Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor

Only Four C's for the Christian?
Edith Hoffman Konopka
Department of Geology and Geophysics
University of Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin

From PSCF 38 (June 1986): 151                                                            The editor responds

Dr. Bube's comments on the common conflict among the claims of the church, the state, and the employer (sensu lato) on a Christian (JASA, December 1985, p. 229-231) are well taken. However, I believe he has focussed unnecessarily narrowly on the modern industrial corporation as "bad guy" in his analysis. Perhaps his proximity to the madness of Silicon Valley has colored his analysis somewhat. Although the idolatry of the worship of money and power is a common, obvious problem in the corporate setting, other types of employment offer their own pitfalls, lumpable as the temptations of "the world." For instance, consider the predicament of the 1980's junior faculty member at the college or university of your choice.

The competitive scramble for tenure (read success) in many cases translates into what I, and probably Dr. Bube, would consider excessive time devoted to work. In my limited (four year) adventure into the corporate world before entering graduate school, it was my observation that, in terms of overtime demanded, my professional industrial co-workers as a group fared about the same as, or somewhat better than, successful college and university faculty, although they had less control over when the overtime occurred. What about other groups that are prone to vocational over-committment, such as police, doctors, pastors? The danger is more widespread than Dr. Bube suggests; not just in corporations, but in many other institutions and situations, especially in the U.S. It is not only the Christian corporation executive, but also the Christian tenure committee person who must consider what is a reasonable expectation and what is too much; the Christian doctor, as well as the Christian adhesive chemist, must weigh when professional goals and the desire for advancement should give way before other committments. Any Christian who is temperamentally inclined or socialized to value professional competence and "success"-money, power, reputation, prestige, indispensibility, security, or whatever-must guard against making an idol of occupational demands. In some ways it is even harder to put limits on occupations whose goals are, or seem, more idealistic than making money.

The Editor Responds ...

As a faculty member of a state university for nearly 40 years, I believe the writer of this letter is right. When I started teaching, there was a competitive scramble (called "publish or perish") which put pressure on family time, church involvement, and even university teaching time. Some of this resulted in, among other things, divorce and/or denial of tenure. However, many of us, probably most, have survived and prospered. For most of my teaching years I have so enjoyed the lot our God has given me that I have sometimes felt guilty getting paid for it!

However, now the situation is very different. The prospects for the "1980's junior faculty member" is appalling. I have been particularly disturbed by the practice of temporary, non-renewable appointments. These allow administrators to hire at low starting salaries with minimal or no "benefits." Then, after they have been "used" for one to three years they are out. Often their teaching loads have been so heavy they have not even had time to publish their doctoral dissertations and hence are not marketable for tenure track positions. These people are forced to move elsewhere as much as anyone in the modern corporations. These moves, likewise, strain family and church relationships.

Furthermore, even if they can obtain a tenure track position, their subsequent tenure is not merely on the basis of "publish or perish," but of "get out there and get the big research bucks (government or industry)" if you want to get tenure. So instead of spending time on teaching, family, church, or even research, the time is spent writing grant proposals. I know all this-and I am sure others know it too-from the frustrating and even tragic experiences of some of our students as well as of the temporary appointees who have passed through my own department. All of this means that maybe we should add a fifth "C"-college-to Dick Bube's list of the conflicting demands which are involved in the determination of Christian priorities.

Wilbur L. Bullock