Vocations, Vacations, and Politics in Public


Here is a great challenge for all of us to consider if not specifically, as Stephen Lazarus suggests, at least conceptually.  In the article below Stephen, a member of the Cardus team that publishes Comment Magazine and who is passionate about all things people, public policy, and research, encourages us to take a chunk of time to think and reflect. Or as he puts it, “take time this summer to escape into responsibility and reflection.” What a challenge—sign me up!

As you read, recognize that Stephen is focused on his passions while at the same time working to pull us into the deep end of his pool. Whether or not you share common interests with Stephen, the big idea of escaping into responsibility and reflection is a fantastic charge for all. After you read this, join me in pulling out our calendar and looking for our week of responsibility and reflection.


Vocations, Vacations, and Politics in Public

(by Stephen Lazarus)

Take time this summer to escape into responsibility and reflection. Take a retreat, for new vision and old certainties to be made fresh again.

Monks take vows. Modern urbanites and suburbanites take vacations. This summer I plan to do both. I am thinking of it as a “new monastic” spiritual pilgrimage with a neocalvinist twist. My idea is this: instead of the usual beach trip, I am taking a trip to the beach to renew and to rededicate myself to God and to my own vocation or “calling.”

As conversation partners, I am taking along books I’ve long wanted to read or re-read, because they address key questions in my field of politics, government, and public policy. They address both basic and big questions, the hard challenges that keep surfacing, and a few of the questions that keep me up at night. After more than ten years in my present calling, I am at an impasse and I need both new vision and reminders of old certainties made fresh again.

The time is ripe for a trip to the beach—not as an escape from responsibility but as an escape into it, and for deep reflection on God’s call and on the possibilities for a more just politics.

The books below offer just such insight.

Beach time provides the space, scenery, and stillness to hear this call again, and to recover a truer, more compelling understanding of day-to-day purpose and passion that is easily lost in the rough and tumble of life. So, along with the suntan lotion and beach ball, I am packing a desire for renewal, some questions to explore, and a few resources to guide me in what is an essentially spiritual, as well as vocational, quest.

Great rescue project

In his article on Vocation in the Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics, the Princeton Theological Seminary professor emeritus Max Stackhouse traces how the term “vocation” developed historically. People, today, often view the service they offer through their working lives as “commercialized expertise for hire.” However, alongside this dominant view there is a much richer notion and experience of work we’ve inherited. This view has deep roots in early monastic movements and in the teachings of great reformers like Luther, Calvin, and Wycliffe. In this view, with our work we can answer God’s call to care for and to develop the diverse parts of life: politics, business, family, the arts, et al. that God creatively “patterned” into this very good but, now, fallen and deeply broken world. So the challenge comes to each of us: How can I exercise God-blessed creativity in my part of the garden where God has put me?

(Appears in Summer 2007 Issue: Summer reading byJune 1st, 2007)


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