Why do stories matter? It’s been said, “That’s like asking why you eat.”
Thanks to the work of the Values & Capitalism initiative of the American Enterprise Institute, three new stories have been told about Christian business owners in a documentary called, “To Whom Is Given: Business for the Common Good.” Through the power of story, the film illustrates how we can love our neighbor and help bring about flourishing through the everyday work of our hands, especially through business.
I interviewed Tyler Castle, one of the documentary’s producers and the program manager for Values & Capitalism, about his new film.
Kristin Brown (KB): Why did Values & Capitalism (V&C) produce this documentary? What’s the issue that you’re seeking to address?
Tyler Castle (TC): We interact with a lot of Christian college students through our work—many of whom have a knack for business. Yet as they near graduation and start thinking about jobs, they often come to the conclusion that pursuing a career in business would be “less Christian”—somehow less glorifying to God—than if they were to go into ministry or non-profit work. The purpose of this film is to provide a different narrative for them.
KB: Why is it important to V&C to reach this target audience of Christian college students?
TC: We believe that business, done well, can be a major force for positive change in the world. So imagine if a new generation of Christians was free to work passionately to further God’s kingdom in whichever sphere they were best equipped for and felt called to. For young people in particular, we hope the film will help break down the mental barriers that quarantine ministry and cultural change to certain sectors.
KB: Why did you select those three businesses to highlight in your documentary?
TC: We chose them very organically—mostly through personal connections. They are all run by Christians who are intentionally trying to live out their faith through their work. Several of the subjects in the film also have interesting stories about their personal vocational journeys. For example, Winnette was an MIT-trained biomedical engineer before deciding to run a bakery full time. Talk about a varied career path!
Additionally, I think the companies work well together because they represent very different types of businesses: a “typical” shop and bakery (The Sweet Lobby); a “hip” startup (Kammok); and a more blue collar business (Weifield Group). Most college students think of something like Kammok (an outdoor adventure gear startup) when they hear the word “entrepreneur.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but we wanted to provide a broader—sometimes less flashy—view of what transformational work in business could look like, too.
KB: You feature a roundtable of “experts” throughout the documentary. In your opinion, what are some of the important takeaways from their discussion?
TC: The roundtable segments are meant to draw out and expound upon the underlying ideas in the stories. At the very beginning of the film, Katherine Leary Alsdorf sums up a central theme of the film: “It’s brokenness that has caused people to think their work in the world doesn’t matter. We have to overcome that.” And later, Chris Brooks describes the church as the “conscience of culture” and business as the “creator of culture.” This is an important point that we are trying to make: the church is an absolutely necessary actor in cultural change, but it is simply not equipped in the same way that businesses are to build culture. Shouldn’t we want Christians to play a major role in this culture-making sector?
KB: What is the biggest challenge in advancing these ideas on college and university campuses?
TC: As I mentioned previously, there is a real issue of business being seen as a less-worthy (or at least, less attractive) calling. The broader faith and work movement is starting to change this, but a lot of progress still needs to be made.
KB: What is the history of Values & Capitalism?
TC: Values & Capitalism was launched in 2009 to advance a moral case for free enterprise and to cultivate an understanding of the broader conditions necessary for human flourishing on Christian college campuses. We started off by producing a number of educational resources (books, videos, etc.) and have more recently built student and faculty networks at campuses across the country. We also provide a number of programmatic opportunities to students and professors—including weekend and summer honors programs.
KB: Have you seen progress toward your vision?
TC: Especially with the state of politics in America right now, there is an increased appetite amongst young people for reasonable discourse about important issues. There is a desire, I think, to rediscover the ideas of the great thinkers and theologians and apply them to our day. Our goal is to host programs and create resources that foster that kind of thinking. We still have a long way to go, but we’re at least moving in the right direction.
KB: How will this documentary be distributed? How can people learn more about it?
TC: The film is available online at our website. Additionally, we are hosting screenings of the film at the 2017 Jubilee Conference and on a number of college campuses this spring. Complimentary screening kits (DVDs, posters, discussion questions, books) are available for anyone who is interested in hosting a screening at their school or church. (Request one here.)
IFWE prays that this film will create important dialogue on campuses and beyond, as intended! We’re grateful to Tyler for taking the time to do the interview with us. For additional educational resources, check out IFWE’s curriculum on calling and economics in our bookstore as well as our videos on YouTube.