Since the mid-1990s I have paid attention to what is now called the “theology of work” or “faith and work.” Over the past twenty-five or so years this has become a movement and a lively field of research with lots of traction. I’m excited about the literature, the organizations, the conferences, and other initiatives aimed at closing the gap between the faith we confess and the countless occupations (call them vocations, jobs, careers, tasks, or whatever you like – paid or unpaid) that comprise this enormous domain of human life we call “work”.
In its formative years the movement focused primarily on the types of work done by those with higher levels of education and responsibility, and with more choices about what they do for and in work. Happily, that field of vision is expanding (though slowly, it seems) to include the work done by most of the human race in most parts of the globe for most of human history. In some cases this is raw manual labor. For many others the work may not be physically demanding but can be dull, dehumanizing, rote, meagerly or under-compensated, and generally unsatisfying. In other words, it’s simply what people do to survive. Having done a fair bit of this type of work in my earlier years and having grown up in blue-collar, lower middle class settings, I have a particular concern for those who want to follow Christ in all areas of life but have intense difficulty closing the gap between their faith and the specific work they do; in lots of instances, with few choices.
So, here is a draft piece I wrote on that subject last year. It’s not been published and needs a lot more work (no pun intended), but if you’re interested enough to read it, perhaps it will spark some meaningful conversation and ideas. At any rate I hope to give the overall theology of work movement a bit more traction in broader directions.