I believe that it is possible to fully integrate faith and work. It was so important that I wrote a book about it. In reality, there are gray areas where I wonder if I am making the right decisions. For example, I invest primarily in passive index funds. These are highly diversified investments that track large markets like the S&P 500. However, within these indexes are stocks that contain unhealthy products, like tobacco companies, and media corporations that publish pornography. I could choose investments that are more aligned with my religious beliefs, but they have higher administrative fees and perform, on average, below comparative indexes. While I don’t purchase these unethical equities directly, I indirectly participate. I make my investment decisions based on efficient investment fees and higher returns, which will benefit others through our family’s philanthropy. This is a judgement call and I am still unsure if I am making the right Christian decisions.
In their book, Church on Sunday, Work on Monday: The Challenge of Fusing Christian Values with Business Life (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA, 2001, pages 40-69), Dr. Laura Nash (formerly Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Business School) and Rev. Scotty McLennan (formerly the Dean for Religious Life at Stanford University) write in Chapter 2 about the attempts of Christians to integrate religion and business. They developed seven Christian coping strategies from interviews conducted with businesspersons. These strategies range from Secularists (“no religious faith”) to Resacralizers (“people who envision an economic life fully governed by religion”).
When I first read the chapter, I placed myself in the middle as a Generalist: “My faith has to operate at all times.” Upon reading it again, it doesn’t fully reflect my practices. For example: “Generalists vehemently assert the power of faith but limit the arena of concrete examples of faith to settings outside of business.” In contrast, my book on faith and work has numerous stories of my faith within a business workplace. A second example: “Generalists sustain two strong personal convictions by which they define their professional identity: capitalism and Christianity. They do not try to systematically locate the influence of one on the other.” I believe that capitalism is the best current economic system. But like all economic systems, capitalism is not perfect. It requires boundaries within free markets through effective regulations. Uncontrolled, utilitarian economies create monopolies, abusive labor practices, and environmental damage.
It is true that “Generalists walk a tightrope.” While I am faithful, I did not talk about my religious beliefs at work unless directly asked. I wanted my faith to be witnessed in action and character, not preached to my fellow employees. I walked a tightrope when working for an energy company. My company was diligent at following the legal regulations. I believe that energy has helped improve humanity. I also believe that hydrocarbon emission regulations need further restrictions by governmental agencies and hydrocarbon supply needs to be gradually curtailed over time. Cleaner energy sources should be increased over time through governmental mandates. I decided to work within an energy company towards a better future rather than externally rail against it. Life is a tightrope and finding the right balance can be difficult.
The authors close with “no wonder the Generalist appears to be a hypocrite to outsiders; nothing invites suspicion more swiftly than a claim to perfection.” One thing I do not claim is perfection! Some may label me a hypocrite and perhaps they are correct on certain aspects of my life. By questioning and listening to other views, perhaps I will grow wiser and be less of a hypocrite. My faith does teach me to confess my sins and work towards sanctification. I know that I can always improve my walk with Christ. Finding the right balance starts with prayer, reading Scripture, and listening to the Spirit. It ends with following Christ in obedience.