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Don’t Let the Real World Eat You Alive

January 10, 2010

A couple months ago I attended a Christian Leadership seminar where some national brand-name authors were heavily promoted as the featured speakers. I don’t usually attend this type of thing, but a friend of mine had been involved on the advisory board, and I wanted to support him. It took place at a regional Bible College.

About half way through, a spot on the agenda opened up for one of the event sponsors to say a few words. Up to the stage came a gentleman who immediately proceeded to push  all of us in the audience to buy ad space in his Christian Business Directory, because “we can’t trust the world and we should want to do business with those who share our same values.” I rolled my eyes. This sort of incestuous, insular thinking drives me crazy.

Here we are, Christian business people, in a Christian Bible College, listening to Christian speakers, with Christian music piped through during the breaks, sponsored by more Christian business people who want us only to do business with other Christian business people. It’s a vicious circle.

I leaned over to my friend sitting next to me. “This is a pet peeve of mine.” I whispered, obviously unable to contain myself until the break. He gave me a twisted look. I was not sure if I offended him or piqued his interest. The Christian-Business Clone on stage finished talking, and we were dismissed for a break. My friend and I stood up in the aisle and I continued with the conversation.

“I think we should earn business with our customers because we provide excellent services at a competitive price,” I continued. “Not because I happen to go to church with you.”

Don’t get me going.

“And if Christians can’t earn the respect of others who are leaders in the marketplace, then I don’t have any respect for them either.” I made my point. I noticed the large cross hanging over us as we spoke, reminding me of our Christian setting. “I’ll still love them in Christ, of course.”

I wasn’t sure if my friend was going to agree with me or not.

“I took my kids out of Christian school in sixth grade,” he started, “for the same reason. They started to believe that the Christian world was the only thing out there. I didn’t want them to get eaten up alive.”

 Well. My point exactly. I think it should be the other way around.

Photo by nAncy, used with permission.

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2010 5:29 pm

    Loved nancy’s pic with this-you can almost hear the sound of
    hot iron right out of the forge getting formed on an anvil.

    Wonderful point made. Thx.

    Art is my peeve. To polarized it into camps – secular or christian? Groan! Art is from our creator whether the artist knows it or not and good art speaks to our souls.

    Go camel!

    • January 11, 2010 6:10 am

      Kathleen- I think it’s a profound statement, what you say: “Art is from our creator whether the artist knows it or not…” I think it’s the same way in business (which is also a work of creativity) and if it’s good, it’s from God, and does good for the community.

  2. Annie permalink
    January 10, 2010 9:23 pm

    Interesting post as always.

  3. Melo permalink
    January 10, 2010 9:30 pm

    Yep, I would have felt like getting up and walking out the door. No reason for the Christian label. If it’s good, it’s good. It doesn’t become sanctified because we called it Christian. Maybe it should, but it doesn’t.

    I’ve learned a lot in Christian environments, but I’ve learned more from trying to live out my faith outside of that environment. I think I also see where I fail more clearly.

  4. Dave permalink
    January 10, 2010 9:35 pm

    Just curious – was the event in Lancaster?

    • January 11, 2010 6:12 am

      Dave – It doesn’t matter where or when the event was because this type of self-serving promotion goes on far too much in Christian circles, as far as I’m concerned. That’s the point I’m trying to make here.
      (But I do know of a good bible school in Lancaster!)

      • dave permalink
        January 11, 2010 7:49 am

        It does matter if I was the “gentlemen” and I didn’t make thte quote that you shared in your blog! I’m hoping the Leadership event that you attended was not the one that I spoke at; that would explain the misunderstanding.

        In either case, I do appreciate your comments and the comments from readers; however, the opinions stated are preferences not principles.

  5. January 10, 2010 10:11 pm

    Well-said!

    Labels, and “Christian” is one I would have to include among them when used as described here, tend to exclude, divide, segregate, separate. There’s an insistence on difference (of the I’m-the-best-and-only sort) that’s harmful and wrong.

    (An aside: I know an artist here in the Washington area who could do original camel artwork for you. She’d be fabulous. Her name’s Tracey Clarke. Her blog is listed on my site. It’s called “Brainworks”. )

  6. January 10, 2010 10:34 pm

    Our oldest attended public school until we started getting notes home from the English teacher in 6th grade. She had apparently never encountered a dictionary or the rules of grammar, including how to write a complete sentence. I started correcting the ntoes and sending them back. She did thank me, with a note full of misspelled words and grammar errors. The science teacher was more interested in politics than science. The history teacher didn’t know a lot about history but had self-esteem nailed. We pulled the plug, not because we wanted a “Christian” education but because we wanted an education, period. We put him in the local Catholic school, and the first year we had to homeschool him to get him up to where the Catholic students were. We started his younger brother in the Catholic school from kindergarten.

    I don’t like Christian business directories for the same reasons you cite here. I don’t like the “ghettoization” of the Christian community. But in the case of education, it can be a real problem.

    • January 11, 2010 6:19 am

      Glynn- A good Catholic school is as much about the education itself as it is about drilling the Catholic dogma into the heads of kids..I understand that. I don’t want to be bashing Christian education here, it’s a choice for each of us. But my concern is that sometimes the Christian school leads to Christian high school, which leads to Christian College, followed by a lifetime being surrounded in Christian enclaves in order to prop up the faith, which has never really been tested or utilized fully in the secular environment.

      • January 11, 2010 6:43 am

        Both of mine ended up at the University of Missouri. The youngest considered a Christian college for a time but then chose Mizzou. We talked with both of them but let them make their final decisions.

    • January 12, 2010 9:20 am

      Glynn,
      We are a Protestant family, but sent our son to a Catholic school for similar reasons, although we did gravitate toward the Christian values as well. Mainly, the public school kindergarten teacher was tenured and had a record of abusing the children. (Parents had no luck getting her removed from the school.) Luckily, the local Catholic school was also within walking distance and affordable to us, so we pulled our son from the public school kindergarten and enrolled at the Catholic school.

      We immediately saw incredible differences among the public school kids and parochial school kids in our neighborhood, and more than anything, we think it was due to the much smaller size of the parochial school. It allowed for a lot of personal attention — and a more peaceful environment for both teacher and student. I don’t think kids can thrive as easily in a student body that includes literally hundreds of kids with different needs and drives.

      Our son loved Catholic high school too — again, with such a small student body, there was a great sense of community and support among students and teachers. My son chose to go on to a Catholic University because he felt so nurtured by that environment.

  7. January 11, 2010 8:54 am

    This morning I was reading an article about Tucker Carlson’s new online venture, the Daily Caller in which the writer described the businessman funding the effort as a “Christian philanthropist”.

    The usage makes me wonder: Will every philanthropist now be so denoted? Or just those who are “Christian”? The labeling really is getting out of hand.

  8. January 11, 2010 9:44 am

    We do have a sort of club — and we can get awful chummy with each other and snobby to others.

    If we are to infect and affect the world, we cannot be insular. Has history taught us nothing?

    David R.
    Red Letter Believers blog
    http://www.redletterbelievers.com
    “Salt and Light”

  9. January 11, 2010 10:29 am

    I wonder if the message of these “national brand-name authors” was the same as the sponsor? That would be sad…

    Let’s build relationships with everyone, regardless they can be trusted or not. First let’s prove we can be trusted.

    How are we supposed to build and expand the kingdom of God when we are circling around in our own created world (kingdoms?)?

  10. Andrew Turner permalink
    January 11, 2010 2:35 pm

    Personally I choke on the concept of “Christian” business. This to me seems to be a travesty of massive proportions; certainly the Bible makes emphasis that many will come along who milk Christianity for what it’s worth. I keep the label from my work because I don’t think it’s appropriate.

    However in my experience, the world offers nothing but wind. So here we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place: learn from people who know nothing or be used by people looking to commercialize Jesus and fill their own stomachs.

    The only answer lies in the development of a personal, deep relationship with Christ. In fact, often times I think as Christians we do ourselves a disservice by constantly discussing the periphery instead of the center — perhaps we don’t see the center?

    It would be logical to assume that some of us are full of passion for the business world and community like Paul was for his missions. But the strength of Paul lay in Christ. He was irrevocably committed to Christ and that drove his work. Notice that his vocation as tentmaker is hardly mentioned but mentioned as a source of income driving his ministry. Perhaps we would all do well to seek that perspective.

    Personally, it has taken me a very long time to cease seeing people as objects to be calculated as regards my own goals. I see now that in no way would my ministry have been anything but poison; I claimed Christianity but my objet de arte was myself. By God he kept me from it.

    We are told to take the log out of our own eye. I’ve wondered what that log may be. Now though I think that that log is anything but Christ that is embedded in our vision. Before and as we learn, it behooves us all to ask to be shown the log in our own eye. I think only then will we be able to see the speck for what it is.

    • January 13, 2010 6:03 am

      Yes, the source of our strength and ambition should be a deep relationship with Christ. So often we want to skirt around that and just ask him to tag along with whatever we are doing. Great point.

  11. January 11, 2010 4:23 pm

    Excellent post!
    My husband and I have talked about this for hours over the years – I love how well you put it into one short post.

    And Kathleen, I love this – “Art is from our creator whether the artist knows it or not and good art speaks to our souls.”

  12. January 12, 2010 9:06 am

    This is an excellent and even-handed post that makes me proud. And now you’ve gotten me started.

    A dear friend from high school (a Catholic, as it happens) is a psychotherapist with a healthy secular practice in our community. She told me recently that she’s experiencing something new and disturbing: Over the past year, several potential new patients/clients have come in to meet her, and here’s the first thing they ask, in so many words: “But are you a CHRISTIAN therapist?” These potential clients are, as my friend reports, self-described evangelical Protestant Christians. When my friend tells these potential clients that she’s a Christian Catholic with a secular practice, the potential clients tell her that she is “not a real Christian” (because she is Catholic) and they decide not return to the practice! Holy smoke!

    I listen to Christian radio in the car on my errands, and I often hear ads for “Christian” businesses (including psychotherapy) and it worries me. As you point out, there’s a subtle (or not so subtle) inference that non-Christian businesses are inferior; perhaps even run by Satan himself. Even the material on the text of the show seems to be getting more fanatical, and at times, so divisive and mean-spirited that I have to switch stations. And hey — I am a lifelong churchgoer. How does it hit new listeners who are unsure about faith and religion?

    I see a great divide growing in the country, and sadly, fellow believers are putting the bricks in this wall. The holier-than-thou act isn’t gaining us any new friends, and when you get right down to it, exclusiveness is very UN-Christian. And sad.

  13. January 12, 2010 10:06 am

    I agree with you on the business aspect. I believe a business earns my business. I see this a lot with african american owned companies. They thing that just because I’m african american I’d support. I only support when there’s a good product and resupport when there’s great service.

    But I can see where they are coming from. Jews tend to support (at least the Jews I see) each other very well–they keep it in the family. This is a major source of their wealth. So it has its benefits.

    But great post!

  14. January 12, 2010 11:30 am

    Jesus is not a marketing tool.

    i see you used the wild hammer photo art…cool.

  15. Samuel Verret permalink
    January 26, 2010 11:11 am

    Thanks for a great post. This is also one of my pet peaves, for many reasons. Unfortunately, my experience has been, that when you do business with someone that advertises it as a “Christian” business, you don’t always get the service or quality you would expect. Having done business with other Christian’s for years as well as having consulted or coached Christian owned businesses, I have found they have had the same experiences. Also, when you advertise as a Christian Business other Christians expect discounts or add on’s at no charge. I believe we should do business with non-christians with such integrity and excellence that it is our work or service that stands out, not the fish on our business cards! Just some of my thoughts!

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