Faith. I sure wish I had more of it.
One of the reasons I value entrepreneurship so much has nothing to do with business, money, or profit, per se. For me, entrepreneurship is an alternate structure to reimpose meaning and value on a anomic world where faith increasingly seems structurally absent from everyday life.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung saw the human psyche as innately religious and made man’s intuitive connection to religion, in its various forms, the focus of his thought. Jung became increasingly alarmed before his death in 1961 with the disconnection of vital, everyday living religion in human life, whether it be the spirituality of primitive tribes or sophisticated Christian theology. Jung noted that faith “has lost its grip to an appalling extent. People are no more rooted in their world and lose their orientation. They just drift. That is very much our condition….Life loses its meaning.”
That quote is from the blog of my friend Rev. Stephen Bauman of Christ Church Methodist in NYC. Stephen points to the substitution of popular culture slogans and glib bromides, or hours surfing endlessly on the I-phone, as quick, ersatz and empty attempts to address questions of meaning. He says, “Where can people go to find something more lasting, something far more substantive than the thin gruel served in popular culture? How can people find their true orientation?”
I am a man of longing for faith. In my actual faith I find myself quite weak (and sometimes without any.) I deeply wish that were not so for a plethora of reasons. One of the selfish reasons is that it would likely make me a better businessman and entrepreneur, as well as a better man.
The Harvard Business Review (Oct. 13, 2013, pp. 32-3) did an interview with Dr. Mitchell Neubert of Baylor University, who has investigated the connection between faith and the propensity to start a business. He and his colleagues discovered that entrepreneurs were more actively religious than the general population. Entrepreneurs prayed more frequently and were more likely to believe that God was personally responsive. In addition to his own research, Neubert points to a 2004 study that positively correlates faith with personal ambition and innovation.
HBR asks Dr. Neubert if perhaps people with greater faith are more willing to take risks. He answers, “Yes, I think there’s a confidence that can come from your religious beliefs. And maybe the individualism and autonomy associated with entrepreneurship are reflected in the idea of a more personal, direct relationship with God.”
I don’t pretend to be a vicar of theological entrepreneurship. As I said, I am a person of weak and erratic faith. And that’s a part of why I have an entrepreneurial company: It can be at least be a penultimate earthly vessel for creating value, culture, community, and personal truth in a world that has lost effective daily structure for holiness. I hypothesize one of the reasons entrepreneurship has so taken the popular business imagination is an unspoken yen for meaning, as well a money. Part of the reason people adore Steve Jobs is because he was an artist in reaching to create meaning through his company.
Creating a company is an act of faith. A successful innovative business always seems like a bloody miracle to me. Here’s what Matthew 17:20 reports Jesus saying about faith. “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say into the mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.” Yikes.
That’s certainly faith well beyond my ken, but not faith beyond my desire.