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A Call to Be Good Neighbors

As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, even if they work in an industry of which many are skeptical. Gasland and PromisedLand caricature oil industry workers as poachers of natural resources. Have we naively accepted these portrayals as true? I am friends with many of these people and believe such portrayals are misleading.

Christians have a rich history in the oil and gas industry, and Howard Pew is perhaps the most prominent Christian to work in it. The Pew family founded Sun Oil—today known as Sunoco, a Fortune 100 company. Compelled by their Christian faith, the Pew Family became a major force in supporting the abolition of slavery and advancement of Christianity.

Howard carried his family convictions and commitment to justice into his career. After graduating from Grove City College, he started working for his father at Sunoco and worked his way to becoming CEO. Under Pew's leadership, Sunoco grew nearly 40 times over, and he gave millions of dollars to Christian ministries. And it's because of a meeting between Howard Pew and a young evangelical preacher, Billy Graham, that Christianity Today exists.

In Denver, we have a surging oil and gas community. I am privileged to call many of these folks, like the Besses, friends. They are outdoorsmen and hunters. They are hikers and skiers who love to explore Colorado with their families. They cherish the beauty of God's creation and take extraordinary precautions to protect it. They take their work seriously and they responsibly harvest the abundant resources God has given us.

Every industry is morally complicated. But not all oil and gas executives are societal villains. As Christians, we should carefully appraise the stereotypes perpetuated by Hollywood, and consider the vast value oil and gas workers create for us all. They risk their own resources to provide energy for our world.

I meet daily with people in all sorts of industries—bankers, lawyers, doctors, educators, and realtors. Without doubt, oil and gas workers feel least appreciated. They shouldn't have to hide their employment for fear of criticism. We should celebrate them for the work they do to fuel our world, create jobs, and outcompete those persecuting our fellow Christians.

Chris Horst is vice president of development at HOPE International. He has written for Christianity Today about manufacturers, mattress sellers, and solar product designers, all working for the common good in Denver, where he lives with his family. Chris blogs at Smorgasblurb, and you can connect with him on Twitter @chrishorst. His first book, Mission Drift, hit shelves this month. The views expressed in this essay are his own.

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