Unthaw the chilling effect on faith in business
Examples of businesses that are speaking and living out their values are easy to find. Whether it is Ben and Jerry's advocating for giving land back to Native Americans. Digital publishers censoring political speech that they find offensive. Netflix offering a full year of parental leave to birth parents. You can find almost any kind of value being espoused by American companies today.
But what about companies that hold values that align with what it means to be a Jesus follower?
Have business leaders simply held back from expressing or living out some of their most important values around faith because of cultural pressure? The effect of being "canceled" in social media has created pressure on only speaking out in ways that conform with what the loudest cultural forces deem "appropriate."
Separation of what?
One example is the mythology around the concept of separation of church and state. While it is true that the principle of separating religious institutions from government affairs is important for maintaining a healthy society, it is often misinterpreted and misapplied in today's context. This overemphasis on the separation of church and state has created a chilling effect on faith in business.
The original intention behind the concept of separation of church and state was to prevent the government from favoring any particular religious group and to protect the freedom of individuals to practice their religion without interference. However, in recent times, this idea has been distorted and used as a weapon to silence religious values and beliefs in the business world.
Getting chilly instead of on fire
The chilling effect occurs when businesses, particularly those founded by Jesus' followers, feel pressured to conform to the prevailing cultural norms rather than fully living out their values. Regulations and media scrutiny play a significant role in this phenomenon. The fear of being "canceled" or publicly shamed by facing public backlash on social media has forced businesses to walk on eggshells, limiting their expression of faith.
In this climate, businesses can be hesitant to openly associate themselves with religious beliefs or promote values that are rooted in faith. They fear being labeled as intolerant, discriminatory, or out of touch with the changing societal landscape. The chilling effect stifles the authenticity and genuine expression of faith in the business world, ultimately undermining the freedom of religious expression as businesses comply with perceived or real bullying in the market.
The pressure to conform can get us to change our actions so no cancellation is even necessary to control us.
It is crucial to recognize that the separation of church and state should not translate into the separation of faith and business. Religion has played a significant role in shaping the values, ethics, and principles that many businesses uphold today. By discouraging businesses from living out their faith-based values, society risks losing the positive contributions that religiously influenced businesses can make.
The mythology surrounding the concept of separation of church and state is just one example of cultural realities that have created in a chilling effect on faith in business. This kind of mistaken thinking can set businesses up to be bullied by the social media mob or to keep their most strongly held values secret. It is time that we look long and hard at any force that causes us to shrink back from living and sharing what we believe is the world's most important truth.
What's the goal?
In our view, the goal is not just to exercise our rights or push our views on others, because what goes along with the commitment to demonstrate and declare Jesus openly is a high value for real compassion and empathy for each person we work with or serve. But as in all things rights-related, if you don't use them, or if you allow yourself to be bullied out of them, you might just lose them.