Vocational Vision

When President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act last September, many Christians breathed a sigh of relief—and some of us couldn’t wait to start celebrating. For example, the Christian Coalition’s Ralph Reed exulted: “This is a . . . major [victory] for the pro-family movement.” But Reed may have popped the grape juice cork too early. Just two days before the Defense of Marriage Act became law, one of America’s biggest corporations—IBM—announced that it would extend medical benefits to partners of homosexual employees. IBM joined other computer giants—such as Microsoft and Apple—in extending benefits to gays, turning the computer industry into what might be called a “family unfriendly zone.” What has happened here? With all the effort poured into passing the Defense of Marriage Act, how could the Christian community be sideswiped by the corporate world—one that seems determined to degradate the definition of marriage? The answer is that in the battle over the culture, Christians left one key flank unprotected. With the best of intentions, Christian activists have concentrated their efforts solely on the political arena. Literally every political office, from local school board races to races for the United States Senate, has felt the impact of Christian political activism. Yet Christians are neglecting a key battleground: the private sector—businesses, corporations. You see, in a large and complex society like ours, many decisions that influence our culture are not made in the corridors of legislative power, or even by our courts. They are mediated by a relatively small number of highly placed professionals who often deliberate behind closed doors. These are the movers and shakers who sit on personnel-benefits committees deciding whether companies will recognize homosexual unions. Unfortunately, too few Christians have made a priority of pursuing a vocational track that might lead to their presence in an IBM conference room—even though what goes on there can effectively neutralize legislation signed in the nation’s capital. This lack of what we might call vocational vision is especially prevalent among evangelical Christians. This group trails significantly behind both mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics in engaging the culture at this level, says Christian cultural critic Don Eberly. In an article in Regeneration Quarterly, Eberly points to the paltry number of evangelicals in publishing, entertainment, secular academia, and the elite professions, as well as the corporate world. The result, Eberly says, is that evangelicals remain culturally isolated, often seeking to influence the world from the comfort and safety of their own bunkers. “Cultural recovery,” Eberly writes, will begin only “when evangelicals recruit and train individuals to do serious work within the culture-shaping institutions themselves.” IBM’s decision is having the effect of bringing acceptance for gay marriage through the back door—and it ought to motivate Christians to rethink their strategy for cultural renewal. We can start by recovering the neglected Protestant doctrine of vocation. We need to encourage young people to consider callings not only in the ministry or in politics, but also in the business and secular professions. Instead of simply setting our sights on Washington, we need to set our sights on penetrating every vocation and every corporation with dedicated evangelical professionals—professionals who will impact our culture for Christ.


Chuck Colson


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