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Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 3.4 (2000) 15-33
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Following Jesus at the Job Fair
Michael J. Baxter, C.S.C.
Last January at the University of Notre Dame, where I live and work, scores of representatives from business corporations and the military gathered in the Joyce Center for the 2000 Summer Internship Job Fair. The purpose of this annual event, sponsored by the University's Career Center, is to enable students to make contact with potential employers for an internship the following summer and quite possibly, if the internship goes well for both parties, for a full-time job after graduation. As suggested by the name, this event has something of a carnival atmosphere to it, with rows of makeshift booths, colorful signs, and a variety of devices designed to catch the attention of students strolling by. Arthur Anderson was giving away yo-yos. Illinois D.O.T. was handing out yellow Frisbees. Nabisco offered cheese and crackers. Students were blowing bubbles at the Proctor and Gamble booth. But these corporations were offering to students much more than fun and games, as could be surmised by the tables stacked with glossy pamphlets and smart, graphically designed business cards. They were offering jobs, opportunities, careers--a [End Page 15] way of life. Thus there was a curious juxtaposition of playfulness and professionalism at this job fair, corresponding to the work-hard/play-hard style of life espoused by so many college students today. The corporate representatives understood student life, for most of them had only recently graduated from college themselves, in some cases the previous May, and more than a few were from Notre Dame. Fashionably coiffed and dressed in the smartest of twenty-something style yet still literate in the latest campus idioms, these corporate neophytes were able to mediate two worlds to our students, and so to point the way that crosses over from the collegiate world of Notre Dame to the corporate world of the Company-That's-Right-For-Them.
Over the past several years, I have come to regard my teaching as an attempt to point out a different way to students, a way that crosses over from this world to the next, a way that opens up for us as we look at our lives in the light of eternity. While it would be a mistake to maintain that these two ways are necessarily opposed, as if to say that no one in the corporate world can be saved, it would also be a mistake not to warn students that they cannot serve both God and money and that if they try, they will end up making an idol out of money and blaspheming God. This point comes up in various ways in the readings on the syllabus of my introductory course in theology, "A Faith To Die For": in The Confessions, for example, where Augustine recalls how after his conversion his "mind was free at last from the gnawing need to seek advancement and riches"; 1 in Veritatis splendor, where John Paul II explains that "the way and at the same time the content of this perfection [in love of God] consists in the following of Jesus, sequela Christi, once one has given up one's own wealth and very self"; 2 in the Book of Amos, where the prophet decries the swindlers and exploiters who say to themselves "'we can buy up the weak for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals, and even get a price for the sweepings of the wheat'" (Amos 8:6); and in The Long Loneliness, where Dorothy Day bemoans "the scandal of businesslike [End Page 16] priests, of [the Church's] collective wealth, the lack of responsibility for the poor, the worker." 3 Taken together, these readings and others are meant to convey what Michael Garvey has called "the anti-capitalist bias of the Church" behind which "lies a perfectly healthy suspicion that the pursuit of wealth and the flight from God are pretty much indistinguishable...