One thing I have learned from those bloodthirsty media journalists is that if you want eyeballs to land on your website, then use a sensationalist, attention-grabbing headline. So. As luck would have it, I recently came across an enticing opportunity for making such an alarming claim when I saw a survey published by U.S. Catholicmagazine to coincide with Labor Day. The focus of the survey was on the readers’ perceptions of the intersection of their faith and their work. Surprisingly, the magazine reports that 81% of the readers who responded say they believe that their work or vocation is a calling from God.
Huh? 81 percent? That’s just about everybody! Could it really be true?
Although I am a diehard Protestant, over the years I have come to admire the Catholics for any number of reasons (let’s see…monasteries, monks, mysticism, Mary (that’s right, I think Mary rocks. Why do we Protestants have to insist on an exclusively male-gender theological model to associate with our faith?), Anne Rice, folk masses, the liberal use of incense and candles in church, to name just a few). But the stock of the Catholic church went up even a couple more points in my eyes upon reading this exciting news. “Well,” I thought, “Those Catholics sure must be doing a good job of preaching an integrated faith to their congregations!” A better job of it than the shizophrenic sacred/secular-splitting Protestant Evangelicals were doing, anyway.
But, alas, upon closer examination, I found my initial skepticism was warranted. When I studied the fine print to decipher the breakdown of these faithful survey participants, I discovered that 88% of the readers who responded to this surveyeither already worked for the church or for a non-profit, or they were stay-at-home moms, or they were retired. Not many in the traditional work force, to speak of. So that explains it. Only a mere 12% of those surveyed actually worked in the for-profit business sector. No wonder the results were so positive. The corporate wonks were most certainly the ones sucking wind there at the bottom quartile. It only seems logical that there is a more natural connection between work and a sense of God’s calling when you have a job in ministry or service. The rest of us in the corporate workforce have to retrofit the spirituality back into our jobs somehow.
Although it is all too apparent that the designers of this survey could have drawn from a more diverse cross-section of workers, I still have to give U.S. Catholic magazine credit for trying. Really, I don’t think I have ever seen a survey like this before, about exploring the relationship between work and God’s purpose. Hello, ChristianityToday? Barna Group? It’s the spiritually depleted mass of Christian-ish workers calling… Where have you been on this issue? Despite the glum economic news, there are a lot of us out there, you know. Think of the magazines you could have sold!
If Barna Group (a market research firm specializing in faith and culture) were ever to get with the program here, I would be very interested in seeing a survey that asks this same question of executives and managers in corporate America. I wonder, how many of us actually feel a connection between our jobs and our calling from God? Do you think it would be 50%? 10? Less? And what if the same survey was given to production line workers? Do you think it would be any different? Or what about those menial low-skill jobs, like fast-food workers and trash haulers? Would they be all giddy about God’s purpose for their jobs?
The US Catholic magazine survey also posed some other intriguing statements for their participants to respond to, such as, “The church helps me to understand the spiritual role of work in life” (66% agreed), and “Sometimes I feel my work is in conflict with my faith” (17% agreed). This surely is a goldmine of data and information for the work-faith community.
All in all, in spite of my nitpicking, I salute US Catholic magazine for making a valiant effort to bring our attention to the important connection between work and spiritual purpose. A quote at the close of the article from one of the survey participants says this:
“The call to holiness is, pardon the pun, holistic,” writes lay ecclesial minister Katherine Coolidge of San Pedro, California. “I cannot leave my personal relationship with Christ in the hall closet as I go to work. Christ is present in the workplace, the grocery store, the family, the stranger in our midst. Faith has to be part of it all.”
Katherine, I think you got it right. Couldn’t have said it any better myself.
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