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The New York Times Magazine: Workers can be religious? At work? Really?

The New York Times Magazine: Workers can be religious? At work? Really?
God bless Russell Shorto: In this week's New York Times Magazine cover story, "Faith at Work," you can tell that he's really, really trying to present a fair, understanding, even sympathetic portrait of marketplace ministry. But he really never gets beyond being agape that some businesses, CEOs, and workers wear their beliefs on their sleeve—and that it's all so … legal!

"This is strange-sounding stuff," he writes. "To someone unfamiliar with marketplace Christianity, the questions pile up. Is this legal? Aren't there separation-of-church-and-state issues here somewhere? What about discrimination?"

It's a long piece—7,777 words, to be precise—but the basic structure goes like this:

  • Astonishing anecdote about religion in the workplace.
  • Reminder that it's all above board.
  • Note that it's still a bit strange.
  • Another andecdote about strangeness.
  • Disclaimer about it being legal and, in some ways, positive.
  • Acknowledgement that being legal and, in some ways, positive, doesn't stop it from being odd and, in other ways, troubling.
  • Repeat.

Shorto, whose writing style is a true delight, is up front about his biases and intent:

My own orientation is secular but that I also believe that all religions have more or less equal dollops of spiritual truth in them, which become corrupted by personal and cultural dross. …
My task … was to try to understand a phenomenon that has, from my perspective, an inherent conflict in it. One of the movement's objectives is to give Christians an opportunity to ''out'' themselves on the job, to let them express who they are, freely and without ...
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Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's managing editor for news and online journalism. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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