Friday, February 2, 2007

Faith at work

It used to be that devout atheists, a distinct minority in this country, could get some relief at work. Religions, even the Jehovah's Witnesses to whom no doorbell is off limits, practiced a hands-off policy when it came to company time -- giving rise to the so-called Sunday-Monday Gap. Increasingly however, people of faith, particularly Evangelical Christians, are demanding that gap be bridged.

David Miller, the Executive Director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture, plumbs this demand in his new book. (Chapter One is online here.) He says there are so many people who want to be allowed to openly express and practice their religious beliefs, including proselytizing, at work that it qualifies as a social movement.

I got a chance to interview Dr. Miller for an article on the subject back in 2003. I also got a chance to talk with managers and executives in major U.S. companies, who are encouraging it. People like Tom Muccio, who was running the P&G's Wal-Mart Global Customer Team. He said 80 percent of the several hundred employees in his group participated in religious affinity groups and that P&G's intranet also hosted a Christian e-mail network that encouraged its members to pray for the leadership of the company in their dealing with business and social issues.

"There are a number of Bible studies and/or prayer groups in our office pretty much any day of the week," Muccio told me. "Nobody's pushing it. It's just a group of individuals saying, ‘Hey, do you want to do a Bible study?' That is something that 10 years ago just wouldn't happen in other than Christian companies."

Whether it should be happening now is a question that company leaders are going to have to carefully consider.

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