Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Courage to be Protestant

In a recent blog review, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, promotes Dr. David F. Wells' book, The Courage to be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World. He says, "Wells bravely criticizes those who would offer theological and spiritual reductionism in the name of marketing. . ." While this book is not specifically about business, it appears to speak to the challenges of living in the real world according to a fully informed faith. Mohler says of Wells' position, "Looking at present-day Evangelicalism, Wells sees shrinking doctrine and a disappearing church. It takes no courage to "sign-up" as a Protestant, he argues, but it takes considerable courage to believe and act as a Protestant." I would whole-heartedly agree.

While in college and seminary, I have pursued work in various fields, including construction, landscaping, sales, restaurant and retail. I have found that each field is marked by the same problem; workers are expected to exchange any personal morality or code of ethics at the door for a company-dictated one. The company code of ethics is often lauded as superior to any religious or ethical code, with names like the Platinum Rule which is clearly meant to be an advancement beyond the Golden Rule of Christ. Often even these company policies are set aside when it is convenient, leaving the employee at the mercy of the whims of his or her manager. One thing is absolutely clear, informed faith is not wanted.

Needless to say, I have had to and continue to reject these corporate policies on account of Scripture and my Protestant faith and to run my life, in and out of the work place, by a different code of ethics. I would love to say that living this way has been recognized and appreciated by my managers, but generally it has not. Rather, I have lost more than one job (through convenient layoffs) when those ethics have put me at odds with a company or arbitrary managerial policy.

I do not believe that I am a hard-nosed person. I do not feel that I must evangelize on the job, or that everyone else must be a Christian (although I wish they were!). I can also appreciate what is meant by some of the policies. The problem is when the policies contradict Scripture or my faith which is informed by Scripture, theology, and Christian philosophy. Then I must not carry-out those policies. It is extremely hard to live according to conviction.

While I certainly carry righteous indignation over the present corporate climate (and my personal experience of it), I strive to not personalize it and become angry and unforgiving toward specific people. I am motivated, instead, to fight the current problematic conditions. While activism is not always beneficial, it can be at times. Our businesses, especially the "Christian" ones suffer from a mental and moral dichotomy. Many Christian businessmen/women separate their faith from their finances, rather than allowing their faith to inform how they manipulate their finances. That is a condition that needs to change, if faithfulness to their beliefs is really a priority. I would like to be used by God to help make that change. Even if it means losing more jobs in the future.

Thank you, Dr. Mohler, for bringing this book to our attention. I welcome Dr. Wells' book and more like it. Let's resurrect morality in the business world. May our Christian ethics no longer be a four-letter word; and may Christ be honored as much in our spending as in our singing.

No comments: