Yeah in my kumbah-ya, everyone sitting around the work campfire, everyone all on the same page, spiritually speaking and of course, especially in this day and age that’s just not realistic. In addition I kind of thought of a Christian business in terms of Chik Fil A, Hobby Lobby etc I really didn’t take into account that management might do some window-dressing to enhance the business mission, but not really take it seriously. In his book “Business Courage”, Fr Nkwasibwe lists out the motivations that might be driving management to allow, implement or encourage opportunities to build spirituality into their organization.
I do want to emphasize that there is no doubt that organizations have their unique missions, the church is the church and whether you are a commercial organization, government, not-for-profit, you have your own mission. I would like to think that any organization that implements, allows or encourages spirituality in the workplace is doing it with altruistic motivations. I am sure that even the most dedicated Christian or other type of believer is doing this in order to enhance the mission of their organization. I don’t have a problem with that, even if it may be a sort of cynical attempt to exploit something that they feel might enhance production, results. I certainly don’t condone it, but let’s face it man’s motives are never going to be completely altruistic and I trust that God is going to take even our most cynical offerings and make them at least somewhat glorifying and God-honoring.
Fr Nkwasibwe’s first example is “Workplace Spirituality as a crafty device for Leadership effectiveness”, as I said just an entirely cynical effort to exploit something in the organization to enhance the mission of the organization, could kind of think of it as “using God”. No it’s not good, but it may be just the point that God does use to glorify Himself, or that this is where someone really needs to meet God and He has initiated the whole idea in order to reach that person. Hey He’s God, He’s going to work it out the way He needs/wants to. What better way to the glory of God to take an imperfect vessel such as a cynical attempt to exploit God and He takes it and uses it to really reach someone or a few someones?
I’m going to let Fr Nkwasibwe describe this next possibility: “To this group, workplace spirituality has become a form of workplace battlefield of proxy wars between the military of the rising secular fun morality and philosophy and the garrison of the deepening religious thought, philosophy and strict morality. Workplace spirituality is seen as a venue and battle of dominance of religion versus irreligion in the workplace, just as there is a competition for more salary between the humanities/arts and science professions in the workplace.” (p 227)
Uhhmm wow. I never really imagined this type of scenario, but I am reminded that Fr Nkwasibwe is from Africa, the interaction between different beliefs, especially Christian/Muslim, in those terms you can imagine profound conflict, I’d be willing to bet that there has been conflict. In the U.S. I can see it more in terms of sniping, cliques, lack of cooperation etc. I can certainly imagine situations that might get out of hand. I see the question as; do you want to implement something that will enhance the workplace environment, or is it a case where it’s allowed without any real way to really control it? (not control in a way to decide what will or won’t, but in terms of function in terms of not interfering with the normal functioning of the organization and will not result in conflict or distractions.) This is certainly something that should be considered if organizations do want to implement/encourage this kind of opportunity.
This next one, as a Christian, especially a pastor, is kind of a burr under my saddle. Especially in terms of being a Lutheran, which emphasizes what God does through us, being “good”, being “moral”, “ethical”, in terms of conduct is so subjective, and not really what I’m talking about in terms of our relationship with Jesus. Our “goodness” or lack thereof, however defined, does not earn us a way to heaven. It’s so subjective and it’s done only in terms of a relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit guides us in all aspects of our life. We can never be “good” enough to earn our way to heaven, it’s only through Jesus’ sacrifice, His propitiation of our sin, His righteousness do we become part of the Kingdom, here on earth and for eternity. So when we start talking, as Fr Nkwasibwe, does saying: “They equate spirituality with morality. Spirituality is merely seen as a principle for promoting cultural and religious sensitivity and practicing a reasonable accommodation in the workplace in order to address the problem of social justice…they see workplace spirituality as the means to strengthen the practice of social justice, to eliminate the mental and social effects of workplace discrimination and to apply ethics in theory and practice in the workplace…seen as a bridge between religion, ethics and the law.” (pp 227-228)
I’m sorry but this smacks of the organization trying to play God, it certainly is entitled to implement rules, regulations, and discipline, but if it’s trying to do it in a way that smacks of Big Brother, I would say there are other issues at play here and the attempt is going to be perceived as manipulation and it will inevitably cause conflict and fail in its attempt to control. If you want to do something to promote some kind of social justice/welfare, do it, but don’t try to make it as some kind of works righteousness or to manipulate the response of the members of the organization. It is always a faith journey, in this particular situation, the faith is in your own judgment and really does nothing more then what you would already do. If you truly want to be guided by God, go for it, but do it in faith and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Anything else will be an embarrassment and will fail.
Fr Nkwasibwe’s next description is probably the best description of what I would see as a Christian environment in the workplace and what I would buy into, understanding that it will probably be a work in progress:
“Inspired by the Spirit of God, a devout group of people associate the practice of workplace spirituality with a means to perfection, wholeness and salvation. Here, it is seen as a bridge that links the natural world with the supernatural life. As such, spirituality at the workplace constitutes an opportunity for conversion and growing in holiness. Progress in holiness is the utmost level of expression of spirituality and religiosity because it consists of perfecting in one’s life that sanctification that he or she has received from his or her God.” Christians always understand that our righteousness is through Christ, we are saved through the Gospel, not through hoops and rolls, a lot of rules or practices. Yes Christians have a set form, but in the final analysis, it’s not about what we’re doing, it’s about the faith that we are given in relationship with Jesus. Our only progress in spirituality, per se, is what we stop resisting and what the Holy Spirit guides us to and strengthens us in, all about Him, nothing about us.
“…They consider the practice of workplace spirituality to be a private and public protocol for responding to a call to holiness. This is believed to be achieved by a reflective conversion of mind and heart to embracing a God-centered culture and a way of life. In this way, spirituality is a practice that supports the making of a stance to become our authentic selves while irrevocably trust in God who is all truth and whose love surpass the furthermost expression of the human yearning.” (pp 228 – 229) Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism have profound differences, hey that’s the whole reason for the Reformation, but I can accept this quote in terms of the understanding that what we do is in faith, it is God honoring, our intent is to be in God’s will, not our own. There is nothing anymore special about our work environment that should restrict our relationship with the Lord, it’s God’s plans and by definition it has to be infinitely better then ours.
Finally Fr Nkwasibwe describes what is probably the typical contemporary workplace environment: “…one side of individuals wants a non-interfering religion or a religion that dialogues and conforms to the voice of the world while guaranteeing them enjoying life in total autonomy. On the other hand, another side of individuals wants a religion that guarantees freedom with a caveat that this freedom does not simply mean enjoying life in total autonomy…” Hey let’s face it, that’s the way the world is today, I’m doing what I want, when I want, how it affects others or negatively affects them, and for some bizarre reason the rest of the world is supposed to buy into it, no matter how negatively it affects others and my church should buy into whatever I want, because I’m a “good” person and deserve it. Yea, right, you keep believing that. You’re “god” and God is supposed to just facilitate the life you want. Hey it works for Joel Osteen right? Doesn’t work for God’s revealed Word, but hey, people are going to do what they’re going to do.
Yes, I guess it’s kind of a weighted discussion, but it is the way it is. What should your organization look like compared to these examples? Are you moving that way? Are you taking into account the possibilities. Certainly my perspective is toward being faithful to God’s leading and trusting His infinite knowledge and that He only wants what is best for me, in Christian maturity, not according to my plan.