This is the fourth entry in a series of posts addressing Being a disciple of Jesus Christ, and Social Work. The purpose of these posts is to view questions proposed from a friend a few years back when he learned that I was pursuing a degree in Social Work. You can see the entire series as it is posted by clicking here. So, here is the next entry, enjoy!
Q. How does Social Work interface with Christianity?
A. Good question! There are a plethora of views on this topic that could be better explored independently of this discussion. But, for our purpose, I would assert that Christianity is the foundation behind the ‘movement’ and profession we often label Social Work.
To ask where these two entities ‘interface’ automatically assumes that they are in a dichotomous relationship. While the contemporaneous demonstration of social work and its academic institution across the land have set the modern precedent of what ‘social work’ is and how it is carried out, it really has its root in the outpouring of a Christian value and core faith tenet, loving one as he loves himself.
In closing, I will post a few links at the bottom of this entry, and include a quote from Alan Keith-Lucas’ book “So You Want to be a Social Worker: A Primer for the Christian Student.” I believe the author sums up the dilemma posed in this question rather well. It really does get to the bottom of our thinking when we as “Christians” begin to look at social work as a profession appointed to those who have been professionally trained, and not the tenet or vocation itself being born out of one’s values and intrinsic convictions of faith.
“The real difference between Christians when it comes to theology does not lie in their secondary or tertiary beliefs. It lies in their whole attitude toward the Good News. Is is essentially a matter of emphasis. There are Christians, for example, whose interest in their religion is directed towards their own relationship with the Almighty. They are concerned chiefly with their own salvation. Theirs might be called a vertical religion. All communication is upwards and downwards, between themselves and God. Their relationships with people are not seen as part of their religion, except, perhaps, as they try to obey the commands that God has given them about justice and mercy and “loving one’s neighbor as oneself”, which they conscientiously try to do, but without any real concern for what their neighbor is thinking or feeling. The result, in too many cases, is a concern only for the spiritual state of their neighbors, a narrow form of evangelism and a lack of concern for such things as tolerable living conditions for others. They sometimes express their views by speaking of the “spirituality” of the church. The church, in their view, should be concerned only with the saving of souls, and need not trouble itself with the plight of the hungry, the oppressed or the troubled. It should also steer clear of any temptation to become involved in questions of social justice.”
Therein lies the disconnect. There has to be an “interface.” For most of us, that is acceptable to create those borders and lines that distinguish areas of our lives of when we are one thing and other times another. But for me, my life in social work is because I am Christian. Therefore, they interface at the cross of Jesus Christ.
What do you think? Is there a cross-section where faith and vocation meet that makes them separate yet integrated? Or, in this case, is social work and Christianity intertwined despite contemporary interpretations of the job?
This post is part of a series.