Dichotomy in the 21st Century……………………….……………………………1
Secular Business and Socialization……………………………………………….3
Dysfunctional Christian Mind…………………………………………………….6
Calling Rather Than a Career…………………………………………………...12
God’s Natural Order and Creation………………………………………………13
Dichotomy in the 21st Century
The twenty first century has brought first time challenges to the forefront of American Business culture and Christians living daily lives as part of corporate America. The Christian business leaders as well as the common American (middle class, nine to five workers) is currently more affected by business transactions thousands of miles away and the cultural impact it has on the Christian mind. American business has become an astronomically growing world; however, technology limits the gaps of communication increasing business transactions throughout the globe. In an economy which thrives off cultural diversity, Christian business professionals face new challenges advocating a world view contingent on one objective truth, the Bible. As a result, a dichotomy is created, with an ambiguous definition of truth in modern culture.
Faith and business is running on two parallel tracks, operating along side each other, however never intersecting. This paradigm of business endangers Christian professionals of reason and secular authority dominating daily life instead of God. Business culture is in a race for a finish which does not exist; a never ending, revolving door of profitability and productivity. Countless volumes of books are published each year declaring “the best” way to increase profits and achieve optimal performance from employees. Is it possible for a book such as the Bible as the best way, when doubted as a final authority by much of secular society? What effect does such a culture have on the Christian mind? Is there any possibility for a daily defense of an evil like this?
In an abhorrently financially driven business paradigm, Christians are faced with the challenges of a utilitarian, morally tolerant professional world bathing in secular moral relativism. Required of professionals is a behavior which mirrors Christ as well achieving success against a growing dualistic Christian mind; a mind recognizing God as an authority, however not recognizing him as the authority. Regardless of sincerity of faith Christian business professionals run the risk of a divided lifestyle or a sort of split personality. Theoretically holding strong values and morals grounded in a pure biblical and spiritual foundation; however sinking deeper into knowledge defined in terms of secular naturalism motivated by desires for financial gain. Subsequently defined by the secular world, what is made of spirituality and work of the Holy Spirit of God verses the practicality of naturalism? Christians must find the common ground in which to operate a successful business keeping God at the forefront, at the same time relate and engage in commercial transactions with those of other faiths and beliefs.
The subjective worldview of relative truth has marginalized any need for religion in the workplace; making it next to impossible to assert such behaviors anywhere else except in church settings or among others of the same value. America’s tolerance has turned to intolerance of the intolerant. The anti-Christian movement forces believers to think as non-believers within the realm of the professional world. In an effort to provide for family and achieve the false implications of success, Christians are forced to adapt to what Nancy Pearcey calls “modernity’s professional ethos;” adapting to a naturalistic, secularized approach to business.
Secular Business Socialization and Culture
Throughout history, the secular business model has maintained the same purpose; to engage in a product or service delivered directly to the consumer or another corporation as a function to make a profit and grow the business. There are many underlying activities that constitute the operations of a business such as marketing, human resource management and others, however as diversified as each business is, the purpose of it remains the same. Once a small, personal, community benefiting effort, businesses have accepted the challenge of massive competition increases over the last hundred years. The new driving force behind American business and the pursuit of profits is a fierce competitive global economy, stock growth and shareholder wealth. However, modern success may be defined by such accomplishments; the vehicle in which it is achieved becomes the greater focus of the Christian business leader. Success of an organization is largely dependent upon the culture the company creates and maintains within the four walls. Competitive advantage is contingent upon a culture relative to the needs of a particular company. An identity with distinct personality and culture disassociates itself with external milieu, such as, traditional family values and morals and the authority of religion.
The desire for companies to be segregated as its own culture is evident through the patterns of interaction, values, symbols and stories that emerge from history as it shapes the identity and image of the organization. Long standing organizations and young upstart entrepreneurs alike have embraced the concept of internal company values and ideology. Closely held, these ideological beliefs are woven within the company walls, negating any influence from the outside environment. The company’s core ideology is what it believes as an organization independently and internally. What is considered to be foundational to successful habits and long standing profitability, according to Collins and Porras, in their book; Built To Last, Successful Habits of Visionary Companies; (considered by many business leaders to be the bible of business strategy) is the effective establishment of a cult-like culture and removal from influences of other companies, religion and ideology of individuals unfitting of the company mold.
Disney, one of Collins and Porras’ models, requires new recruits, either top level management or the night time janitor, to receive specialized training that begins a socialization process in order to mold the employees. Proper terminology, strict dress code, information control, loyalty, and somewhat worship-like behavior are evident to this socialization process. Complete devotion to Disney is required; company values are to be held at the forefront of the employees mind, on or off the clock. The resulting culture shapes the employee to the image of the organization and greatly influences behavioral patterns and influences lifestyle, consciously or unconsciously. Organizations that succeed at such an endeavor forms an identity that directly contributes to shaping the individual roles and behaviors into organizational action rather than personal decisions. Simply the person becomes defined by the culture of the company. Thus, the cultural ethos determines the sort of ethical management decisions made.
The Dysfunctional Christian Mind
While ideologies and core values can hold supreme importance to the health and success of a company, it is ignorant to believe and conceive of ideological formulas without outside influence. The very people giving thought to the company’s value systems; founders, CEO’s and executive mangers, have in some way been affected by morals, values or simply some minor held core beliefs of what is right and wrong. Regardless of what business may try to do within the walls of the company independent of the outside cultural context, leaders bring a presupposition to the organization’s culture serving as a foundation in which the cultural and ethical ethos is built.
Despite the nearsighted views of businesses desire to create a distinct culture separate from an outside context, organizations still remain a small part in a larger economic practice greatly influenced by environmental surroundings. Educational institutions, media, government, even churches, families, and communities impact the preparation of future employees and leaders. The question still remains, however, if the twenty-first century business leaders wish to build an economic empire based on core values, credos, and precise moral driven visions; what basis for those morals is there? Since all business presupposes an ethical standard on which it is conducted, the question arises regarding which standard of ethics should be used. Modern American culture is largely rejecting traditional values of one common truth, biblical values, and ignoring the foundation of the very soil Americans live; thus encouraging post-modern behavior of relative truth, political correctness, and a thoughtless attempt at multiculturalism leading only to a skewed sense of tolerance. Instead of a true love and acceptance of all people, Americans embrace the actions of all cultures and thus embracing every different kind of moral.
This sort of tolerance or extreme multiculturalism has greatly complicated the environment in which business is conducted in a world market economy. As a result, Christian business professionals endanger themselves of a distorted and dysfunctional “Christian Mind,” highly educated in business proficiency, without a clear biblical worldview for interpreting business matters on a daily basis. The Christian mind is one concerned with spirituality, biblical morals, and worship, however in the company of family friends and fellow believers. As “thinking” beings, Christians fall into the realm of secularism, reconstructing the criteria for worldview evaluations. “When we enter the stream of discourse in our field or profession, we participate mentally as non-Christians, using the current concepts and categories, no matter what our private beliefs may be.”
In an effort to please everyone, and fit the secular business paradigm, American business and politics have embraced political correctness to its fullest extent. Considered a multicultural effort, political correctness has emphasized education and appreciation for other cultures serving to be helpful in business to communicate more effectively to others. Conversely, extremists of the “PC” movement, claim traditional values are damaging society and oppress those not wishing to comply with what most Christians would consider moral norms. Instead of benefiting business, this view distorts a once clear line drawn between right and wrong. Political correctness allows morality to be defined in several cultural contexts, each varying from the other, either from around the world or a next door neighbor. The gray area caused by the relative moral authority of business has opened a door to many interpretations of what is right and wrong. The pluralism that is created leaves businesses vulnerable to any claim of behavior to be justified so long as the internal cultural ideology permits it. As a result, many organizations use financial gain to define morality.
Great tolerance is given for those that commit honest mistakes, as defined by company standards and do not breach the organization’s core ideology; known as “non-sins.” Whereas severe penalties, even prompt termination results for breaching the core ideology, is considered mortal sins. Founder of Nordstrom’s department store, Jim Nordstrom, believes in a wide amount of autonomy for the company’s employees, citing that it is better to treat employees as professionals and let them use good judgment. “You can do anything you need to at Nordstrom to get the job done, just as long as you live up to our basic values and standards.” It becomes extremely evident this sort of ideology to be dangerous.
While for Nordstrom’s employees enjoy a tremendous autonomous working environment of respect, trust, and dignity; serious dangers become increasingly implicit. The danger lies in the global economy filled with varying moral norms according to differencing societal influences, such as communities, religions, and cultural norms. The notion of right and wrong is now defined by individual experience rather than on tried and true doctrine of truth. Nordstrom’s employees are encouraged to define for themselves what Jim Nordstrom means by doing “anything you need to, to get the job done.” Simply, the world view of business has taken the same characteristics of that of post-modern America; a tolerance to whichever moral norm seems appropriate to the given situation, a sort of utilitarian view, choosing the situation producing the greatest profits.
America’s increase to tolerance has called into question time honored values and given birth to an extreme form of relativism. By presupposing ethical and moral standards and forming an internalized cultural structure, businesses are engaging in its own version of cultural relativism. From a perspective of the business owner wishing to provide respect and autonomy in the same manner as Nordstrom’s, businesses are operating on an unstable platform of ethics waiting to collapse. Any behavior could be right as long as the internal culture of the business permits it.
The secular approach to the business field and the substandard treatment of religion has left Christians very little choice, but to conform and “fit in.” For fear of sounding too Christian, business leaders suppress faith based ideals so as to not hinder any sort of advancement opportunity or financial gain. After all, it is important to support ones family, and to do that, one must keep pace with economic growth, competition, and inflation. For some Christians, this attitude is life as usual, expecting any wrongs done Monday through Saturday will be cleared up on Sunday. For others, however, this is a severely troubling aspect to participation in the business world. Either way such a secular and sacred split in world view can create a significant compromise of moral ideals in an effort to gain any kind of material success.
An additional jeopardy evident from a culture induced form of relativism in the business cultures is the unconscious nature of it. Something will shape the human intellect and form a worldview. Christians can not have a dichotomy between the Christian and business worlds. The result will be a set of ideas and values from one or the other. If the Christian business leader is denied or ill practiced for interpreting the world through the correct lens, the rules of majority will overcome. The ideas that the Christian has the most exposure to will be adopted using whatever tools for interpretation there is at hand. Take, for example, a Christian lawyer, working for a Fortune 500 company, deacon of his church, gives generously, teaches Sunday school, and is in every way the model church member. That is on Sunday; the rest of the week his job is to break contracts. Find legal loopholes to remove the company from a legally binding contract using any means necessary.
Christians run the risk of compartmentalizing values and morals “because the globalization of business and postmodern notions of morality promote cultural relativism and personal subjectivism as modes of moral reflection and decision making.” This attitude affects the business mindset creating a misconception of the Christian responsibility in the Kingdom of God; a clear spirituality privately about the work, however missing the biblical framework on the work itself. There is a sharp contrast between the aura of worship on Sundays and secular attitudes the following six days.
Christians must be constantly on guard against the peril of lapsing into the same relativism. Christian professionals need to understand the concept author, Nancy Pearcey, describes as “Thinking Christianly.” This lies in the basic understanding the responsibility of Christians to view all subject matter concerning ones life and interpret it through the lens of the Christian perspective. That perspective has been lost in the shuffle of morals throughout much of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Today’s professionals have not been given the chance to develop any sort of biblical worldview due in large part to the extensive training that is involved for much of the professional world. Growing profits, extensive world economy and the supremely held ideals of capitalism reigns in the United States as the authority of ones life. It is touted throughout a greater portion of educational training, hard work breeds success, breeds financial security. So much emphasis on secular professional training leaves little room for biblical training. Even so, in an environment privy to ultimate tolerance, Christian business professionals have the responsibility to impact the world in which they function.
Christian believers have a responsibility unto God to live and love only him, however also need to function in a morally depraved society that largely rejects any kind of notion of a Christian God. It is of supreme importance that believers understand creation is a design created by God for God and nothing else. A sincere commitment to anything else that removes the focus from God is sin. In the endless pursuit of a career many believers cite monetary and material rewards as a measure of success, rather than ones character or work done before God. No person can serve both God and money; it has to be one or the other. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24 NIV). Believers must shape a world view reflective of God’s will and purport that unto the world.
In order for an impact to be made, there must be some level of success. A sincere Christian mindset will gage the degree of that success and keep God at the center of focus, recognizing the true importance. What sort of strategies can a believer use to exemplify a sincere Christian belief and practice without thrusting those beliefs and causing animosity, thus creating further rejection? The answer lies in the way one views the work done for God.
Calling Rather Than a Career
Those in ministries, hopefully, understand the position as a calling, rather than a job or career; the first step for Christian business people, it to assert the same principle. Paul states in 1 Corinthians; “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV, emphasis added). Viewing work as a calling by God rather than a career chosen in college or some vocational school has direct implications on how Christians approach work. Instead of concentrating on social standing, promotions, and financial measures of success, fulfilling ones calling by God induces a higher meaning, community relationship and a general contribution of good to society. Scott Rae, in his book, Beyond Integrity, A Judo-Christian Approach to Business Ethics, describes it this way:
“In contrast to a career-oriented approach, people who view their work as a calling will focus more on the intrinsic nature of the work as a means to glorify God rather than to reap external rewards. Rather than defining success as climbing a corporate ladder of accumulating material things, they will measure it by how true they stay to the story to which God has called them.”
This approach is one that is cohesive with service to the Kingdom of God and not profit driven success. Christians have the unique ability in the workplace to instill an attitude reflective of right motives based on biblical principles, to add a contribution to one’s community and gain a clear understanding for the purpose of financial gain; to offer a portion back to the Kingdom. Work, from a mindset of the Christian professional should contribute to the greater good adding a true social value and meaning to the work. A result of these actions is a corporate structure consistent with the calling of its leader and allowing the leader to operate within a unified set of guidelines that govern the business and life regardless of the direct financial cost. If business professionals must operate in a secular world vastly promoting internalized cultural relativism and moral plurality, a correct personal mindset of one’s life as a calling from God is one step closer to defeating the dualistic Christian mind and reviving its functionality.
The personalized nature of ones mindset and the lens in which the world is viewed is only a piece of the puzzle that makes up the responsibility of the Christian required by God. It says nothing of the external measures that influence daily life. Moral relativism preaches different governing morals for all kinds of people and cultures. The issue of tolerance and political correctness aims the argument at acceptance of all morals and a supposed understanding of many different perceived realities. Business widely accepts this pretense and applies it to internalized structured cultures within the walls of many different organizations. Despite the many truths purported by the secular world, Christians still hold to one objective truth, the Bible, however, so do many others. For Muslims, the Koran is considered ultimate authority, as the Hindus and Buddhists have truth defined as well. In multicultural, tolerant America how are morals and ethics standardized, and done so to the correct correspondence of truth?
God’s Natural Order and Creation
Regardless of the cult-like internal cultures that business desire to create, all are subject to the natural laws governed by God, recognized or not. Business will continue to grow and be conducted on an even larger economic forum than as it is known today, meaning cultural diversity will be greater and moral lines increasingly unclear preventing a consistent use of a book of authority, like the Bible. However, as Norman Geisler puts it, “business cannot be conducted in a vacuum.” There has to some norms, some line or frame of reference to conduct business transactions using consistent basis of ethics. Natural law provides such a vehicle.
The Apostle Paul writes; “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to depraved mind; to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do no such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:28-32 NIV). Regardless of morals, ethics, beliefs, and backgrounds all humanity has one thing in common; creation, sin and God’s created order. Every person, as a result from the fall of man stands in judgment before a Holy and Just God. More importantly, however, is the image in which man was created; God. Created to honor God populating his earth and commanded to subdue it. The natural state of the world as God created it is his general revelation to us, or as science coins it; natural law. Norman Geisler defines natural law biblically as what humans “do by nature.” Paul describes in the above passage natural law applies to everyone, not merely a Christian perspective on the world, however the ways of the world, Paul writes, is contrary to the natural law given by God.
Hewlet Packard’s foundational core values, is simple; do unto others in the same manner you would prefer done to yourself. As an element of natural law, this same basic principle of human kindness can be found elsewhere in other cultures. “Utter not a word by which anyone could bewounded” (Hindu), “Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you” (Ancient Chinese), and “Men were brought into existence for the sake of men that they might do one another good” (Roman, Cicero). Similar examples can be illustrated in laws of justice, mercy, magnanimity and duties of parents and children.
This and other basic moral principles serve as clear expectations of business leader’s conduct in the workplace. Viewing natural law through the lens of God’s creation, the believer can understand how it is possible to expect similar standards among different believers and non-believers. According to Norman Geisler, “good moral principles are not unique to the Bible; they are written on the hearts of all men.” Natural law narrows the gap between the private sphere of faith and the public sphere of secular business; morals defined by natural law are binding on all persons and institutions.
Regardless of any culture that is created within the walls of the organization, there is inevitably some structure, some basis for ethical standards in which leaders must function under. In order to impact a morally relative culture, Christians need the tools to set the example of biblical conduct. Leadership is characterized by the example set by the leader. It is important for Christians to understand which example is being set. Is simply, citing natural law ethic enough? James Silken, author of Common Moral Ground and the Natural Law Argument, argues natural law is a good start, however missing an important step.
“Today many of society’s important public moral questions have to do with the nature and limits of institutional responsibility…A general appeal to “natural law” does little help to answer questions about the distinguishable, differentiated responsibilities and jurisdictions of diverse institutions.”
Norman Geisler regards natural law as a common ground starting point for ethics to take place in a multicultural environment, Silken points to stronger faith based approach to interaction in the world of business. He contends that Christians rather than hiding any presuppositions held about creation disclose all and encourage others to do the same. Only then can the universality of ethics come to fruition. In a society that disagrees on most moral authority, Silken’s creation-order argument confronts the disagreements and exposes the root of disobedience to sin and illuminates the validity of God’s “inescapable norms.” Further, Silken’s view illustrates actions and accountability of people in various business and social situations.
Simplistic common naturalistic laws, such as treating others as you wish to be treated as well as a clear understanding of differing viewpoints leads Christians to solutions which formulate clear foundational ethical principles to conduct productive business. These elements and a distinction of one’s work as a calling to participate in the work of the Lord, become a clear understanding of the tools needed for a business to succeed. The secular business strategy may be to monopolize on an internal relative culture created to socialize and require absolute devotion of employees. Secular or sacred, businesses were developed to profit. It is the only thing that keeps an organization in operation. The key for all Christians is that profit is made for God, used to glorify him, not personal financial prosperity.
The depraved human condition will always breed wrong doings to others and relative morals will continue to be defended. God makes is painfully clear in special revelation and general revelation his intention for conduct for his people. Christ’s death on the cross defeated sin and gave believers the opportunity for eternal life. This great event also closed the door to excuses for sin. God’s created order is for his glory and Christians are to act accordingly, everyday
A business is a reflection of God when owners, employees and customers interact in a way that builds things that can never be destroyed, honesty, integrity, humility, diligence, perseverance, faithfulness, trust, compassion, and generosity. These are the things that make of the Kingdom of God; they do not appear on a secular balance sheet.
Collins, James C. and Jerry I. Porras. Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.
New York: HarperCollins Publishing, 1997.
Geisler, Norman L. “Natural Law and Business Ethics,” in Beyond Integrity: A Judeo-Christian
Approach to Business Ethics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.
Pearcey, Nancy R. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From its Cultural Captivity. Wheaton:
Crossway Books, 2004.
Rae, Scott B. and Kenman L. Wong. Beyond Integrity: A Judeo-Christian Approach to Business
Ethics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.
Silken, James W. “Common Moral Ground and the Natural Law Argument,” in Beyond
Integrity: A Judeo-Christian Approach to Business Ethics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.
Stackhouse, Max L., Dennis P. McCain., Shirley J. Roels, and Preston Williams. On Moral
Business: Classical and Contemporary Resources for Ethics in Economic Life. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.