, living and dead — the result of disparate invention and intelligence distributed over time and space. Coca-Cola did not teach the world to sing, no matter what its commercials suggest, yet every can of Coke contains humanity’s choir.
You go, civilization!
(Hat-tip to the fascinating NextDraft newsletter.)
Economics and Theology in Creative Partnership:
toward a thriving society
Folks, in April I’ll be in Seattle doing this. Come join me!
The Center for Integrity in Business (CIB) and the Center for Biblical and Theological Education (CBTE) are pleased to co-host a conversation in partnership with the Acton Institute on the intersection of business, economics, and Wesleyan theology. This April 10-12, 2013, series of seminars will examine how Wesley’s theology, with its focus on the complete and practical integration of life and faith in holiness, can speak to marketplace and church leaders alike about building a flourishing workplace.
Speakers include Bob Doll, chief equity strategist for Nuveen Asset Management; Sondra Wheeler, professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary and author of Wealth as Peril and Obligation: Possessions in the New Testament; David Wright, provost at Indiana Wesleyan; Stephen Grabill, research scholar in theology at Acton Institute; and Chris Armstrong, professor of church history at Bethel Seminary.
Check the CIB website or contact Stacey O’Farrell (firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-378-5415) or Tom Lane (email@example.com or 206-281-2054) for more details and registration information.
Having reflected in a previous post on Jonathan Rauch’s recent National Journal on the plight of many working and non-working American men today, I’m going to re-post here a response to Rauch. The original article may be found over at Hang Together.
Jonathan Rauch’s (Mostly) Failed Agenda for Hurting Workers – and What Would Work
College of the Ozarks’ “Hard Work U” Program
I see lots of attention being paid to this article by Jonathan Rauch on the economic crisis of America’s working class. He’s looking at the right problem, but he’s looking at it all wrong. As a result, he misunderstands both the cause and the needed remedy. Continue reading
It is no good to talk about “theology of work” and “faith-work integration” as if these topics somehow floated above the economic realities in which we live. Nobody has to remind us that those realities are pretty grim right now. But we can’t very well address them effectively with the resources of the church–or any other resources–unless we understand what’s going on in our economy.
Does this mean we need to be trained economists as well as pastors, seminarians, theology professors, engaged laypeople? Not at all. A chaplain or pastor can minister effectively in a hospital room without a medical degree. But it sure helps if said pastor has some idea of what challenges a patient might face within today’s medical system; what the patient’s prognosis is and what that will mean for their quality of life; and so forth. Just so with those Christians who today want to address work through eyes of faith.
This is one thing I respect highly about the Kern Family Foundation’s current grant-making activities in evangelical seminaries across the country: the foundation will not let seminaries get away with a surface-y, pietistic approach that majors on our individual gifts and vocations while ignoring economic realities. Indeed, the foundation and its seminary partners are now working toward a set of faith-informed “economic wisdom maxims” that are securely grounded in economic realities. I can imagine few more helpful enterprises in moving forward the faith-work conversation today.
Apropos all this, friend Collin Hansen, Editorial Director over at the Gospel Coalition, brought the following article to my attention. This piece by Jonathan Rauch in the top policy magazine The National Journal is sobering, to say the least. But the first step in solving a problem is knowing you have one. And right now, America has a very big one. Continue reading
Posted in Work with purpose
Tagged Brookings Institution, Economic Policy Institute, economics, education, Gospel Coalition, Jonathan Rauch, marriage, National Journal, responsibility, unemployment, work