Dear Theophilus: Taking Jesus to Work

interracial group of people gathered around a workplace library table praying as an integration of faith

Dear Faculty,

GCU emphasizes the integration of faith, learning and work. Shouldn’t religion be left out of the classroom or the workplace? Shouldn’t the classroom and the workplace be a neutral space without the influence of religion? Why should a Christian take their faith to work with them?

- Theophilus

Dear Theophilus,

Your question is a great introduction to our summer series. This summer we are going to tackle many of the questions and concerns about GCU’s commitment to the Integration of Faith, Learning and Work (IFLW). We hope to address questions that reflect the most common concerns related to each of GCU’s colleges.

This inquiry is a great introduction because it gets at the most fundamental question about whether we should even be concerned about the integration of faith, learning and work in the first place. To begin with, your question reflects a modern assumption that the sacred and secular are two separate spheres that we can and should compartmentalize in our lives.

In this view, religion—and the values that follow from it—is fine if it stays in private. When one enters the public sphere—whether the classroom, the workplace, the voting booth, etc.—one must leave those values at home and adopt a secular neutrality. Faith has no place in the secular sphere. There are a few reasons why I believe this an unreasonable idea.

The Myth of Neutrality

The first problem is that it is not really neutral. This is evident in two ways.

First, the secular view does not affirm everyone’s faith to create a safe, neutral place for everyone to play nicely. It takes the side most often of naturalism and assumes the irrelevance of everyone’s faith. Faith is treated like a child’s belief in Santa Claus. It is cute and keeps the child behaving nicely, but we all know it is false and irrelevant to real life.

Second, it favors the majority or the mighty. In secular society, decisions will be made. Those decisions will reflect someone’s values and will conflict with the values of others. In these cases, secular society does not remain neutral. Someone’s values will be violated, and things will swing in favor of the majority or the mighty.

The Need for Values

The second problem I see with this secular/sacred divide is its attempt to be valueless in public. The questions we face today are not valueless questions. When we are asking questions about whether something is fair, good, just or preferable, we ask value-laden questions. We are concerned with “what ought to be,” not merely “what is.”

As our society struggles with questions about racial justice, gender equality, wealth inequalities and so on, we cannot answer the questions about what should be done without first asking fundamental questions such as: “What is good?” “What is justice?” “What is equality?” These are value-laden questions.

Secularism, in its claim to be valueless, offers no resources to answer these questions. The big idea questions, which our religious traditions look to answer, are necessary to answer the questions we face.

The Importance of Character

The final problem with the secular/sacred divide lies in the notion of character. Character is who we are, wherever we are.

The secular divide asks us to be one way in our homes and another in public. It asks us to compartmentalize our lives and to leave our values at home. It asks us to deny our most fundamental values when we walk into work, school or the voting booth. This is untenable for the Christian. If the Christian is to be loving, just, humble and peaceful, the Christian is to be so in private and in public.

Christians, and I would argue everyone else, should look to live integrated lives. The compartmentalization and neutrality assumed in the secular/sacred divide is not healthy and not what our society needs. We are facing a values crisis, and secularism cannot give us the answers we need.

Integrating faith, learning, and work does not mean that we must bring our religious trinkets into work to place in our cube. It does not mean that we can simply use “the Bible says” to answer every question in the classroom. It does mean we should be Christian characters in every sphere of our lives. It does mean we are disciples of Jesus wherever we are, whether in private or public.

No matter what degree program you choose to pursue, Grand Canyon University can help you earn a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry degree. GCU has been training Christians in ministry since its inception. You can also earn your Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies degree.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.