HT: Stan Ott
The Guardian: Boom time for Mozambique, once the basket case of Africa
As African lions outpace Asian tigers, one of the world's poorest states is moving from civil war bust to boom – but who will gain?
... A construction boom is under way here, concrete proof of the economic revolution in Mozambique. Growth hit 7.1% last year, accelerating to 8.1% in the final quarter. The country, riven by civil war for 15 years, is poised to become the world's biggest coal exporter within the next decade, while the recent discovery of two massive gas fields in its waters has turned the region into an energy hotspot, promising a £250bn bonanza.
The national currency was the best performing in the world against the dollar. Investment is pouring in on an unprecedented scale; as if to prove that history has a sense of irony, Portuguese feeling Europe's economic pain are flocking back to the former colony, scenting better prospects than at home. Increasingly this is the rule, not the exception in Africa, which has boasted six of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies in the past decade. The first oil discovery in Kenya was confirmed on Monday, while the British firm BG Group announced that one of its gas fields off the Tanzanian coast was bigger than expected and could lead to billions of pounds of investment. Bankers, analysts and politicians have never been so bullish about the continent, which barely 10 years ago was regarded as a basket case.
From Cape Town to Cairo, there are signs of a continent on the move: giant infrastructure projects, an expanding middle class, foreign equity scrambling for opportunities in telecoms, financial services and products aimed at a billion consumers. Growth is no magic bullet for reducing inequality or fostering democracy, but the stubborn truth that it is still the world's poorest continent has done little to dull the confidence and hype about the African renaissance. ...
USA Today: Evangelicals seek positive change
... But not far below the surface, change is afoot in the ranks of a once-reliable GOP voting bloc and around that term, "evangelical." As has been widely reported, more evangelicals are breaking formation and tackling social problems such as poverty and human trafficking that weren't on the evangelical political agenda a decade or two ago. Even more seismic, though, is a challenge being mounted against the notion that electoral politics is the way to do God's work in America's public life.
In a refreshing departure from the culture war mind-set that has come to characterize this and other recent elections, some of evangelicalism's leading thinkers and spokespeople are trumpeting an important insight: Christians too fixated on politics are bound to end up frustrated and tarnished. And politics is not the only way to create positive change. ...
(This is cross post with a post done earlier today at Jesus Creed.)
How do we create coherence between faith and work? John Knapp has explained how important rethinking vocation is, and how important it is that we carefully consider a moral theology of work. Today, Chapter 7 of How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and what can be done about it), Knapp describes a workplace awakening.
Knapp suggests that an awakening to faith and work issues has emerged in the past ten to twenty years. But even prior to that, there were people who were surfacing the issues. Lutheran steel company executive William Diehl was writing books on this topic in the 1980s. Peter Hammond, connected with Diehl, became influential in Intervarsity with their Ministry in Daily Life work. There were people like Howard E. Butt, Jr., originally connected with the Billy Graham Crusades, who founded the Laity Lodge and an online ministry to businesspeople called TheHighCalling.org.
Knapp lays out several ways people are trying to integrate faith and work. Which ones do you find hopeful and which ones give you concern? Why? Are there other avenues of finding coherence that you did not see mentioned here? What do you think the institutional church might learn from the faith-at- work movement?
My sense is that a move toward more serious theological reflection began about this time. Miroslav Volf published “Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theology of Work,” in 1991, David Krueger published “Keeping Faith at Work,” in 1994, and R. Paul Stevens began publishing a string of books on work and faith, most notably for me, “The Other Six Days: Vocation Work and Ministry in Biblical Perspective,” in 1999. Other authors have emerged in the past decade but I still have the sense that interest in this topic in the theological academy is relegated to a small minority. The real change has been coming from Christians outside the institutions of the church.
Knapp highlights some examples of lay-led ministries that have emerged to hold conferences and retreats, offer resources, and to create networking opportunities. He mentions Kevin Latty’s Souly Business, Chuck Proudfit’s At Work on Purpose, Aric Renicke’s Christian Business Roundtable and Christian Professionals Worldwide, and Richard Boxx’s Integrity Resource Center. There are countless websites and social media initiatives from a variety of and organizations.
Also emerging are attempts by Christians to form groups that meet for study and prayer within the workplace. This is easier within private companies, but some public companies accommodate this, and even some government entities permit this as well. Knapp devotes a section of the chapter to pointing out that this is not without controversy. EEOC requirements and concerns about creating a hostile work environment for people who are not Christian is a challenge. Yet the walls between work and private life have been lowering and many employees want more integrated lives, whether Christians or people of other faiths. Knapp sees this as an area that is likely going to lead to more controversy and the business world is really not ready to reckon with it.
Another response to the faith and work divide has been for companies to openly embrace faith. There has been a rise in the number of “Christian-based companies,” firms that have a Christian vision as part of their business plan. Interstate Batteries, Hobby Lobby, Chic-fil-A, ServiceMaster, Amway, and Covenant Transport, are just a few prominent examples of a growing trend. Many of these businesses network through organizations like the Fellowship of Companies in Christ (FCCI).
Another growing phenomenon is the idea of corporate and industrial chaplaincies. Companies employ or contract with chaplains to be onsite and available for employees. Businesses have organized to provide these chaplains, the largest being Marketplace Chaplains USA, with 2,400 chaplains serving 418 companies. There is formal and ongoing training required to qualify as a chaplain. Chaplains are not involved in overt evangelism but rather offer spiritual support, hospital visitation, and possibly an occasional funeral or wedding.
Finally, there is Business as Mission, or BAM. Here, businesses are established (usually in emerging nations) to evangelize, create jobs, and to apply the profits to various types of community development. Traditional mission models are often not welcomed in some regions in of the world and they are harder to sustain. BAM has somewhat of a tent-making quality, while being more agreeable to authorities, and with the additional benefit of sometimes creating jobs.
What Knapp is pointing to in this chapter is an explosion in the effort by businesspeople to make connection between public life in the business world and faith. For a more comprehensive look that reviews the past century of faith and work developments, read David Miller’s God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement, published in 2007.
Whether reading Knapp or Miller, I have a conflicted response of both hope and disquiet. The hopeful part is that people are working at finding coherence in their lives. There are hundreds of organizations rising up as Christians help each other navigate the challenges. That is a good thing and there is a role for this type of service.
But the disturbing reality is this. We already have thousands of communities all over the nation that should already be offering the kind of integration and support that these disciples are craving. They are called congregations! From what I can tell, virtually none of the ministries being described are congregation based or are about equipping congregations to be more effective at addressing the faith and work divide. Concerning the movement to address the divide, Knapp writes:
“… Today the movement is flourishing, aided greatly by social media and globally networked organizations, yet without much involvement by the institutional church. Indeed, many of today’s most successful work-related ministries were born out of frustration with the church and its failure to respond to and obvious need and opportunity.
The rise of this trend is well-documented by Princeton University’s David W. Miller in his book God at Work. He concludes, “The church and the theological academy have a choice: they can sit on the sidelines, ignore the movement, and let it pass them by, or they can learn from it, engage it, and help shape the theology and practice of faith at work.” (123)
A few paragraphs later Knapp writes:
“Diehl, Hammond, Butt, and others like them erected a platform of ideas that has allowed a multifaceted movement to thrive through the initiative and leadership of laypeople. The institutional church, meanwhile, has been less than enthusiastic about these ideas, preferring to redefine lay ministry as more active involvement in existing church programs. ‘Whether church professionals never fully absorbed that, by definition, the location of lay ministry was extrinsic to the gathered church or whether they were threatened by a loss of power and control is open to debate,’ writes Miller.”
As someone from a Mainline Protestant perspective, I confess that many sectors of the movement are not all that comfortable for me. It often feels very white, very male, very Republican and deeply entrenched in conservative Evangelical and Pentecostal milieus. I worry that some of what I see too heavily equates Christian faith with patriotic American civil religion. The theological reflection, at times, strikes me as much less than adequate.
Still, these folks are making the effort to find coherence, even if the effort is being made from outside the institutional church. The Mainline churches have vacated the arena altogether. In fact, I sometimes wonder if rather than seeing the daily world of business as something that needs attention from Mainline theology and institutions, there isn’t an ethos that says that business is “conservative” and that isn’t what we do. With so many people in Mainline pews from business backgrounds, and with declining numbers of people involved in these denominations, it is quite remarkable to me that the movement to find coherence between work and faith is virtually nonexistent in Mainline tribes, except possibly in the case of a few isolated congregations here and there.
Muchas felicidades! Hispanic babies, born in the U.S. at a rate four times the total population between 2000 and 2010, are still gaining ground in the youngest of demos. While a slight dip in the birth rate correlated with the economic crisis, the parting of recessionary clouds and a recovering housing market may reignite what has been a steady cultural explosion.
One-fourth of children in the U.S. are Hispanic. While this expanding segment represents a marketing opportunity, many of them are second- or third-generation, and accordingly, advertisers need to keep culture and language in mind.
“They’re growing up in this dynamic and are very much acculturated, but they’re seeing how their parents operate and are still influenced by the cultures of their grandparents,” said David Hohman, evp and global performance director for MRM Worldwide.
Advertisers targeting this group can use Hispanic actors and models, but have them speak in Spanglish. Marketers also need to be aware of differing media habits. Hispanic kids, for example, multitask more than non-Hispanics, with 21 percent below the age of 8 using more than one medium most or some of the time.
New York Times: Average cost of U.S. wedding hits $27,021
(Reuters) - New York, where the average cost of a wedding is $65,824, is the most expensive city in the United States to get married but many couples will spend about $27,000 to tie the knot and that doesn't include the cost of the honeymoon.
Most things in Manhattan and the New York metropolitan area are expensive and weddings are no exception, according to the wedding websites TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com, which polled nearly 18,000 U.S. brides who were married in 2011 about the cost of their big day.
Chicago came in second with wedding costs of $53,069, but metropolitan New York, which includes Long Island and counties north of New York and the city's boroughs, neighboring New Jersey and Rhode Island rounded out the top five.
The price tags ranged from a high in Manhattan, which topped the poll of 20 cities to Detroit, where couples spend $27,017 on their nuptials.
The state of West Virginia, where nuptials cost an average of $14,203, was the least expensive wedding location.
"For the first time since 2008, wedding budgets are on the rise," said Carley Roney, cofounder of The Knot. "In 2011, one in five U.S. couples spent more than $30,000, and 11 percent spent more than $40,000 on their weddings," she said. ...
I could comment on this and risk getting blasted as an unromantic fuddy-duddy but I will hold my peace. (Is that sublte/diplomatic enough?)
(This is cross post with a post done earlier today at Jesus Creed.)
Today we continue with John Knapp’s How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and what can be done about it). We turn now to Chapter 6, “A Moral Theology of Work.”
The business environment can often present significant ethical challenges. Where might we begin as we think about ethical behavior? Knapp suggests a good place to start is with Micah 6:8:
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”
Is it possible to be competitive in business while loving justice and kindness, and walking humbly with God, while grounded in love and responsibility?
What would it take to create the five-fold moral community Knapp describes?
Is Micah and the Jesus Creed the place to ground our ethical reflection or would you frame things differently?
Grounded in Love
Knapp says this definition of what is good is grounded in the Jesus Creed: Love God, love neighbor. What would it mean to respond to others out of this ethic in business? Knapp writes:
“An ethic of love goes beyond both duty (keeping promises, telling the truth, doing a job well) and compliance (with civil law, contractual requirements, or employment policies), both of which are necessary in the workplace. Love recognizes that every person is unique and must be cared for individually, whether or not a rule mandates it. This requires us to take the time and effort to discover what actually meets the other’s need.” (101)
To Do Justice
Business people are to be advocates for justice within their sphere of influence. It goes beyond just upholding the law. It is about pursing more just structures and behaviors. Sadly, Knapp writes:
“Paul Camenisch, a theologian with expertise in business ethics, believes that the church has failed to convey to believers their personal responsibilities for doing justice at work. In a critique of Protestant policy statements on economic justice, he writes, “Seldom if ever are Christians addressed as influential actors responsible in their vocations for seeing that, within their power, justice is done. They are not seriously challenged to ask questions about the human impact of their actions as workers, managers, consumers, and owners on their fellows …” As we have discussed, church pronouncements on economics tend to critique the macroeconomic system with little or no thought to the difficulties faced by individuals or organizations within the system.” (103)
To Love Kindness
We are not just to do kind things but to love kindness. We might easily see the natural application of this to our coworkers or customers. How about to our personal rivals or the competition?
To Walk Humbly
“It is easy fall prey to an illusion of becoming self-sufficient through the accumulation of material wealth.” (106) And with this sense of self-sufficiency can come a sense of entitlement. That entitlement can be evidenced in the form of smug condescension or even as envy of others for what should “rightfully” be one’s own. For Christians there is a danger of self-righteous as we strive to be more “Christ-like” than others. I’m inclined to think that walking humbly may be the slipperiest of all. Knapp sees it as the precondition for the first two.
Central to living out this ethic is an embrace of responsibility. Knapp writes:
“This [human] potential includes the capacity for genuine responsiveness in all relationships, for authentic discipleship is a process of learning to enact Christian love in every circumstance. H. Richard Niebuhr … proposes that responsibility is defined chiefly by how we respond to others including God. This concept of responsibility as response-ability may be a better way to think about ethics than adherence to abstract more principles, compliance with rules, or even achievement of good outcomes. The responsible Christian must be fully attentive to the “decisive present” and the possibilities of God’s activity through the lives of others.” (109)
With the response-ability we have, we are to make “fitting responses” based on God’s justice.
Referring back to the survey results mentioned in the first post in this series (where people from all walks of life considered an ethical dilemma they had once faced), Knapp writes:
“Few of the dilemmas reported by our research subjects could be reduced to neat choices of right over wrong, good over bad. Nor were they problems where rules could determine the best course of action. The inherent difficulty in most of the cases involved conflicting values and priorities.” (111)
In short, ethical decisions are frequently messy. Two legitimate ethical concerns may be in competition with each other. On top of this, we are frequently distracted by competing demands and time pressures. All this requires conscious effort to be truly present in the decisions we are making.
Questions to guide us
Knapp offers a list of questions we might ask ourselves when we face difficult questions with justice, kindness, and humility grounded in love and responsibility (His questions with my summary sentence):
The Necessary Role of the Church
Knapp closes the chapter with an important section called “The Necessary Role of the Church.” He lists five facets of faith community that should be present to equip and support people in the workplace. (The short summaries of each listing are mine, not Knapp’s.)
A Community of Moral Discernment – Rarely are any of us capable of answering the above questions on our own. Including people who know us, love us, share our commitment to God, and/or may have special insight into how to process some of these questions, are essential to sound discipleship.
A Community of Moral Discourse – People within a faith community often don’t agree with each other on particular problems but it is often the civil debate about a problem that helps us individually to come to better conclusions. The church needs to be a place for honest questions.
A Community of Moral Influence – Individuals often find they are powerless alone to address injustices that emerge in the work world. Congregations and denominational bodies are needed to work in support of efforts to reduce injustice and be supportive of businesspeople needing to take difficult stands.
A Community of Moral Encouragement – The business world is frequently messy. Rather than casting businesspeople as tainted Christians, we need to pray for them and support them as they work to integrate their work and faith (even as we help build the expectation that they should do so. )
A Community of Moral Example – The church needs to engage in just employment and financial practices if it expects the broader world to give any heed.
This concludes the summary of Chapter 6. I’m not sure I’ve done it justice. I hope folks will read the book. But this chapter raised two issues for me that I want to briefly mention … one economic and the other theological.
I love the use of the Micah passage grounded in love and responsibility as a starting point for ethical reflection. And Knapp is exactly right that love is not about having warm fuzzy sentiments but rather about knowing individuals and seeking their good. Knapp is calling us to look at the neglected realm of everyday micro-economic business decisions and giving us tools to live out our calling in that context. But as we move to the meso and macro levels of economics, to decisions that deal with large firms and interactions beyond the firm, I think it becomes impossible to meaningfully apply the “love” principle.
A signature feature of advanced market economies is the ability of firms to gather and coordinate large numbers of people. Markets create vast webs of interconnection among people (who will likely never meet each other), allowing us to benefit from specialization and exchange with countless strangers. It is not possible for a businessperson to “love” hundreds/thousands of others in a businessperson’s own firm, much less those outside the firm, in the sense we have described above. Theologian Economist Paul Heyne wrote in an essay (“Morality of Labor Unions.” Chapter 24 in Are Economists Basically Immoral?, 429.):
“What does justice mean in this world of completely impersonal transactions? If we take the most general definition of justice – giving to each their due – how do we decide what each is due? In such a world the Golden Rule is simply irrelevant. Social transactions in a market-coordinated economy cannot be governed by the principle “Do for others what you would like them to do for you.” The appropriate rule is what someone has called the Silver Rule: “Do not do to others anything that you would consider unfair if they did it to you.” (429)
I do not want to minimize the important framing that Knapp has offered here. Rather, I want to emphasize that as we move much outside the sphere of face-to-face community, we encounter inescapable sociological realties that may require a different kind of ethical analysis. We can’t simply deal with larger institutions as a family (or face-to-face community) writ large. All the more reason why we need communities of disciples to help us work our way through ethical thickets.
The theological thought I had goes directly to Scot’s King Jesus Gospel. Scot rejects the Evangelical tendency to collapse “gospel” into “salvation.” The King Jesus Gospel is about Jesus’s completion of the story of Israel and that story is rooted in the creation story, including the first great commission of exercising dominion over creation and the redemption of that mission. But I don’t think it is just the Evangelical world in Protestantism that needs rethinking.
In my Mainline PCUSA world, gospel is typically about rectifying wrong, either via compassion or justice advocacy. If Evangelicals have a “salvation gospel ,” as Scot says, then my tribe has a bias toward a “justice gospel.” Just as the King Jesus Gospel includes salvation, it also includes justice, but “gospel” cannot be collapsed into salvation, justice, or their combination. The King Jesus Gospel includes (among many other things) redemption of the first great commission. Neither the salvation gospel nor the justice gospel will do. Without the King Jesus Gospel there is no reason to give focused attention to the issues Knapp is raising. Work is peripheral to the “real” issues of either salvation or justice. I think the real starting place for a moral theology of work likely must begin with our understanding of gospel.
Lausanne Global Conversation: An Indian Perspective on Business as Mission by Daniel Devadatta
I believe the time has come for more Christians to unashamedly enter the realm of business in India. It is time for the larger Christian community to support, encourage and even challenge Christian business persons in terms of the influence they have and can have in the public square. How will the gospel shape business people in one of the most exhilarating periods in the history of our nation?
In my daily work I am an encourager of Christian business professionals. The market, the work place and the people who function in this realm are my parish. This post reflects a personal narrative of what I have discovered in this journey amongst business persons.
First of all, it is my conviction that business is a moral and spiritual calling. It is an equally legitimate calling like all other callings; a task set by God who calls some for the sake of others.
In my engagement with those business persons who have this inner sense of calling to business, I have found a deep passion and determination. They do not merely enjoy what they do, they have the sense that this is what they were meant to do. They wake up each day to see how their business can actually do something worthwhile in society. They ask themselves: what does it mean to run a successful business where the vendors, customers, suppliers, government and bureaucratic officials, employees, etc., experience the love of God? Business for them is making a tangible difference in the lives of others, be it their customers or employees, or the myriad web of relationships that develop through business. They are called by God to serve Christ and others in and through their business.
There is an emerging world-wide network of such business persons. We are beginning to see it even here in India, Christian business people operating their business ‘as mission’. However, much more work needs to be done by the church and Christian organizations to encourage business persons in their business calling, and provide resources that strengthen them in their primary place of influence. ...
HONOLULU (AP) — Hollywood icon James Cameron has made it to Earth's deepest point.
The director of "Titanic," ''Avatar" and other films used a specially designed submarine to dive nearly seven miles, completing his journey a little before 8 a.m. Monday local time, according to Stephanie Montgomery of the National Geographic Society.
He plans to spend about six hours exploring and filming the Mariana Trench, about 200 miles southwest of the Pacific island of Guam.
"All systems OK," were Cameron's first words upon reaching the bottom, according to a statement. His arrival at a depth of 35,756 feet came early Sunday evening on the U.S. East Coast, after a descent that took more than two hours.
The scale of the trench is hard to grasp — it's 120 times larger than the Grand Canyon and more than a mile deeper than Mount Everest is tall. ...
... Actually, that's not really accurate. The chart above shows the manufacturing shares of GDP for the U.S., the entire world economy and four of the countries cited in the study (Japan, Germany, Finland and the Netherlands) as having a "stable or growing" shares of GDP using United Nations data here for the years 1970 to 2010. For all five countries and for the world economy, the manufacturing shares of GDP fell to historic all-time lows in 2009, before increasing slightly in all cases in 2010. Like the U.S., manufacturing's share of GDP has fallen in Germany, Japan, Finland and the Netherlands.
It’s also interesting to note that the decline in manufacturing’s share of U.S. GDP over the last forty years (from 24% to 13%) is nearly identical to the decline in world manufacturing as a share of world GDP, which fell from 27% in 1970 to 16% in 2010. Therefore, we can conclude that the declining share of manufacturing’s contribution to GDP is not unique to America, but reflects a global trend as the world moves from a traditional manufacturing-intensive Machine Age economy to more a services-intensive Information Age economy. ...
... Manufacturing’s declining share of output isn’t a sign of economic weakness - it’s just the opposite. It’s a sign that advances in manufacturing productivity and efficiency translate into lower prices for consumers when they purchase goods like cars, food, clothing, appliances, furniture, and electronic goods. In the U.S., the price of goods relative to services fell by 52 percent between 1970 and 2010, so it’s not surprising that manufacturing’s importance in the economy has fallen significantly.
As spending on manufactured goods as a share of household income declines, it raises our standard of living, and for that “decline in manufacturing” we should celebrate, not complain.
A longer version of this post appears today at the National Chamber Foundation blog.
New York Times: From Engineering Marvels, a Turnaround in U.S. Oil Output
... Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have been around for years, but over the last five years, engineers have fine-tuned these and other techniques, even as many environmentalists worry about their impact on water and air.
Computer programs have been developed to simulate wells before they are even drilled. Advanced fiber optics permit senior engineers at company headquarters to keep track of drillers on the well pad, telling them when necessary where to direct the drill bit and what pressure to use in injecting fracking fluids. Seismic work has become far more sophisticated, with drillers dropping microphones down adjacent wells to measure seismic events resulting from a fracking job so they can more accurately determine the porosity and permeability of rocks when they drill nearby in the future.
Just a decade ago, complete wells were fracked at the same time with millions of gallons of water, sand and chemical gels. Now the wells are fracked in stages, with various kinds of plugs and balls used to isolate the bursting of rock one section at a time, allowing for longer-reaching, more productive horizontal wells. A well that once took two days to drill can now be drilled in seven hours. ...
... But new adhesives and harder alloys have made diamond cutters and drill bits tougher in recent years. Meanwhile, Apache experimented with powerful underground motors to rotate drilling bits at a faster rate. Now, a well that might have taken 30 days to drill can be drilled in just 10, for a savings of $500,000 a well. ...
... “We’re having a revolution,” said Steve Farris, Apache’s chief executive. “And we’re just scratching the surface.” ...
... Environmentalists are critical because burning more fossil fuels contributes to climate change.
“Life needs to be protected and global warming is the most profound threat to life on earth.” said Jay Lininger, an ecologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is pushing the federal government to protect wildlife from the effects of drilling in the Permian Basin, the Gulf of Mexico and the Alaskan Arctic. ...
Slate: The Economics of The Hunger Games
Could any real country have an economy like Panem’s? Actually, yes.
At first glance, the economic landscape depicted in Suzanne Collins’ best-selling Hunger Games trilogy doesn’t make much sense. Despite its post-apocalyptic condition, the fictional nation of Panem is quite technologically advanced. It has high-speed trains, hovercrafts, extraordinary genetic engineering capabilities, and the ability to create extremely advanced weapons. And yet Panem is also a society of tremendous economic inequality, with clear examples of absolute economic deprivation and even famine.
Economic theory teaches us that over the long term, prosperity is driven by two factors—capital accumulation and the “Solow residual” of technology—and that of the two elements the technology is more important. Perhaps the best example comes to us from the experience of Germany and Japan around World War II. These were, before the war began, prosperous, technologically advanced societies rich in industrial capital. They had the capacity, in other words, to build the tanks and bombs and aircraft carriers one would need to mount a successful effort at global conquest. But during the course of the war, the capital stock of both countries was run down to almost nothing by massive Allied bombing. In the very short-term, this impoverished both countries, but they bounced back remarkably quickly. Knowing how to build a prosperous society, in other words, was more important than actually having the physical stuff.
So how can Panem, more than 70 years after the conclusion of its last major battle, be so poor and yet so rich in knowledge?...
... District 12 is a quintessential extractive economy. It’s oriented around a coal mine, the kind of facility where unskilled labor can be highly productive in light of the value of the underlying commodity. In a free society, market competition for labor and union organizing would drive wages up. But instead the Capitol imposes a single purchaser of mine labor and offers subsistence wages. Emigration to other districts in search of better opportunities is banned, as is exploitation of the apparently bountiful resources of the surrounding forest. With the mass of Seam workers unable to earn a decent wage, even relatively privileged townsfolk have modest living standards. If mineworkers earned more money, the Mellark family bakery would have more customers and more incentive to invest in expanded operations. A growing service economy would grow up around the mine. But the extractive institutions keep the entire District in a state of poverty, despite the availability of advanced technology in the Capitol.
Similar conditions would apply to the plantation agriculture we briefly see portrayed in District 8, and presumably other commodity-oriented Districts such as 7 (lumber), 10 (livestock), and 9 (grain). On the other hand, Collins wisely avoids going into detail about what life is supposed to be like in Districts specializing in luxury goods or electronics. It’s difficult to have a thriving economy in electronics production without a competitive market featuring multiple buyers and multiple sellers.
Absent market competition, personal computers never would have disrupted the mainframe market and the iPhone and Android never would have revolutionized telecommunications. Entrenched monopolists have no interest in developing new technologies that shake things up. It’s difficult to get real innovation-oriented competitive markets without secure property rights, and exceedingly difficult to have secure property rights without some diffusion of political power. That needn’t mean real democratic equality—a standard the United States and Europe didn’t meet until relatively recently—but it does mean fairly broad power-sharing, as the U.S. has had from the beginning.
But Collins is right in line with the most depressing conclusion offered by Acemoglu and Robinson, namely that once extractive institutions are established they’re hard to get rid of. Africa’s modern states, they note, were created by European colonialists who set out to create extractive institutions to exploit the local population. The injustice of the situation led eventually to African mass resistance and the overthrow of colonial rule. But in almost every case, the new elite simply started running the same extractive institutions for their own benefit. The real battle turned out to have been over who ran the machinery of extraction, not its existence. And this, precisely, is the moral of Collins’ trilogy. [Spoiler alert: Ignore rest of this story if you haven’t finished the trilogy.] To defeat the Capitol’s authoritarian power requires the construction of a tightly regimented, extremely disciplined society in District 13. That District’s leaders are able to mobilize mass discontent with the Capitol into a rebellion, but this leads not to the destruction of the system but its decapitation. Despite the sincere best efforts of ordinary people to better their circumstances, the deep logic of extractive institutions is difficult to overcome, whether in contemporary Nigeria or in Panem.
I'm presently doing a chapter by chapter review of the book at Jesus Creed. I'm also posting the reviews here at the Kruse Kronicle. Chapter Six will be posted tomorrow. Here are links to each of the first five entries at Jesus Creed. There are three more to come and the series will be complete next week:
HOMEWOOD, Alabama -- A pastor once asked a professor for advice on how to handle a controversy in his church. The largest financial supporter of a Baptist church was nominated to the board of deacons. He happened to be the owner of a busy liquor store.
No one ever complained about his large donations to the church, but his nomination to the deacon board aroused a furor.
That's one of the scenarios addressed in a new book by Samford University professor John C. Knapp, founding director of Samford's Francis Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership. ...
... Many times there is an implied devaluation of any work that is not Christian ministry, he said.
"We will go to great lengths to set aside time to pray for people going to do a short-term mission project in Mexico; this is seen as doing the Lord's work," Knapp said. "Do we take time to pray for a person who is starting a new job? Do we pray for new college students looking for a career? Do we commission them for discipleship in those contexts?" ...
... There is reasonable caution about blatant evangelism in the workplace, he said.
"It's not about evangelizing the workplace," Knapp said. "It's about how do you find meaning in your work." ...
... The church needs a doctrine of vocation -- calling to be disciples in whatever their line of work -- and a moral theology of work, Knapp said. ...
I'm presently doing a chapter by chapter review of the book at Jesus Creed. I'm also posting the reviews here at the Kruse Kronicle. Chapter Six will be posted tomorrow. Here are links to each of the first five entries at Jesus Creed. There are three more to come and the series will be complete next week:
Black, White and Gray: Are Religious Organizations Like Firms?
Can ideas from economics, such as that monopolies are lazy and that competition leads to better products, be applied to understand religion? Every year I teach my students–both those in my class on economic sociology and those in my class on sociology of religion–about the economistic or the rational choice perspective on religion.
Most people think individual religious behaviors and religious organizations are driven by emotions, theology, and/or tradition. But rational choice theories of religion are modeled are assumptions about human behavior now current in mainstream economics: humans are rational, self-interested beings who seek to maximize rewards and minimize their costs. What makes religion so powerful in motivating human behavior is that most religions promise rewards or punishment in another life. ...
... Talking about religion as a product marketed to buyers and sellers sounds appealing, saying that Methodists and Baptists are just like competing car firms is intriguing, and arguing that martyrs aren’t crazy but rational is counter-intuitive. Ultimately, however, rational choice theory doesn’t provide a comprehensive explanation of individual religious behavior or organizational religious behavior. Do some things about religion resemble market behavior? Yes. That is why I always teach rational choice theory: it provides unique insights into religion. As long as rational choice theory and its assumptions about forward-looking and self-interested behavior are considered alongside other important explanations of religious behavior, I think it makes an important contribution to understanding religion. But rational choice ultimately only tells us some things about religion, not everything, nor even the most important things about religion.
All social analysts–whether paid academics scholars like myself, journalists or readers of this blog–should put rational choice explanations of behavior alongside other perspectives, such as cultural and organizational theories. For example, it was not only competition from new religious movements or community megachurches like Willow Creek that led to the declining identification with religious denominations in America, but also important theological changes within those denominations about the authority of scripture, among other things. Dramatic cultural changes since the 1960s have also changed what people expect from religion–the God some people seek out today may be an authoritative God that expects sacrifice but for many others seek a therapeutic God who provides psychological comfort on demand. ...
... He says gasoline demand peaked in 2007 and has fallen each year since, even though the economy has begun to recover.
"The U.S. has already reached what we can call 'peak demand.' Because of increased efficiency, because of biofuels, we're not going to see growth in our oil consumption," Yergin says.
That view is shared by the government's official source of energy data, the Energy Information Administration. Its long-term projection is that gasoline consumption will steadily decline by around 7 percent over the next 25 years.
Howard Gruenspecht, the EIA's acting administrator, says the projection does not take into account the latest proposal on automotive fuel efficiency, likely to be approved later this year. It requires fleet averages of 54.5 miles per gallon.
"If you put those into the mix, we would expect a somewhat steeper decline in overall liquid fuels demand, and gasoline demand in particular," Gruenspecht says. ...
(This is cross post with a post done earlier today at Jesus Creed.)
Real estate people say real estate is about three things: location, location, location. Well I suspect integrating business and faith is also about three things: vocation, vocation, vocation. “Vocation” comes from the Latin vocare meaning “to call.” “God calls each of us into the divine relationship, and we respond to this call through the living of our lives, including our work lives.” (89) You might say that vocation helps us understand our location within God’s mission.
Today we move to the second part of the John Knapp’s How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and what can be done about it). The first four chapters have explored the nature of the divide between work and faith. The last four chapters invite us to think about how we might find coherence. Chapter 5 “Rethinking Christian Vocation” is the topic for today.
Does Knapp’s description of vocation match your understanding of the term? What impact does this understanding of vocation have for the sacred/secular, eternal/temporal, and public/private dualities we discussed last week? What do you think about the Naaman story and the idea that we can be whole working in a less than perfect business?
Knapp opens with a story about a man who told him that, “God called me out of AT&T” into a “business as mission” enterprise that would aid the poor in emerging nations. I’ve heard many similar stories myself. But Knapp wants to know, is it possible that God calls some people into AT&T and to remain there? Do we have a theology that would support this idea?
Knapp reminds us that:
“The Scriptures affirm even the most basic forms of work, not necessarily because they yield individual wealth or even happiness, but because they nourish life and prevent suffering (e.g., Gen 3:19; Prov. 14:23; Prov. 20:13; Eccles. 9:10; 2 Thess. 3:10-11).” (88)
Calvin believed that everyone must work. Work is part of the mission to which God has called us. It is partly through our work that we demonstrate we are part of the elect. I’m not sure most of us are ready to go that path with Calvin but the positive legacy of the Reformation was in realizing, as Knapp says, “…that work is not merely a means of survival but is a service to God in the ongoing process of creating and ordering the world.” Work is not primarily about personal gain but about seeking the welfare of others as we serve God.
Knapp points us to a helpful distinction about primary and secondary calling. We all have a primary calling to follow Christ and a secondary calling to do so in a particular context. Our primary call becomes particularized in a secondary call. We are called to a particular family, a community, and to a particular work. Our identity is in Christ but we are commissioned to serve in particular ways.
Knapp raises an issue that called to my mind the oft repeated Frederick Buechner quote, ‘Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need’. It is indeed special when someone can find employment that matches some great passion. My experience is that this is not the case for most of us. Work more typically is about providing for our own needs, being of service to others through the work we do, and serving family and friends with the wealth we create. It is about service to God in both good and difficult circumstances. I’m reminded that it is possible even for a slave to live out his or her primary vocation in work:
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.” Col 3:22-25
Knapp suggests that, “We are to be as faithful as possible within the confines and limitations of our own situations, whatever and whenever they may be.” (90)
He goes on to say:
“Certainly we should seek God’s guidance when considering career choices, but Christians would do well to give much more attention to discerning God’s will in their current situation. Are our lives the sum of random experiences, or has God’s hand and providence brought us to a place where we may serve here and now?” (91)
Now Knapp points out that this “serve where you are” idea can be taken too far. Luther believed that based on 1 Cor. 7:17 (“each of you should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him”) that each person should stay in the station to which he or she had been born. Many have also concluded that this means there is only one occupation to which God calls each of us and that if we want to find God’s will then must discern what that call is. This is a misreading of the passage. Paul was making the case that new Christians need not alter their status, including work, as a result of their newfound faith. Unfortunately, this “one true calling” idea is widely shared and the source of considerable anxiety for some Christians. A false sense of “higher callings” or anxiety about missing the one true job may actually take us away from where we might best be of service.
In essence, I read Knapp to say that it is not so much what we do for an occupation but whether we are serving Christ in that occupation. But it is not true that every expression of work is as legitimate as any other. Most Christians would agree that a pornography store is not a legitimate business. Other examples are not so clear. How about working for a cable company that includes pornographic programming? Should a Christian work for a military contractor (particularly if you a pacifist)? What about a bank that exploits low-income borrowers? Knapp writes:
“How, then, can a Christian know when to leave a job for moral or spiritual reasons? Sometimes the answer is obvious, as when some activity risks criminal liability. At other times it’s a matter of gauging one’s potential for changing things for the better.” (95)
“To be sure Christians should be unwilling to participate in some activities or even to hold certain jobs, but leaving a situation must always be weighed against the potential of staying for the benefit of others. Although either decision may be difficult, the latter usually takes an extra measure of courage and spiritual stamina.” (97)
There is no simple formula.
I particularly appreciated Knapp’s reflection on the story of Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5:1-19). (You may recall that Naaman is one the gentiles of great faith Jesus mentions at the announcement of his ministry in Luke 4:27.) Naaman was the commanding officer over the Syrian army, Israel’s enemy. He discovers he has leprosy. A servant girl tells him of a prophet that can heal him. He gets permission from his King to visit Israel. He goes first to the King of Israel to request permission to see the prophet. The King of Israel is suspicious and will not see him, but sends him on to Elisha. Elisha also refuses to see him but sends out his servant to tell Naaman to wash in the Jordan seven times. A bit insulted, Naaman hesitates but finally decides to go wash in the river and he is healed. Naaman gives credit to God and declares there is no other God but the God of Israel.
But now he must go back to Syria and return to his command. That will mean kneeling to pagan gods, an act of blasphemy against the one true God. As Knapp says, “His public actions in the workplace will conflict with his personal faith.” (96) He is deeply concerned to have Elisha intercede with God on his behalf so that he may be forgiven of his inevitable transgressions. Elisha simply instructs him, “Go in peace.” “The prophet pronounces God’s blessing with the assurance that it is possible for Naaman to be whole and undivided in his workplace.” (97) Finding that sense of wholeness seems to be the key.
Knapp is suggesting that we need to revisit and rethink the idea of vocation. Doing so has two important implications. First, it communicates that what I do in my daily work life matters greatly to God. It integrates my life with God’s mission. Second, because my life is integrated, it communicates that what I do in my daily life is subject to Christian ethical reflection. So recovering a sense of vocation is the first piece in addressing “what can be done about it.” Maybe the first place pastors and church leaders can start is to cultivate a greater awareness of vocation and how our work is connected to God’s mission in the world.
The Christian Post: Youth Turned Off by Religion and Politics, Turn Away From Church
... One of the most surprising findings from the data they collected, Campbell said in a March 13 interview with The Christian Post, was that people are driven away or toward religious involvement because of their political leanings. In particular, those who are politically conservative, or Republican, are more likely to become churchgoers and those that are politically liberal, or Democratic, are more likely to turn away from religion.
This is the opposite of previous understandings of the interaction of religion and politics. Social scientists believed that people first got involved in a particular religion, which then influenced their politics in some way. Increasingly, more studies like Campbell and Putnam's are finding, though, that politics is more likely to determine religion than religion determine politics.
Campbell likes to use the image of a "brand" from marketing. The Republican brand has been increasingly associated with religion and social conservatism due to the influence of the Christian Right, a social movement which has been a part of the Republican coalition since the 1980s. Moderates and Democrats are uncomfortable with that brand and seek to not be identified with it.
"A lot of what goes on in politics is not so much people thinking through political positions but it's sort of a visceral reaction you have to a brand, whether it be Republicans or Democrats," Campbell said. ...
... "Anything you might say about the general population, double it or square it when you talk about the young," Campbell said.
Since young voters are more likely to be politically liberal, especially on the issue of gay rights, they have been driven away from the church by the perception of a close association between religion and Republican politics.
To young adults, Campbell and Putnam write, "'religion' means 'Republican,' 'intolerant,' and 'homophobic.' Since those traits do not represent their views, they do not see themselves – or wish to be seen by their peers – as religious." ...
... "The reason this is important for clergy is these are not people who are lost completely to religion. It's almost like they're an untapped constituency, or untapped market, that could be brought back to a different kind of religion, or a religion that they thought was stripped of politics," Campbell argued.
There is a trend among nondenominational evangelical congregations that attract younger Christians to avoid involvement in politics. Campbell believes that the pastors of these congregations understand more intuitively what his data is showing more crudely – that young people dislike their religion mixed with politics.
And yet, it seems to me, that the vision of many in the PCUSA world is to offer a very political left version of the church as the alternative to the Christian Right. It is just a different "brand" of the uholy elevation of politics to the center of church's agenda. Stripping the church of all political reflection seems a bit too far to me, but with each passing month I'm more and more persuaded that the future lies in a church that integrates daily life with God's mission in the world, and includes people of all politcal stripes wrestling together through the issues that confront us.
...Here at the Work Research Foundation we believe in markets. We believe markets to be the best way—no, the only sane way—to structure interactions in economic life. We don't only believe this because of the historical evidence from the complete failure and ghastly horror of socialism and fascism, but even more because we consider markets to be built into the very design of economic life. Markets as the proper setting for economic interaction, for buying and selling, are in our view a feature of the structure of reality. So we flagrantly support the idea and the reality of a market economy.
But this does not mean we support the idea of a market society—what Warren Bennis calls "a bottom-line society." Human life is not all about economics. Contrary to rational choice theory, we human beings do not make all of our decisions simply in terms of cost/benefit analyses.
While economic life needs room to flourish, and needs protection from the encroachment of excessive government intrusion, it also needs limits. The sphere of economic life does not only provide businesses with a space for their wealth-generating manufacture of products and provision of services, and labour unions with a space for negotiating fair participation in these activities—it also sets the outer limits for business and labour. ...
The Atlantic Cities: Uncovering the World's First Cities
... By analyzing satellite imagery, archaeologist Jason Ur and computer scientist Bjoern Menze have identified thousands of settlement sites in one section of the Fertile Crescent. They've mapped more than 14,000 settlement sites in a 23,000-square-kilometer region in northeastern Syria, and they suggest that their method can be used to map the entire region. Their work appears in this month's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Ur and Menze trained a computer program to analyze the satellite imagery's pixels to detect large concentrations of "anthropogenic sediments" – the remains of buildings and settlements now turned to dust, mounding up from the alluvial basin of this part of Syria, and detectable through radiation from the near infrared and infrared spectrum.
"One of the conclusions that we've drawn – and this won't be a terrible shocker – is settlements that were closer to perennial water sources or in areas of higher rainfall tended to have longer life histories, they tended to be larger in volume," says Ur. ...
... This new map also challenges previous ideas that the earliest cities were official constructs, created by kings or rulers. Ur says that places like Tell Brak show that early urbanization developed organically.
"We're talking about 6,000 years of urban development in one place. And cities change through time. This is one thing that’s really emerging from intensive research that’s been done in the last ten years: there's no one model for the city," says Ur. "There are any number of different approaches."
Urban Perspectives: Referring Jesus Bob Lupton
The Atlantic: What Isn't Sale for Sale?
Market thinking so permeates our lives that we barely notice it anymore. A leading philosopher sums up the hidden costs of a price-tag society.
I'd quibble with the author at some specific points. It is hyperbole to say "everything" is up for sale. Creating markets for some things brings more of those things into existence. It doesn't destroy them. Creating markets to curb negative externalities or to rectify the "tragedy of the commons" can be the most just response. Still, I like his closing paragraph:
A debate about the moral limits of markets would enable us to decide, as a society, where markets serve the public good and where they do not belong. Thinking through the appropriate place of markets requires that we reason together, in public, about the right way to value the social goods we prize. It would be folly to expect that a more morally robust public discourse, even at its best, would lead to agreement on every contested question. But it would make for a healthier public life. And it would make us more aware of the price we pay for living in a society where everything is up for sale.
On a related note, watch this clip by William Pollard, Chairman Emeritus of ServiceMaster Company:
(This is cross post with a post done earlier today at Jesus Creed.)
The Godfather movie trilogy has one of my favorite takes on ethics with business: (insert best Brando voice here), “It’s not personal. It’s business.” And then there is the infamous tell-all Mayflower Madam from the 1980s, Sydney Biddle Barrows, who said, “I ran the wrong kind of business, but I did it with integrity.” We chuckle at such rationalizations but it isn’t only mafiosos and madams that feel the need to compartmentalize. Many people in business feel the same pressure.
Have you ever experienced role strain in your work life? Have you ever caught yourself justifying questionable behavior by convincing yourself you were “playing by the rules?” Is there some sense in which ethics might play out differently in work environments versus other contexts?
What impact, for good or ill, has your work life had on shaping your identity?
We continue today with John Knapp’s How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and what can be done about it). The first two chapters looked at how both business and the church contribute to the faith and work divide. The third chapter looked at the church’s ambivalence about money. Chapter four, “Divided Worlds, Divided Lives,” rounds out the first part of the book where Knapp has been describing how faith and work became worlds apart. The final four chapters will explore ways we might move toward coherence. The challenge explored today is how to live as if Jesus is Lord in a compartmentalized world?
A central aspect of Modernism was faith that we can find unity in broadly shared values. The Christian narrative and the secular modernist narrative battled to gain preeminence. But now, faith in any broad narrative has collapsed. In postmodernism, there is no overarching narrative. Societal institutions have become independent, developing their own rules and norms. As Peter Baelz says, “… individuals and groups fashion their own ideals and society is held together by a minimal morality which is sufficient to make life in society possible.” (70)
“Where the self of modernity was vaunted as a locus of rationality, autonomy, and individual freedom, the de-centered and splintered self of postmodernity is described by Anthony C. Thiselton as no longer “regarding itself as an active agent carving out any possibility with the aid of natural and social sciences, but as an opaque product of variable roles and performances which have been imposed upon it by the constraints of society and by its own inner drives and conflicts.” (71)
While we may have many roles we tend to gravitate to the roles that give us the most status and satisfaction. For many, particularly for skilled professionals, the work role is often dominant. Absent any overarching ethic, we convince ourselves that as long as we are living within the rules for our role that we are behaving morally. Conforming to the rules begins to mold us so that our identity becomes integrated with the role. The role provides our meaning in the absence of a broader narrative. Adherence to the rules, a type of legalism, becomes our comfort and gives a sense of order. Conscious reflection on relationships and the greater purposes to which God has called us is crowded out.
But as Christians, we at least assent to the idea that Jesus is Lord of all and that God’s ethics apply to all of life. My sense is that much of what passes as ethical behavior in most businesses in most industries most of the time is not out of accord with ethical Christian living. The two worlds are not wholly antithetical. But what is our response in the significant number of cases where Christian ethics and the “rules and norms” of a business don’t mesh? What is our response when our career comes to define our very identity? We experience what is known in sociology as role strain. One response, Knapp writes, is:
“To avoid self-condemnation and to lessen role strain, we may allow ourselves to accept that what counts as moral or immoral, as important or unimportant, is relative to the situation or role in which the distinction is made.” (76)
“The irony of this should not be lost on Christians. The more we wish to think of ourselves as faithful and moral people, the more prone we may be to rely on self-deception to maintain this preferred belief in the face of our own shortcomings. We may amplify anything that confirms a desired view of ourselves while giving little weight to evidence that we are falling short.” (76)
Knapp reminds us that at times the church has even unwittingly abetted role-based compartmentalization with things like misreadings of Luther’s “two kingdoms” doctrine. But surely the bigger challenge today is the church’s inability to articulate a narrative that shapes discipleship outside our private lives in a fragmented postmodern world. (Stay tuned.)
Finally, Knapp includes a quote in footnote 10, from Stanley Hauerwas’ A Community of Character:
“Christians are forbidden to despair in the face of dividedness of the world. On the contrary, we are commanded to witness to others that there is a God that overcomes our differences by making them serve his Kingdom. The task of the Christian is not to defeat relativism by argument but to witness to a God who requires confrontation.” (73)
As I read this footnote, a couple of things occurred to me. I think there are many church leaders who have correctly seen an uncritical accommodation of the church to society. Too often the church’s mission has collapsed into being a provider of religiosity services focused on therapeutic self-improvement. Thinkers like Hauerwas have called us back to a robust witness of Christ’s reign and Lordship. No argument there. But just how does this witness manifest itself?
Here is what I think I see emerging in my Mainline Presbyterian world. I see a new generation of pastors who are committed to challenging accommodation and to being bold witnesses for Christ. If older generations have been accommodationist, then the new generation is going to work for social justice. The energy now is toward churches creating programs and networks devoted to any number of justice concerns.
Still lost in all of this is that a significant majority of us spend most of our waking hours in some type of business environment. Switching the church’s identity from being a religiosity market to a social justice outpost does nothing toward reintegrating daily life with the missio dei … the mission of God. Both are exercises in extracting people from the primary locus of their vocation and diverting them to other tasks. Both send the subtle message that “real ministry” is what happens apart from our daily life. Both effectively leave the church as something supplemental to our “real lives.” Hauerwas’ charge is left unheeded in precisely the area where individual Christians have the greatest opportunity to fulfill it.
I’m not dismissing collective efforts to work for justice. They are essential. But to elevate justice work to the detriment of faith and work integration, of equipping people for the practice of everyday living, of sending disciples forth into their work environments, strikes me as “supplying” a religiosity product “marketed” to a new generation that has a “demand” for social action. Daily work life remains neatly in its own compartment, untouched by the Kingdom of God.
This concludes the first part of the book. In the next post we will begin to examine some ideas Knapp has about how me can work toward coherence in our lives.
This is a wonderful lecture!
Two great quotes. On the centrality of how we see "the gospel" and salvation. He has just been speaking about salvation being an invitation to enter the Kingdom of God here and now:
“Are we preaching a gospel that has a natural tendency to produce disciples or do we simply preach a gospel that generates consumers of religious goods and services. A gospel of mere forgiveness does not produce disciples. … We are now wedded to a gospel that does not produce disciples in any regular connection and that’s how we get a culture of Christians who are not disciples. And that’s where we are today. And if we’re going to deal seriously with this issue of taking theology and spiritual disciplines into the workplace we have to recognize where the problem is. And the problem is, what we get by grace through the gospel does not extend to the workplace. There’s no conceptual connection between being saved, as that is commonly understood, and taking our workplace for Christ.” Minute 36
What is discipleship?
“I’m learning from him [Jesus] how to lead my life in the Kingdom of God as he would lead my life if he were I.” Minute 37:50
“The church is for discipleship but discipleship is for the world, the world under God.” 58:30
“Salvation is participating in the life that Jesus is now living on earth.” 58:50
Pew Internet: Social networking sites and politics
Here are some interesting graphs about how liberals, moderates, conservatives deal with political differences they encounter on social networking sites (SNS). Seems liberals and conservatives or more likely than moderates to discover a friend has different political views than they expected. Liberals are a litlle more likely than moderates or conservatives to drop or block someone they disagree with. The more to the extremes you are the more likely you are to say that you agree with most posts by your friends, suggesting the presence of echo chambers.
I've never dropped a FB friend over political issues. I have dropped several twitter feeds from people (from both sides of the spectrum) who contiually tweet snarky political comments, and I've moved FB friends to categories in my feed where I see them less often. I enjoy discussing politics but echo chamber snarkiness is wearisome no matter which perspective it comes from.
Powerblog: How to Love Liberty More Than a Libertarian Economist Joe Carter
... As the ancient Greeks used to say, when the gods want to punish someone, they give him what he prays for. That would certainly be true for anyone praying for a libertarian state. If such a request were granted the libertarian state would quickly be replaced by one in which freedoms were broadly curtailed. A prime example of what I mean can be found in the way libertarianism would have dealt with the recent housing crisis. Consistent libertarians would say that we must not separate choice from consequences, and so the proper response would be to let the banks fail and the mortgage holders lose their homes.
Let’s concede for the sake of argument that the libertarians are right and that this would have been the proper and preferable response. What would have been the effect of such a policy? The answer depends on whether you assume that America is secretly composed of 300 million libertarians. If it is, then we can expect that everyone would shrug and stoically accept their fate, even if it meant the annihilation of our economy. If it were not, then the result would be that few people would have the stomach to accept such consequences. The citizens would empower both progressives and the government to help them avoid the consequences of their actions. That is essentially what happened with the non-libertarian safety net that we already had in place. If Americans had endured the forced austerity required by pure libertarianism it would have lead to an even more empowered and intrusive government.
Libertarianism could be, in theory, the greatest political theory of all time. But in reality it suffers the fatal flaw shared by all utopian schemes: a failure to account for how humans actually behave.
This is why I believe conservatism (the non-ideological variety) is superior in reality to libertarianism. At its best, conservatism takes a realistic accounting of human nature before making policy proscriptions. It starts with what is possible in the earthly realm rather than what is merely preferable in the realm of pure abstraction. Conservatism recognizes that there are unchangeable and contingent variables that must be factored into every political equation. ...
Emma Edwards, 26, has no control over the fine motor muscles in her hands, which stay tightly and awkwardly clenched. She also can’t talk, walk or move her arms more than 20 inches at a time.
Edwards, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2001, can write e-mails, though, and she’s revisiting a favorite pastime, sketching, for the first time in a decade, thanks to her iPad and software applications that can cost as little as $7.
That’s a switch from the $15,000 communication device she had tried, a 9-pound machine approved by her insurer that tracks eye movement on a special grid corresponding to the alphabet. That device kept her tied to those in the room around her. The iPad, along with several other consumer-driven apps, has reopened the world to her.
“You see the joy on her face” when she’s using it, said her mother, Jill. “It represents freedom for her.”
Edwards, of Rochester, Minnesota, is part of a grassroots movement sweeping the $1 billion-a-year assistive-technology market. While Pittsburgh-based DynaVox Inc. (DVOX), closely held Tobii Technology from Stockholm and Prentke Romich GmbH of Kassel, Germany, dominate the field, the advent of Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPad and an open operating system that enables anyone to create software is changing the way thousands of disabled people communicate and take care of their daily lives. ...
New York Times: After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses
After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print.
Those coolly authoritative, gold-lettered reference books that were once sold door-to-door by a fleet of traveling salesmen and displayed as proud fixtures in American homes will be discontinued, company executives said.
In an acknowledgment of the realities of the digital age — and of competition from the Web site Wikipedia — Encyclopaedia Britannica will focus primarily on its online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools. The last print version is the 32-volume 2010 edition, which weighs 129 pounds and includes new entries on global warming and the Human Genome Project.
“It’s a rite of passage in this new era,” Jorge Cauz, the president of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., a company based in Chicago, said in an interview. “Some people will feel sad about it and nostalgic about it. But we have a better tool now. The Web site is continuously updated, it’s much more expansive and it has multimedia.” ...
I remember having a set (1960 eidtion as I recall) in our living room. From my earliest days I remember thumbing through a volume looking at pictures and, as I learned to read, reading entries that caught my eye. I especially spent endless hours studying the world atlas.
Wall Street Journal: A Field Guide to the Middle-Class U.S. Family
Anthropologist Elinor Ochs and her colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles have studied family life as far away as Samoa and the Peruvian Amazon region, but for the last decade they have focused on a society closer to home: the American middle class.
Why do American children depend on their parents to do things for them that they are capable of doing for themselves? How do U.S. working parents' views of "family time" affect their stress levels? These are just two of the questions that researchers at UCLA's Center on Everyday Lives of Families, or CELF, are trying to answer in their work.
By studying families at home—or, as the scientists say, "in vivo"—rather than in a lab, they hope to better grasp how families with two working parents balance child care, household duties and career, and how this balance affects their health and well-being.
The center, which also includes sociologists, psychologists and archeologists, wants to understand "what the middle class thought, felt and what they did," says Dr. Ochs. The researchers plan to publish two books this year on their work, and say they hope the findings may help families become closer and healthier. ...
(This is cross post with a post done earlier today at Jesus Creed.)
Henri Nouwen once observed that when people came to him for counseling, most of them would open up and readily discuss the most intimate details of their sex lives. But when he began probing about personal finances, body postures became closed and people would want to know why he was getting so personal. Money is important to us.
Today we continue our discussion of John Knapp’s How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and what can be done about it). We are looking at Chapter Three, “Uneasy Bedfellows: Money and the Church.”
How do you reconcile the historic ambiguity about wealth and money? Going back to at least Calvin we have the realization that we are not in a zero-sum game but that wealth can be grown. Does this matter for how we see wealth? Why do you think we in the church find it so hard to wrestle theologically with money and wealth?
Dr. Knapp believes the divide between businesspeople and the church is rooted in a related issue: the Christian community’s longstanding ambivalence toward money. This is important because work and money are inextricably connected in our culture. Money and wealth are the means by which we “keep score” in our society, not just in terms of how we rate possessions but, unfortunately, too often it is how we value people. Money and wealth have been a central concern of Judeo-Christian ethical teaching from the start. In this chapter, Knapp gives us a brief survey of “Money and the Church” over the ages.
Frankly, the Bible offers us a seemingly conflicted perspective. Wealth is presented as a blessing on some occasions while on other occasions we are warned not to desire wealth, even to renounce it. Knapp recounts several passages dealing with wealth in the Old Testament and sees three common themes:
As we come to the New Testament, things become more challenging. An ethic of selflessness, of taking care of other members of the Christian community, is central. There is teaching about forgiving debts. Jesus says that money may have spiritual power over us. We are told that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. How does one reconcile a modern pursuit of profit and loaning at interest with the Bible?
The Early Church: A Community of Sharing and Sacrifice
Knapp gives a quick sampling of teaching on money from the time of the New Testament on through to Constantine and on to Augustine of Hippo. There is some diversity of opinion but Knapp sees four common themes:
The Middle Ages: Greater Accommodation to Wealth
In the millennium between Augustine and Luther, Knapp sees greater accommodation to wealth. Pope Gregory I in his Book of Pastoral Rule (a work that guided bishops for centuries) suggests that the rich not be condemned simply for being rich. He generalizes the rich man in the “eye of the needle” parable to mean any proud person. The medieval church relaxed restrictions on money-lending. Care for the poor was reduced to almsgiving.
At the same time, the church was becoming a major multinational entity, owning as much as one third of the developed land in Europe by 900. By the Thirteenth Century the church was making loans, often with ruthless enforcement. Knapp concludes:
“Medieval teachings on money were limited almost exclusively to individual practice (micro-economics in today’s terminology). It is fair to say that the church had not developed a theology capable of informing its own exercise of vast institutional and macro-economic responsibilities.” (60)
The Reformation: Rethinking Work and Its Monetary Rewards
Concern about financial behavior of the church was one of the sparks of the Protestant Reformation. Selling of indulgences was of particular concern. Knapp notes that many of the reformers, including Luther and Calvin were revisiting theology and ethics in light of the rise of a mercantile economy.
“No longer was wealth seen as “zero-sum game” where one person’s gain was another’s loss. These theologians recognized that a growing economy could provide new financial opportunities for the poor, that almsgiving was not the only way to help them.” (61)
Luther wanted to recover the dignity of work but he felt people should remain in their ordained life station. Calvin took a more radical view, seeing profits through business and investments as an opportunity to expand service. He broke with church history and encouraged people to pursue greater wealth, not for superfluous luxury but to create more to give to the poor. Economic development would give the poor “… the opportunity to work hard and to demonstrate they are among the elect.” (62) Still, even as he opened the door for capitalism (which came later), Calvin also stressed that generated wealth was to be used for the benefit of others, not self-centered pursuits.
Our Contemporary Confusion
Liberalism in the Enlightenment broke with historic Church teaching, advocating pursuit of personal enrichment without regard for the achievement of just ends. It was in stark contrast to the church’s historical teaching. That departure has certainly expanded the work and faith divide.
Knapp writes at the end of this chapter:
“So it is that some churches embrace money-talk with gusto, while others tiptoe around the subject except when necessary to raise the annual church budget. In either case, little serious attention is given to the practical concerns of working people struggling to apply their faith to questions of money in their own lives.
More often, major church bodies have taken the easier route of critiquing the macro-economic system and it injustices. They issue studies and pronouncements on economic policy, the moral shortcomings of capitalism, the effects of globalization, and other important matters that are not easily connected by Christians to their daily lives. Almost never do these pronouncements offer much help for living and working with an imperfect and frequently unjust system. Too often, these macro-economic statements suggest to individuals that the church is hostile not only to the system but also to the people who participate in it by going to work. Where the pre-Reformation church concerned itself with the economic life of the individual but had little to say about economic systems, the opposite is largely the case today.” (66)
In short, ambiguity reigns. Dr. Knapp is indeed an ambitious soul to try to capture 2,000 years of church teaching in twenty pages but I think he gives us a useful summary.
In the next chapter we will turn to the socio-psychological impact of the divide between faith and wealth. In succeeding chapters we will explore Knapp’s suggestions about how we might achieve some coherence.
Blogs are sometimes overlooked as a significant source of online buzz in comparison to social networking sites, yet consumer interest in blogs keeps growing. By the end of 2011, NM Incite, a Nielsen/McKinsey company, tracked over 181 million blogs around the world, up from 36 million only five years earlier in 2006. ...
... Bloggers: Who are they?
It’s no surprise that the growing number of blogs mirrors a growth in bloggers. Overall, 6.7 million people publish blogs on blogging websites, and another 12 million write blogs using their social networks.
So, who are blog writers and what else do they do online?
Salisbury Post: Willimon: Mainline is going to be sidelined
... It’s not that people are leaving mainline churches to join these other churches. Instead, they typically drop out of church-going altogether, Willimon said. “Mainline Protestantism was the last stop.”
Why? Mainline churches “had unknowingly given people a theology of godlessness,” Willimon said.
“We adjusted so much to the culture that the line between church and Rotary seemed rather thin.”
The theology of accommodation that served well during times of cultural satisfaction has proved unsuited to the modern-day dissatisfactions people are experiencing in their jobs, family and lives, he said. They’re looking for a faith that looks at what’s wrong with the world.
The people who remain in mainline churches tend to be older, he said, and some predict a “death tsunami” will decimate the congregations. ...
(HT: Alan Bevere)
New York Times: Hits, and Misses, in a War on Bribery
Until recently, federal prosecutors had won settlements in nearly every battle involving charges of foreign bribery by multinational corporations and their executives. But in late February — indeed, the very week that Mr. Stanley was sentenced — the Justice Department had an embarrassing setback: it abruptly withdrew the biggest case ever brought against individuals under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
It was an extraordinary turn of events. The F.B.I. had recorded 800 hours of video and audio as part of a sting operation involving supposed arms contracts in Africa. Twenty-two executives had been arrested.
Then the whole case fell apart. In a withering appraisal, the federal judge in the case, Richard J. Leon, called the government’s effort “a long and sad chapter in the annals of white-collar criminal enforcement.” Its approach to the law, Judge Leon said, had been “very, very aggressive.”
THE development opened the door for critics who assert that federal authorities have overstepped in trying to fight corruption overseas. They say that the crackdown, which began in earnest three years ago, has made it harder for companies to win legitimate business and that it has needlessly instilled fear among executives. Many companies would rather make any charges brought under the act go away with a quick settlement than try to fight them in court.
“We are seeing companies getting scooped up in aggressive enforcement actions and investigations,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of the United States Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform, which is pushing to modify the law. “A culture of overzealousness has grabbed the Justice Department.”
“The last time I checked,” Ms. Rickard added, “we were not living in a police state.”
Such heated criticism aside, federal authorities say they are unbowed.
Lanny A. Breuer, the assistant United States attorney general who has stepped up enforcement actions under the act, said he saw no reason to change course. In fact, he is expanding his staff — and his range of potential targets. ...
... AS they pursue their overall campaign, federal authorities have their work cut out for them. As business has gone global, so has graft, particularly as companies in rich nations push into poorer regions. The World Bank estimates that $1 trillion in bribes is paid annually to government officials. In Africa alone, $148 billion is siphoned off annually, according to Transparency International, a global nonprofit group that tracks corruption. ...
... Leading the efforts to modernize the corruption act — or weaken it, in the eyes of the government — is the Chamber of Commerce. The group, in Washington, has been in discussions with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission about new guidelines on enforcement. That guidance, expected later this spring, would give corporations a better notion of what they need to do to stay on the right side of the law.
Corporate America clearly wants its views heard.
“You are dealing with criminal liability, and that strikes fear and terror through the heart of the corporate suite,” said Ms. Rickard at the chamber.
In a letter signed by more than 30 trade associations, the chamber asks that the guidance allow companies with strong compliance programs to use that as a defense against liability. It also asks that the definition of a “foreign official” be more limited and that companies not be held accountable for the past wrongdoing of foreign companies they may purchase, among other provisions. ...
... Mr. Breuer and other government lawyers have spoken out against the provisions. They have been joined by 33 human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Oxfam America and Transparency International. ...
The stern warning issued from the pulpit was directed at the tourists — most of whom had arrived late — a sea of white faces with guidebooks in hand. They outnumbered the congregation itself: a handful of elderly black men and women wearing suits and dresses and old-fashioned pillbox hats.
"We're hoping that you will remain in place during the preaching of the Gospel," a church member said over the microphone at this Harlem church on a recent Sunday morning. "But if you have to go, go now. Go before the preacher stands to preach."
No one left then. But halfway through the sermon, a group of French girls made their way toward the velvet ropes that blocked the exit. An usher shook his head firmly, but they ignored him and walked out.
The clash between tourists and congregants plays out every Sunday at Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the oldest black church in New York state. It's one of many Harlem churches that have become tourist attractions for visitors from all over the world who want to listen to soulful gospel music at a black church service. With a record number of tourists descending upon New York City last year, the crowds of foreigners are becoming a source of irritation among faithful churchgoers.
To preserve the sanctity of the service, pastors struggle to enforce strict rules of conduct. But the reality is that these visitors are often filling church pews that would otherwise remain empty — and filling the collection basket with precious dollar bills.
"Our building is in need of repair," church member Paul Henderson said after the service. "We need assistance. They're helping to sustain us." ...
... From a map like this, a player can quickly learn both where he should try to shoot during a game (the red spots) and where he should shoot during practice (the blue spots). A coach, meanwhile, could layer the equivalent map for each one of his players on top of one another and find in the visual data inspiration for new plays that lead each man to one of his sweet spots. And for the mere fan, such maps can not only lead to a greater understanding of the game, but also provide at least a hint of the aesthetic pleasure that makes basketball enjoyable in the first place. As Michael Scott might say, win-win-win.
From UNICEF: An Urban World.
This graphic depicts countries and territories with urban populations exceeding 100,000. Circles are scaled in proportion to urban population size. Hover of over a country to see how urban it is (percentage of people living in cities and towns) and the size of the urban popluation (in millions).
Dallas Morning News: Is the world getting better?
Centre College professor Beau Weston operates an interesting blog, the Gruntled Center. He put up a post last week that draws from a lecture he recently gave at his Kentucky college. In the post and lecture, Weston, a Presbyterian, makes the argument that the world has gotten better.
He notes how violence is down in most "competent" nations, authoritarianism is in retreat worldwide, various forms of discrimination have diminished, food production is growing exponentially, air quality has improved, the population bomb has been a dud and transportation costs are cheaper. He lists a number of other indices, which you can read about on this link.
So, here is the question for the week:
Is the world getting better?
We certainly read a lot in, yes, newspapers about things going awry. Republican candidates making the case against Barack Obama offer ample examples of the world being a mess. And many a book has been sold about the next coming crisis.
But are we looking at all this the wrong way. Is it indeed the case that the world is getting better? ...
The article goes on to list the responses by several religious leaders. Weston looked at a wide range of social indicators. While we can quibble about precise definitions of better, it is without question that on balance the overwhelming majority of manifestations of what social scientists generally associate with well-being are getting better for more people.
Now because I have written on this topic several times, and I know how determined people are to hear me (and people like Weston) say what was not said, let me be clear. "Better" is not a synonym for perfect. "Better" is not a synonym for the consummated Kingdom of God. "Better" is an adjective that speaks to the condition of something being in a more desirable state relative to another state. On most of the key measures of human well-being, things are getting better.
The profound reluctance by so many people in theological institutions to acknowledge that the world is getting better on a host of measures never ceases to amaze me. If you read some of the responses, people counter the claim that we are living in a period of rapid decline in worldwide violence by pointing to events in Syria. Imagine if there were 100 house fires in your city last year and this year there year there were only ten. Would you say there has been an improvement in the rate of house fires? And what would you say to someone who pointed to a neighbor's house (one of the ten that burned) as evidence that there was no improvement in house fires?
One of the respondents was Cynthia Rigby at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She writes:
In the year 2000, the United Nations made a "Millenium Goal" of eradicating extreme global poverty by the year 2015. This goal will not be reached, nor will any significant strides have been made toward reaching it.
The goal was not eliminate poverty but to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015. From yesterday's New York Times: Dire Poverty Falls Despite Global Slump, Report Finds:
WASHINGTON — A World Bank report shows a broad reduction in extreme poverty — and indicates that the global recession, contrary to economists’ expectations, did not increase poverty in the developing world.
The report shows that for the first time the proportion of people living in extreme poverty — on less than $1.25 a day — fell in every developing region from 2005 to 2008. And the biggest recession since the Great Depression seems not to have thrown that trend off course, preliminary data from 2010 indicate.
The progress is so drastic that the world has met the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme poverty in half five years before its 2015 deadline.
“This is very good news,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the United Nations’ special adviser on the Millennium Development Goals. “There has been broad-based progress in fighting poverty, and accelerating progress. There’s a lot to be happy about.” ...
Food production may be growing, but there are more undernourished people living on the planet than there were fifteen years ago (the Food and Agricultural Association of the United Nations reports that there were 824 million undernourished people in 1996 and 925 million in 2010). This is the case even though (according to statistics provided by the Word Bank), the number of people in the world making less than $1.25 a day decreased from 1.94 billion to 1.29 billion from 2005-2008. The large number of natural disasters, in recent years, is one reason why there are more undernourished people even though there are fewer people who make less than $1.25 a day. There are roughly 100 million people, worldwide, who do not have homes (think: 12 times the population of New York City).
How should people of faith interpret these statistics?
Here is how this person of faith interprets those statistics. There were 5,766,435,620 people in 1996 and there were 6,840,423,256 in 2010. So lets do some math:
Percentage of the world population undernourished:
We have a modest improvement in the percentage of people that are undernourished. The growth in the absolute number of people who are undernourished is about to plateau and then begin to decline. In other words, the world is getting better! Responses like the ones in the newspaper article are indicative of the mindset in the Mainline theological establishment.
I routinely reflect on where this hyper-sensitivity to acknowledge improvement comes from. What I think I read between the lines is a fear that if improvement is acknowledged that this somehow is an invitation to stop pursuing an even better world. If I have a friend who is trying to lose 50 pounds and he tells be me that so far he has lost 35 pounds, then is acknowledging that his weight has gotten "better" a signal that he should stop trying? Can there can be no celebration until the fiftieth pound is lost? If anything, my friend will be motivated to press on. Celebration of milestones give us greater motivation just as those who are wrestling with human flourishing issues around the world get encouraged by improvement and want to see more of it, better and faster.
At any rate, Bill Clinton was right, "There is a lot of good news out there. We are going to have to learn to deal with it."
For some excellent resources I would recommend three interesting books:
Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler
The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley
Upside: Surprising Good News About the State of our World by Bradley Wright
For the single best video that illustrates what is happening in the world you need to see Hans Rosling’s four minute video below. The Diamandis video just come out and it is very helpful as well.
New York Times: Dire Poverty Falls Despite Global Slump, Report Finds
WASHINGTON — A World Bank report shows a broad reduction in extreme poverty — and indicates that the global recession, contrary to economists’ expectations, did not increase poverty in the developing world.
The report shows that for the first time the proportion of people living in extreme poverty — on less than $1.25 a day — fell in every developing region from 2005 to 2008. And the biggest recession since the Great Depression seems not to have thrown that trend off course, preliminary data from 2010 indicate.
The progress is so drastic that the world has met the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme poverty in half five years before its 2015 deadline. ...
... The report contained a raft of statistics showing broad declines in poverty throughout the 2000s. For the first time since the World Bank started keeping statistics in 1981, poverty fell in every region of the world on a three-year timeframe. In sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty fell below 50 percent for the first time. And between 1981 and 2008, poverty fell to just less than a quarter of the developing world’s population from more than half .
Much of the story was about China, which moved nearly 700 million people out of poverty between 1981 and 2008, with the proportion of its population living in extreme poverty falling to 13 percent from 84 percent during that period. The country’s annual pace of economic growth never dipped below 9 percent, even in 2009, when the world’s economy contracted.
But perhaps the most surprising success story is sub-Saharan Africa, where the proportion of people living in extreme poverty actually increased through the 1990s, before declining in the 2000s.
“People used to worry, ‘Is Africa going to be poor forever?’ ” said Mr. Kenny of the Center for Global Development. “Well, it doesn’t really look like it, does it?”
Extreme poverty in the Middle East and North Africa fell to just 2.7 percent in 2008 from 4.2 percent in 2002. And extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa fell to 47.5 percent in 2008 from 55.7 percent in 2002. ...
Christianity Today: The Best Ways to Fight Poverty: The Responses
Editor's note: February's cover package, "The Best Ways to Fight Poverty—Really" (part one, part two), received remarkable numbers of pageviews, praises, and protests. It also provoked responses from many organizations devoted to fighting poverty. Today, leaders of those ministries respond, including World Vision US president Richard Stearns, Samaritan's Purse president Franklin Graham, Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford, HOPE International president and CEO Peter Greer, World Relief president and CEO Stephan Bauman, Food for the Hungry workers Greg Forney and Lucas Koach, and TEAR Australia national young adults coordinator Matt Anslow. Also today, Christianity Today senior managing editor Mark Galli, whose article "A Most Personal Touch" led off the February cover package, replies to the ministry leaders.
The Church Is the Solution? Show Me the Stats
Why I haven't changed my mind on fighting poverty and the job of the church.
The Local Church's Neighbors Are Everywhere
The church isn't just a network of institutions trying to stretch across the globe.
Poverty Has Many Enemies
The solution does not require a choice between individuals and institutions.
The Biggest Poverty-Fighting Tool: Job Creation
Employment for the poor restores their dignity and keeps them off their knees.
We Can't Do Everything
But we can change systems to protect the poor, and that requires cooperation on all fronts.
What Do You Mean by Poverty?
Overcoming poverty is possible and proven. But superficiality has paralyzed the church.
Focus on Solving the Poverty of the Soul
Our aid to the poor should always address their area of greatest need.
Christians Really Do Reduce Poverty
Government change often can't get to the root of the problem of poverty. The church does.
(This is cross post with a post done earlier today at Jesus Creed.)
The business world frequently hinders our integration of faith with work but the church creates its own obstacles as well. We continue today with John Knapp’s How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and what can be done about it). The previous post looked at how the business world contributes to the divide between faith and work. Now we are looking at Chapter 2, “The World of the Church.”
Knapp begins this chapter by supplementing his survey findings with other research. In short: there is a deep divide between businesspeople and the church. He finds some businesspeople have internalized the idea that Christian ethics have little to do with work life. Work is accepted as a separate sphere of life. Quoting Helmut Thielicke, Knapp describes work for many as “… a temporal sphere in which the radical commandments of the Sermon on the Mount do not seem to apply, a sphere which consequently cannot be called into question.” (27)
Still, many businesspeople do seek integration of work and faith but they do so apart from pastors and the church apparatus. The widespread perception is that pastors don’t know their circumstances and don’t care (or frankly, pastors may even be hostile toward them). Furthermore, Robert Wuthnow believes that many pastors are fearful of addressing issues because they don’t understand peoples’ lives, or maybe because they feel that work is a “neutral zone” where they should not be meddling.
Knapp identifies three dualisms that contribute to the divide. The first is the sacred and secular split. A perceived hierarchy of occupations is pervasive in the church. At the top are sacred professions like clergy, missionaries, and church professionals. These are followed by the helping professions with nurses, teachers, and social workers. At bottom are businesspeople and a number of other professionals.
Yet we find no hierarchy in the New Testament. Knapp suggests the gradation emerged in the church in the generations after the New Testament era. Greek culture elevated contemplation above physical labor. As the church became more integrated with the Greco-Roman world, a hierarchy of work took hold. The Protestant Reformation pushed back against this idea with the “priesthood of all believers” but it left intact the idea of paid clergy as the “real” priesthood.
“We should ask ourselves what is being communicated when a church allots time on Sunday morning to commission a short-term mission team for ten days in Mexico, yet does nothing to commission new college graduates for their careers in business or government or education. The crippling and unambiguous message is that ten days of volunteer work are more important to the church - and, by implication, to God – than a Christian’s lifelong occupation.” (29)
(In fact, why not have periodic commissioning services for people as they take new jobs? As a bit of shameless self-promotion, I’ve written a sample commissioning liturgy for Presbyterians. Click here.)
The second duality is the eternal and temporal divide. For most of the New Testament era, Christians expected an imminent return of Christ. On balance, the New Testament is focused on how to live in the turbulent last days before Christ returns. Little focus is given to the “first great commission” of tending and caring for creation, “… real work that is at once both temporal and sacred.” (35) The bias is still in evidence today, particularly in evangelical and pietistic traditions, with an inordinate individualistic focus on personal salvation to the detriment of a more full orbed view of mission in the world that includes the first great commission.
The third duality is the public versus private divide. Here Knapp is critiquing the reduction of the church into a refuge for therapeutic healing in our private lives with no sense of equipping people for transformative work in the world.
Knapp rounds out the chapter with two more dynamics that contribute to the work and faith divide. He points first to theological education. He includes a quote by Laura Nash and Scotty McLennan summarizing their findings from a survey of 154 seminary students from 14 diverse seminaries about their preparation to minister to members of the business community:
“When we probed for a particularized connection between faith and work, the response showed little depth or experience. When asked what business books or journals they studied, very few had any experience at all. When asked, “Have you discussed or been given any scripture passages to study with the explicit purpose of understanding God’s message with respect to business or the responsibilities of businesspeople?” respondents offered a range of passages that tended toward portraying bad business behavior.” (37)
Knapp reviewed the 2008-2009 course catalogs of eighteen leading seminaries and divinity schools from across the Christian spectrum. He found:
“Only a few electives at a handful of the schools are described as addressing vocational or work-related issues. Several more focus on broader economic topics, such as social justice for the poor. Yet these institutions collectively offer dozens of courses on marriage, family, children, hospital visitation, psychological counseling, and other topics most relevant to the private sphere.” (38)
Theological scholarship, where it touches on business at all, is more oriented to macroeconomic critiques than to economic life at the micro (individual) or meso (organizational) levels. Here I would interject a quote from Miroslav Volf’s , “Work in the Spirit: A Theology of Work” (1991):
“Theologians are to blame for the former negligence [of studying work]. Amazingly little theological reflection has taken place in the past about an activity that takes up so much of our time. The number of pages theologians have devoted to the question of transubstantiation – which does or does not take place on Sunday – for instance, would, I suspect, far exceed the number of pages devoted to work that fills our lives Monday through Saturday. My point is not to belittle the importance of a correct understanding of the real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper but to stress the proper perspective on human work is at least as important.“ (69)
While there has been improvement in the last twenty years, Volf’s critique is still substantially true.
Some folks note the rising number of second career seminarians. Some of these people have come from business backgrounds. Might this help bridge the gap? Possibly with some, but Knapp notes that a majority of these folks are going into theology precisely because they disliked the business world and view their seminary experience as pursuit of a “higher calling.”
Another alternative is for seminaries to do continuing education classes or Doctor of Ministry programs that will help pastors bridge the gap. Knapp researched this option as well. Very few seminaries offered any options dealing with work, with Columbia Seminary (Decatur, GA), where he has been an adjunct, being an exception.
A final issue Knapp raises is the way churches conduct their own business affairs.
“Whether or not we are comfortable with acknowledging it, business management is an indispensable facet of ministry. Churches hire and pay staff, own and manage property, invest money, keep accounting records, file financial reports with government agencies, hire management and fund-raising consultants, comply with employment laws, own fleets of vehicles, purchase goods and services, and advertise their own services to the marketplace.” (41)
Larger churches may own recreational facilities, childcare facilities, or even for-profit businesses. Yet studies of accounting in church organizations consistently show resistance to well-accepted business practices for non-profit organizations. Somehow, bringing these practices into the church is perceived as bringing secular influences into sacred space. Personally, I have sat in board meetings for our denominational mission board where editorial amendments were made to reports that used language like “entrepreneurial leadership” or “stakeholders,” not because people disagreed with the underlying intent of the words, but because the specific words were language from the “corporate” world … they were not “spiritual” enough. And guess what each businessperson in such conversations hears indirectly (or maybe not so indirectly) being said about their work?
The net result is that businesspeople frequently see churches and church leaders who do not act with integrity and prudence with their own business affairs. Why would they seek out ethical advice for their own struggles from such people? Why would they take to heart whatever business/economic correction church leaders might preach to them?
A whole book could be written on portions of this chapter alone. What I present here is a condensation of an already condensed presentation of the issues. Yet taking the first two chapters together, I think Knapp has pointed us to the essence of the problem.
One thought came to my mind for further reflection. What does a healthy relationship between businesspeople and the church look like? It seems unrealistic to me that we could expect pastors to become experts in the world of business. So what is the pastor’s, or a congregation’s, role? Knapp will have more to say later but it is a critical question.
Do you agree that Knapp’s dualisms figure prominently in the life of the church? If so, what is the antidote for escaping them? For pastors, do you sense a divide from businesspeople or are these survey findings a surprise to you? Are there things you’ve found helpful in bridging the gap?
Washington Post: How to completely, utterly destroy an employee’s work life
... Over the past 15 years, we have studied what makes people happy and engaged at work. In discovering the answer, we also learned a lot about misery at work. Our research method was pretty straightforward. We collected confidential electronic diaries from 238 professionals in seven companies, each day for several months. All told, those diaries described nearly 12,000 days – how people felt, and the events that stood out in their minds. Systematically analyzing those diaries, we compared the events occurring on the best days with those on the worst.
What we discovered is that the key factor you can use to make employees miserable on the job is to simply keep them from making progress in meaningful work.
People want to make a valuable contribution, and feel great when they make progress toward doing so. Knowing this progress principle is the first step to knowing how to destroy an employee’s work life. ...
Step 1: Never allow pride of accomplishment. ...
Step 2: Miss no opportunity to block progress on employees’ projects. ...
Step 3: Give yourself some credit. ...
Step 4: Kill the messengers. ...
I love the quote at the end: “There is no morale problem in this company. And, for anybody who thinks there is, we have a nice big bus waiting outside to take you wherever you want to look for work.”
I just came across this fascinating website. What if we had something like this for Christian mission? The site is devoted to economic development failures. Want to read some case studies on stuff that didn't work? Click here. Below is how the website describes its purpose.
We’re all in this together, thousands of people working to eradicate poverty, inequality and unnecessary suffering around the world. It’s an incredible, global effort, but there is a problem. We aren’t sharing information. With that many people working independently towards the same goal, it’s inevitable that approaches will be duplicated. That’s wonderful if the idea works, but wasteful if it’s already been proven ineffective. Unfortunately, it happens all to often, and the results aren’t just financial. Lives are quite literally at stake every time a failure is repeated.
Admittingfailure.com aims to change that reality. At its simplest, it’s a space to publicly acknowledge that something didn’t work in order to ensure that the mistake isn’t repeated. But it also aims to be a catalyst for change within the development sector that goes well beyond simple information sharing.
Imagine field staff who have the freedom to publicly share results, good and bad, in order to ensure subsequent efforts are not simply repetitions of ideas that have already been proven ineffective.
Imagine project managers who create space for field staff to innovate, rewarding learning as much as success.
Imagine NGOs that adapt and adjust constantly to the stream of information coming from the field – always looking for ways to improve the effectiveness of their work and making real-time adjustments when possible.
Imagine donors who are willing to support intelligent innovation and experimentation, accepting the possibility of failure as a necessary step on the path to success.
Admittingfailure.com is an effort to make these ideas into realities, accelerating development by ensuring that we learn from failures instead of repeat them—that we are failing forward.
Captain James T. Kirk is one of the most famous Captains in the history of Starfleet. There’s a good reason for that. He saved the planet Earth several times, stopped the Doomsday Machine, helped negotiate peace with the Klingon Empire, kept the balance of power between the Federation and the Romulan Empire, and even managed to fight Nazis. On his five-year mission commanding the U.S.S. Enterprise, as well as subsequent commands, James T. Kirk was a quintessential leader, who led his crew into the unknown and continued to succeed time and time again.
Kirk’s success was no fluke, either. His style of command demonstrates a keen understanding of leadership and how to maintain a team that succeeds time and time again, regardless of the dangers faced. Here are five of the key leadership lessons that you can take away from Captain Kirk as you pilot your own organization into unknown futures.
1. Never Stop Learning
“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown– only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.” ...
2. Have Advisors With Different Worldviews
“One of the advantages of being a captain, Doctor, is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it.” ...
3. Be Part Of The Away Team
“Risk is our business. That’s what this starship is all about. That’s why we’re aboard her.” ...
4. Play Poker, Not Chess
“Not chess, Mr. Spock. Poker. Do you know the game?” ...
5. Blow up the Enterprise
“‘All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.’ You could feel the wind at your back in those days. The sounds of the sea beneath you, and even if you take away the wind and the water it’s still the same. The ship is yours. You can feel her. And the stars are still there, Bones.” ...
I'll add a sixth: Help frame the choices. "The choice is yours: Peace or utter destruction." ;-) Any other addendums?
Harvard Business Review: New Math Will Drive a U.S. Manufacturing Comeback
Making the United States an even more attractive location for factories and investments is critical for the health of our nation. More domestic factories would help create more balanced trade flows and a more stable global economy. But company decisions on what and where to place production facilities, while influenced by many factors, ultimately depend on the math.
Thankfully, the math these days is starting to work in America's favor again.
Our research last year suggested to us that changing conditions in China would bring home some of the manufacturing work that migrated overseas during the past decade. We originally saw this "insourcing" phenomenon, as the White House now refers to it, starting around 2015.
We were deliberately conservative in our estimates and made clear that the coming manufacturing renaissance would benefit some industries more than others, with seven sectors benefitting the most: vehicles and auto parts, appliances and electrical equipment, furniture, plastic and rubber products, machinery, fabricated metal products, and computers and electronics. These seven sectors currently account for nearly two-thirds of the more than $325 billion the U.S. imports from China.
We noted that several factors had combined to push these sectors toward a tipping point, when U.S. manufacturing becomes an attractive alternative to China. These factors include China's rapidly rising labor costs, which we discussed in an earlier HBR blog; the increased value of the yuan; the challenge of managing long-distance supply chains; the quality control concerns that continue to haunt many manufacturers that have offshored production; and the significantly higher productivity of U.S. workers. ...
Catholic News Service: Researcher's advice to pastors: Spend more time on church suppers
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Harvard public policy professor Robert D. Putnam has a tongue-in-cheek suggestion for pastors: "Spend less time on the sermons, and more time arranging the church suppers."
That's because research by Putnam and Chaeyoon Lim, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, shows that the more church friends a person has, the happier he or she is.
"Church friends are super-charged friends, but we have no idea why," Putnam told a Feb. 16 summit on religion, well-being and health at Gallup world headquarters in Washington. "We have some hypotheses, but we don't know for sure."
The researchers found that nonchurch friends do not provide the same benefit in terms of well-being and that other measures of religiosity -- belief in God or frequency of prayer, for example -- do not serve as a reliable predictor of a person's satisfaction with life.
"People who frequently attend religious services are more satisfied with their lives not because they have more friends overall (when compared with individuals who do not attend services) but because they have more friends in their congregations," the two researchers wrote in the American Sociological Review. ...