FAITH@WORK > WEEK 4
Fixing the System
No matter how much effort and love we put into our individual work, if the system we are working within is broken and dysfunctional, we cannot do our best work. Our responsibility as Christians extends to transforming and improving systems (sometimes referred to as "social justice"), not just our own individual work.
The first reading this week from Isaiah recalls how God guides the pagan Cyrus the Great (founder of the Persian Empire) and his "system" to do his will. How can we put our wider systems of work to work for the common good and ultimately the Kingdom of God?
Transforming Work Frustrations
The spirituality of work encourages workers to try to improve situations and eliminate problems when possible. In fact, it recognizes that they can complain about the frustrations of their work without destroying its spiritual meaning. Even when it comes to the paycheck, the spirituality of work does not mean accepting unjust wages. At all times an active spirituality of work finds a way to build on the negatives and perhaps even find in them a glimmer of new life. As work is a participation in God's ongoing creation, it is, in a certain sense, a collaboration in Christ's redemption.
"Sometimes I have to fight the institution in order to deliver education," Elizabeth Collins explains. "I suppose this a problem common to many occupations. I work in spite of the institution sometimes, rather than because of it."
Institutions need to be reformed for many reasons: inefficient procedures and bureaucratic paperwork, pay and benefit disparities, etc. This is not an easy task. It requires wisdom, right timing, social acumen, and good judgment. Most crucial to the reform of an institution is the cooperation among a group of like-minded workers.
From The Spirituality of Work small group guide
by William Droel
Running a Business with Christian Values
This video tells the story of Bob Walker and his company Walker Mowers, and how they made some different decisions--some remarkable--through the years because of their Christian faith.
Working to Make the System Work
A nurse in a hospital... may find great meaning in her work, viewing it as a service to others, a share in God's ongoing creation...
But if the hospital in which she works is poorly managed, if there is not enough good staff or supplies are short, or if the physical plant is inadequate, then that nurse cannot do her best, most spiritual work. If thousands of patients are coming to the hospital with inadequate insurance so that they cannot afford the care they need, or put off seeking it until they are very ill, then that nurse cannot do her best, most spiritual work. In other words, if the system itself does not work, then that nurse cannot do her best, most spiritual work.
This is true in virtually every kind of work, even our volunteer work, or our unpaid work around the home or with loved ones. If "the system"--the institutions of society--do not work, then none of us can do our best, most spiritual work. So part of the spirituality of work, of necessity, is working to make the system work. This is not something most of us think much about, because we assume that the system is working and that if it is not, somebody else will fix it.
Secondly, even if we recognize that the system needs fixing, most of us do not have the knowledge, the skill, the time, or the power to fix it. "Making the system work" seems like such a mammoth undertaking, something that is difficult and messy and controversial. It is all that, which is why we need a spirituality of work to sustain us as we attempt it.
For the act of making the system work requires organization. If individuals could make the system work by their own individual action, they would do so. To change institutions and structures of society requires leadership, political will, and sustained effort over a long period. And making changes will be controversial, because the system is the way it is because somebody is benefitting from it...
What is Legal vs. What is Right
Catholic Women on Work & Faith
America Magazine, produced by the Jesuit order, interviewed three professional women for this interview about work and their faith for this video. The first two interviews tell how these women have used their jobs to "fix the system."
Question of the Week
How am I called to improve the system in my place of work--making it more just, more loving, or just more effective?