I’m contemplating making this page solely answers to surveys. We’ll see. Here’s a “real”, boring entry for now.
I’ve written before about how my faith is works-oriented, with an emphasis on particular works. So that I can’t make sense of the desert island scenario. Meaning, how one is supposed to be a Christian alone on a desert island when there’s no one to evangelize, no one to serve. It almost seems like there’s no point to living then. That’s how wrapped up my faith is in works. As much as I know in my head that my primary call is to love God, or as Os Guinness says, to be His, I can’t help but *feel* like my primary call is to evangelize (and to a lesser extent, serve), and that my only worth as a Christian is wrapped up in that. I know evangelizing and serving are essential. But I think I’ve made it primal, if that makes any sense.
I dunno, I kind of blame modern American evangelical Christianity for that. Just, there are a lot of ideas out there, maybe not explicit, that reinforce these feelings for me.
The reason I’ve been thinking about this recently is that I think it’s relevant to what I’ve been feeling with work. I think recently I’ve realized that – again, maybe not explicitly in my mind, but implicitly in my heart – I’ve believed that what I do with work is only as good as much as it allows me to evangelize. That in a sense evangelism redeems work, or maybe is even the only Christian purpose for work. And I think this is something that’s kind of reinforced by Christianese culture.
Like pastors and missionaries we all recognize as being high callings. We kind of give them a free pass and don’t question it the way we might an engineer. (By we I really mean me, but whatever.) Anyway, I’m thinking why that is. And I think it’s because they spend all their time spreading the gospel. Since all they do is evangelize, their jobs are the most “holy” or whatever.
It’s not just that they do full time ministry. It’s that they evangelize. Like, I dunno, do we think of church secretaries as being as high a calling? Why not? They’re doing full time ministry. But I think we think of it as slightly lower. The difference is, they’re not directly evangelizing. They’re supporting evangelism work. So it’s indirect, and therefore slightly lower. I dunno, that’s how I think I’ve felt at least. So again, in my heart, it’s the evangelism aspect that makes the vocation holy.
Anyway, for other jobs, I think I’ve been trained to feel that it’s only as good as much as you evangelize. A corollary I guess is that jobs are “better” if you can reach more people. This comes out when I talk to people. Like I have one friend who wants to be a famous businessman, so he can set a Christian example that way. It’s all about reaching people. My mom wants me to be a professor so I can reach out to the academic world. It’s not about the inherent worth of academic work. It’s about how that facilitates evangelism. That’s what makes it good. So does work have any worth in and of itself? It seems like no.
The conundrum I’ve been thinking about most is with Christian athletes. And coaches. They’re universally extolled by Christians I think. People like David Robinson, Jim Tressel, Kurt Warner, Michael Chang. Christians look up to them and extol them.
My question is, why? They’re just playing sports. Imagine for a second that they weren’t famous. That they toiled in obscurity, just because they loved the game. I dunno, older Asian Christians at least would say that they’re wasting their lives playing a stupid game. Not doing anything productive, yadda yadda yadda. But then, if they’re famous, it’s a good thing. To me, that’s saying it’s all about reaching people. There’s no inherent kingdom value in playing sports itself. It’s only as good as much as it allows you to reach people.
And maybe that’s true. Not just for sports but for all jobs. But I dunno, something about that doesn’t sit right with me. A guy is stuck in Class A baseball and he’s wasting his life. But if he somehow manages to make it to the big leagues then he’s really making an impact for the kingdom? That just seems odd. Not everyone can be famous, even mildly so. I dunno. There’s something in me that wants to believe that there’s some inherent value in the work itself, as it relates with our talents and stuff. Otherwise, how are we supposed to know what field to go into? I dunno.
I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t have a very developed theology of work. I’ve been feeling somewhat dissatisfied at work lately. More specifically, I’ve been feeling unfulfilled, maybe even spiritually. And I dunno how much of it is valid and how much of it is influenced by extra-Biblical Christianese culture.
Like, if the end all really is just reaching people, then forget my job, where I see the same small group of people every day. I’d do something totally different. If that’s the only point. But is that right? On the other hand, simply knowing that I’m contributing to the GDP doesn’t really give me a sense of fulfillment either. I don’t think that’s enough.
So what is it? No clue. Somewhere gifts and abilities fits in there but I don’t know how, since I’m so colored by the reaching people thing. Why do your gifts and abilities matter if the only point is reaching people? It’s almost irrelevant. But that can’t be right. They have to fit in somewhere. But how?
I’m telling you, this reaching people thing just screws me up. I know it’s important and should always be done. But it can’t be the end all as far as work goes, right?
So yeah, my thinking is all screwed up. I’ve got problems, I guess.