ASA: salt, leaven?
Joseph Carson (email@example.com)
27 Oct 96 15:17:03 EST
Terry Mattingly is a well-known Christian journalist, whose
professional witness has been detailed Bob Briner's book, LAMBS
AMONG WOLVES. He writes a weekly column, "Family and Religion,"
that is carried in a number of newspapers, including the
I invite your comments and will forward a distillation of them to
October 27, 1996
Mr. Terry Mattingly
Dear Mr. Mattingly,
I've written to you on several occasions related to how Christian
professionals integrate (or don't integrate) the Christian
metaphysic into their workplaces and professions. The headline
of your column in yesterday's Knoxville News-Sentinel was
"Christian Activists Become Disillusioned with Politics."
It was timely as I spent yesterday involved with the annual
meeting of the Christian Environmental Council (CEC), an off-
shoot of Evangelicals for Social Action, mentioned in your
column, in Chattanooga and Monteagle, TN.
The meeting and discussion demonstrated, again, to me how much
Christian activists are stuck in a rut regarding being "salt,
light, and leaven" in America 1996. Personal prayer and study
are emphasized along with inroads to political process. Left
largely unmentioned is the role many Christians, as our secular
counterparts, spend the best hours of the best years of their
lives either preparing for or pursuing - a career in a
I'm an employee of the Department of Energy. I'm also a licensed
Professional Engineer, active in several professional societies.
There are significant distinctions in the two roles. As an
employee, I'm basically in a "master-slave" relationship. It's
simply not my place, in America, in 1996, to voice concerns about
"my master's business," - even as a sworn federal agent about
reasonable evidence of wrongdoing in a federal Agency. If other
lessons can be derived from my dismal experiences as a
whistleblower in DOE, I'd like to know what they are.
As a member of a professional society, I enjoy much more autonomy
in largely egalitarian relationships with my colleagues in
engineering profession. I have an important voice in my
professional societies, and leadership positions in them go
begging, at least at the local level.
For whatever reasons, perhaps because Christian theology of
vocations is rooted in master-slave relationships, there is
little discussion of how Christians can be (ok, "Roaring Lions")
in their individual workplaces or larger professions.
As most men, I will leave my legacy primarily in my family and
vocation, not by who I did or did not vote for. Given that, why
is the Christian witness in America's professions so AWOL? The
Christian Legal Society (CLS) has about 4500 members. Its
mission statement doesn't include a role for its members to be
"salt, light, and leaven" in America's legal profession - why? I
think it's because CLS members are afraid of being stigmatized,
with attendant loss of professional prestige and income. Ditto
Christian Medical and Dental Association and the American
Scientific Affiliation, of which about 1 in 1000 qualified
Christian technical professionals is a member (I'm a member of
ASA and am speaking from first person experience, amplified as
recently as yesterday's CEC meeting.)
Is the situation much different in your field of writing,
teaching, and journalism, Terry? Are their Christian
professional societies for these professions? Trade
Associations? If so, do they strive to integrate within their
secular counterparts, or do they play the marginalized, self-
standing "Christian professional ghetto" role?
Let me suggest some theories for your consideration:
o As mentioned previously, because as employees Christians
have arguably little justification for being anything other
than what their employers, scrupulous or not, want; and
because the system can and does punish ethical dissent in
workplace so vigorously, their is little discussion of roles
of Christians as employees of the corporations and agencies
through which America's work is largely done.
o Christian "leaders" - ministers, authors, speakers are, by
and large, not qualified to speak very authoritatively to
Christian professionals qua professionals. Unless "leader"
were a member of the specific profession, he/she wouldn't be
particularly knowledgeable or credible. So they stick to
their knitting, which is fine, except there is little call
from that quarter for Christian professionals to pick up
Gospel mandate to be "salt, light, and leaven" where they
live - in their professions.
o There is also possibility of "zero-sum" game. If I spend
time in my professional society, that's less time available
for church sponsored programs. All professionals are
seemingly time and "margin" challenged today.
o To be open about one's metaphysical beliefs in one's
workplace or one's profession is to court "negatives."
You'll displease more people than you will please. Better
to keep it neutral.
I ran the attached "open letter" in several publications in
Knoxville/Oak Ridge and Washington DC. As my email to Stephan
Jaeger, editor of Engineering Times, shows, I'm hopeful that my
situation will be occasion of some positive things happening in
my profession of engineering.
Your coworker in His vineyard,
Joseph Carson, P.E.
10953 Twin Harbour Drive
Knoxville, TN. 37922
Open Letter to DOE Secretary O'Leary