The Common Good

Your Guide Toward Meaningful Work

Sojomail - May 24, 2006

Quote of the Week : An Israeli general questions Hamas sanctions
Batteries Not Included : David Batstone: Your guide toward meaningful work
Building a Movement : Early-bird registration deadline soon for Pentecost 2006!
Culture Watch : The Da Vinci Code: 'Is that all there is?'
Politically Connect : Subtle advocates
Sojourners in the News : This week's media round-up
Boomerang : Readers write
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The Secret Message of Jesus

by Brian McLaren

Brian McLaren, one of Time magazine's "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America," is back. His latest work, The Secret Message of Jesus, leads readers on a journey as ground-shaking as it is life-changing. The quest: find the essential message of Jesus' life - even if it overturns conventional ideas, priorities, and practices.

"Through the years, I have frequently had an uncomfortable feeling," wrote McLaren, "that the portrait of Jesus I found in the New Testament didn't fit with the images of Jesus in the church." Out of that nagging discomfort arose McLaren's most revolutionary book to date.


" ... [E]conomic pressure in my view will not accelerate the collapse of the Hamas government."

- Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, the Israeli military's chief of staff. The Washington Post reports that Halutz's remarks reflect concern within the Israeli military that sanctions against the Palestinian Authority are having the counterproductive effect of increasing popular support for Hamas.

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Jim Wallis, Anne Lamott, and Richard Rohr - Together Again!
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Sept. 8 - 10, 2006: Pasadena, California

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    Your guide toward meaningful work
    by David Batstone

    The pursuit for meaningful work must be at the top of many people's minds these days. All of a sudden I am receiving a slew of invitations to speak on the subject of vocation and meaning at university campuses and professional forums.

    Individuals yearn to pour their talents and deepest interests into work that matters. They are tired of being one person at work, another with their family, and possibly yet another in their community or political activity. Sustaining these multiple personalities quickly becomes exhausting and makes us feel spiritually fragmented.

    Of course, many people in the world do not have the privilege of choosing work that means something beyond a daily wage. But for the majority of SojoMail readers, that is not the case. Education and economic conditions offer choices.

    It's exciting to watch traditional boundaries on work blur. In many cases, the decision whether to join, or launch, a nonprofit organization rather than a for-profit enterprise comes down to personal strategy and circumstance. In other words, your skills alone do not determine your career path. In that respect, I know some very talented managers and business minds who find their niche confronting the problem of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa or designing low-cost housing in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. In like manner, I met some remarkably creative and values-led people at Dell Computer Corporation where I spent last week delivering workshops on ethics and sustainability in a global economy.

    Following the publication of my last book, Saving the Corporate Soul, I went on the road for two years visiting all kinds of organizations about significance and purpose at work. I discovered that when individuals explain what motivates them they keep coming back to three basic drivers: purpose, passion, and profit. So I designed a short inventory to identify how individuals take a primary orientation from one of these drivers. I call the tool the Triple P Quiz: Purpose, Passion and Profit - and it's available online.

    I like to use the word orientation because we truly operate with a mix of motivations. Nonetheless, I discovered that nearly everyone I interview points to a primary driver that shapes their experience at work.

    In designing the tool, I aim not only to help workers learn more about themselves, I want to offer the workplace a language for job engagement and the range of motivations that inspire team members.

    It may be helpful to offer here a thumb-nail sketch of each p. Passion-led individuals value inspiring and creative work. No matter how much an organization touts the higher purpose of a job, if they do not feel passionate about the activities the position involves, they are not likely to find the job enticing. In other words, passion-led people shiver at the thought of waking up to a month of Mondays and face a set of tasks that are uninspiring.

    I meet purpose-led people most often in the nonprofit and civic sector. Don't get me wrong, these individuals are not disappointed to take on creative tasks. But what inspires them is the larger mission of the enterprise of which they are a part. Purpose people do not fit into a one-size-fits-all box, however. While one person may want to find a cure for cancer, another purpose person finds motivation for designing a new software. You want purpose people to help drive the mission and core values of your organization. They keep the enterprise on course.

    Profit-led people are the most rare in the non-profit world. Profit does not solely refer to bottom-line financials. More broadly, profit-led people find meaning in achieving a set of determined deliverables. They are the ones who provide discipline and structure to the organization. If you have ever started your own enterprise, you know the valuable role that profit-led people play, especially once your operation began to scale.

    The deeper I engage with organizations, the more I appreciate the range of motivations required to make an organization healthy and successful. Individuals are not all wired the same; they find meaning in very different ways. Unfortunately, we do not always value the differences.

    Last week I received a cynical note from an individual who took the Triple P Quiz and proclaimed that passion people are self-indulgent. In short, here's his message: It is well and good to seek inspiration, but get over it, because the world is full of suffering people. This purpose-led individual doubts the sincerity of other people who do not share his own motivation. In my experience, it is always a temptation for purpose-led people to feel that any other motivation for meaning is inferior, if not selling out.

    His position reminds me of a dilemma that a CEO presented to me recently. The company was a victim of its own success; it was experiencing wild economic growth. When the company launched over a decade ago, the very passionate founder attracted a first wave of employees who also believed fervently in the products of the company. Once the company passed the $100 million mark in sales, the management team saw the need to bring in profit-led people who could better discipline its operations. The early-generation workers, of course, viewed the intrusion of the profit-led people as a threat to their passion-led corporate culture. The profit-led people felt less than welcomed. For their part, they wondered how such a chaotic, undisciplined crew could have gotten so far in business.

    My challenge is to help every member of an organization recognize the value of an orchestra with many instruments. No organization can sustain itself without a strong mission (purpose), a creative and inspired dynamism (passion), and clear set of achievements and deliverables (profit). When any one of these values dominates in such a degree that it squeezes out the comfortable space the others offer, the organization will falter. Those enterprises that value the uniqueness of their personnel, on the other hand, design work environments where productivity thrives.

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    Hurry! Early-bird registration deadline soon for Pentecost 2006!

    Don't miss your chance to take your faith deeper by attending Pentecost 2006: Building a Covenant for a New America June 26-28 in Washington, D.C. This will be a powerful opportunity to put your faith into action to overcome poverty by gaining the tools, networks, and inspiration to strengthen the religious anti-poverty movement. Hurry and register before May 31 to get our early-bird discount!

    + Click here to register now!

    Speakers include:

    Sen. Barack Obama
    Sen. Hillary Clinton
    Sen. Sam Brownback*
    Sen. Blanche Lincoln
    Sen. Rick Santorum*
    Sen. Olympia Snowe*
    Ambassador Tony Hall
    Marian Wright Edelman
    Tavis Smiley (bonus event on Sunday, June 25 - stay tuned)
    Rev. Tony Campolo
    Rev. Sharon Watkins
    Rev. Brian McLaren
    Rev. Jim Wallis


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    The Da Vinci Code: 'Is that all there is?'
    by Donovan Jacobs

    A few hours before the film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code opened last Friday, Pat Robertson was on The 700 Club repeating (like so many Christians in recent months) that the movie was "dangerous." Moviegoers failed to pay attention to Robertson, as the thriller grossed a substantial $224 million worldwide its opening weekend - in other words, more than 25 million people paid to see the film.

    But it would have been a good idea for Da Vinci director Ron Howard and writer Akiva Goldsman to have listened to Robertson, though not in the way the conservative pastor would have liked. If the movie adaptation had been more daring and less tied to the thriller genre conventions and overall silliness of Dan Brown's novel, Da Vinci might have been both consistently entertaining and truly thought-provoking. Instead, considering the amount of controversy leading up to the film's release, one can't help but recall the old Peggy Lee song: Is that all there is?

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    NEW DVDs and CDs on Politics and Spirituality!

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    Subtle advocates
    by James Ferguson

    The Devil's Miner is Basilio Vargas, a fatherless 14-year-old "indio," or indigenous person, who has been mining silver in Potosi, Bolivia, since he was 10. Despite being a practicing Catholic, Basilio offers gifts to "tios," statues of the devil set up throughout the mines, to bid protection for his younger brother and himself from tunnel collapses, dangerous gases, runaway carts, delayed explosions, silicosis (dust in the lungs), and insufficient production.

    As grim and heavy as this sounds, The Devil's Miner, broadcast Tuesday on PBS, is a beautiful film with a subtle motif of tragedy. From the awesome, ever-present landscape of the highest city on earth to the colourful costumes and music of the annual festival to the disarming smiles of the Vargas family and their friends, this film drips beauty. While Basilio's struggles are not hidden in the film, we learn about them within the context of his life; he is not portrayed as a victim without a personality.

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    + Learn more about the documentary

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    Top story:

    Religious Liberals Gain New Visibility The Washington Post
    Liberal evangelicals are "leaping out of the closet and they are saying 'Enough is enough,'" said Jack Pannell, spokesman for Sojourners, a Washington-based evangelical social justice ministry. "Evangelical Christians are not all white people living in the suburbs and only concerned with abortion and same-sex marriage."

    More Sojourners in the news:

    Religious Left Struggles to Find Unifying Message The New York Times

    The U.S. in Peril? New York Review of Books

    Global Warming Causing Meltdown Between Left, Right Herald News Service

    Bush the Bad Christian American Spectator

    Inside Politics Washington Times

    The Religious Left Gathers Ottawa Citizen

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    Readers write

    Mandy Marshall writes from London, United Kingdom:

    I've just read Jim's article "Tears of War" and agree with the sentiment contained within it [SojoMail 5/19/2006]. It is good to be reminded of the realities of war and the shocking devastation it brings to lives on all sides of the conflict. It is particualrly poignant with the current ongoing conflicts around the world: Iraq, Darfur, DRC, Somalia, and Colombia to name a few. The challenge is how we engage as Christians in securing conflict resolution and praying into these situations knowing the daily devastation these conflicts bring to innocent people. We live in a media-fuelled world. We cannot plead ignorance of the situations surrounding us. The choice is turn away and ignore or engage. I certainly know what Jesus would do. The question is for us all is, "What am I going to do?" Today.


    Dr. Otto Willbanks writes from Dallas, Texas:

    I appreciated your story about your father and his experience visiting Hiroshima after the horrible, totally devastating atomic bomb. I, too, am from that era and also think about the consequences of that explosion. I was probably saved from a ghastly death on the Japanese beaches by that act. To me all war is immoral. But also, there is an immorality in not going to war when heartless tyrants like Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese leaders commit egregious acts of savagery against humanity. It seems, to me, that there are situations where leaders have to choose the lesser immorality. Dropping the bomb on Japan is, I believe, such a situation. Without question the world was and is better off since the evil ones we fought in the 1940s are gone. Our president and his advisors tell us the world is better off with Saddam gone. Maybe he is right. Maybe he is not. Only history will tell us for certain.


    Ben Smith writes from Hamilton, New Zealand:

    "Anyone who loses his or her faith by reading The Da Vinci Code ... needed a stronger foundation for his or her beliefs before reading it," says Ryan McCarl ["Is The Da Vinci Code dangerous?" SojoMail 5/19/2006]. But I doubt many evangelical or Catholic Christians are staying away from the movie or the book because it will cause them to lose their faith in Christianity. More a concern is the fact that millions of uninformed non-Christians who read the book will inevitably come away with a view of the church as an institution that was formed to suppress women and whose core doctrine was determined by a pagan Roman emperor in 325 C.E. These historical untruths which can act as barriers to people coming to faith in Christ are the real scandal of The Da Vinci Code.


    Ray Smith writes from Washington, D.C.:

    A recent article by Ryan McCarl "Is The Da Vinci Code dangerous?" states the Catholic Church has "suggested its members boycott the movie." It seems I have missed that mailing, since I have heard no such thing. It is possible local ministers have made such appeals, but there has been no official announcement as such and to claim that there has been an official appeal to boycott the movie makes me consider this article as "dangerous." I would hope your learned staff understands the nuance of the mulitple meanings of church (i.e sometimes it is used to refer to when a council of bishops speak, other times when the pope speaks, and still others when the faithful speak together). To treat the opinions of isolated priests or bishops as the postion of the church does much to add a sensational touch to your article, but it as unfounded as much of the movie - and that is what is dangerous.


    Jeanne Rikkers writes from San Salvador, El Salavador:

    The debate in the U.S. regarding the rights of immigrants and especially the discussion of the moral responsibility of Christians toward immigrants is inspiring. Let me just add that "the problem" - logistic, legal, moral, economic - of immigration will never be resolved within the U.S. alone. We live a global society. Our country, our corporations, our consumer dollars, our lifestyle, are all more closely linked than we might wish to believe to the reasons why people leave places such as El Salvador and arrive hungry and desperate in the U.S. Our moral responsibility goes beyond recognizing the harsh reality of the lives of undocumented and documented immigrants in the U.S. It extends to understanding our relation to the global South and acting to change the conditions which literally expel people from their home countries, their families, their cultures and their communities.


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