A Labor Day Appeal

“While it may be politically expedient to blame globalization for the job losses, the real culprits are increased automation and investment in software. According to some predictions, half of all jobs in industrialized countries will vanish in the next 20 years due to automation, computerization, and advances in robotics and artificial intelligence. It will take time before new jobs replace those that are lost.”

Maintaining a sense of purpose in a changing workplace

I need your help?

My current research project involves interviewing people who I meet on the road (literally and virtually) who have experienced or find themselves facing the kinds of changes in work and working highlighted in this article.

Many of us have stories to tell and these stories need to be told in our colleges, seminaries and through related faith@work organizations. If professors and other leaders are to be equipped and to equip those they teach to help people through these challenges they will need your help – they need your story.

If you have a personal story you would like to share and include in this research on work disruption, unemployment, under-employment, mid or late career pivoting, or the like, I’d love to hear from you and hear your byway tale.

I am asking 3 basic questions

  1. What is your story through your working life and how have changes in work and working effected you and your ‘career’?
  2. How did you respond to these changes or disruptions and how did you maintain a sense of meaning, purpose or personal identity in the process, and did faith or spirituality play a role positively or negatively through this journey?
  3. Did ‘play’ (recreation, travel, art…) help you or distract you during your transitions?

You may write your responses, or make a short video (e.g. on your phone) and send it to me. (Contact me for details for submitting a video.)

If you wish to participate, I will send you a ‘consent form’ as I will need your permission to share your story in publication and in educational presentations.

Alt-Right Nationalism, Racism and a Theology of Work


In a Time article today, Aug 25, 2017, Christian pastor and social commentator Brian McLaren offers some reflections following his experiences with white supremacists and Nazis during the recent terrible incident in Charlottesville.

He asks, “What would possess these young white men (and a few women) to chant hateful anti-Semitic and racist slogans, to shout homophobic, xenophobic and misogynistic slurs, to speak of putting Jews in ovens and driving people of color off of “their” soil (land stolen by their immigrant ancestors from the Native Peoples)?

McLaren then turns to an interview with Christian Piccolini, a former white supremacist. Piccolini suggests that “There are so many marginalized young people, so many disenfranchised young people today with not a lot to believe in, with not a lot of hope, so they tend to search for very simple black-and-white answers.”

Further, Piccolini says it’s “not necessarily because of the ideology. I think that the ideology is simply a vehicle to be violent.” “I believe that people become radicalized, or extremist, because they’re searching for three very fundamental human needs: identity, community and a sense of purpose.”

This insight from a former insider, it seems to me, might be a key for understanding the rise of, and for working against escalating racism and ‘alt-right’ white extremism today.

It might also take us closer to the heart of the contentious and wider social tensions reshaping culture today – such as the rise of ‘Trump America’ and the increasingly aggressive imposition of progressive social agendas.

Identity, community and a sense of purpose – In what ways and in what places do people find these? A theology of work suggests that important aspects of these basic human needs are met in and through our work and working.

Pope John Paul II, in his 1981 encyclical argues that “human work is a key, probably the essential key, to the whole social question if we try to see that question really from the point of view of man’s {humanity’s} good. And if the solution – or rather the gradual solution – of the social question, which keeps coming up and becomes ever more complex, must be sought in the direction of “making life more human”, then the key, namely human work, acquires fundamental and decisive importance.”

Do you agree? Might our work and our working, our changing experiences of it, the lack thereof, the way we approach it “managerially”, or some other dimension of this perennial human activity lie at the heart of our social problems?

Might racism, nationalism, and current attempts at social control be symptoms of a more fundamental problem of work? Might a theology of work be be how the Church can best address the problems of racism and nationalism?