“Social entrepreneurship" involves innovators who address problems in society and advance a particular social mission to serve a larger good. We Christians have long had people who fulfilled this role, people who founded the Salvation Army, Goodwill and many hospitals and universities.But in the last few decades churches and denominations seem to have lost their steam. Have we Christians lost our sense of social entrepreneurship?
Several summers ago, I visited the early medieval monastic site of Glendalough with students and faculty from a seminary in Dublin. The site dates back to the sixth century, when St. Kevin (led by an angel, according to tradition) founded a monastery there.
The reason I am still in the ministry is because of the night I decided to leave the ministry. It was my day off. The phone rang, and it was the chaplain at a nearby hospital. Usually we would exchange pleasantries, but all she said was, “Come to the hospital—now.” I trusted the urgency in her voice and arrived in about ten minutes.
Some friends of mine are avid labyrinth walkers and have recommended the practice to me. But though I’ve long admired the floor of Chartres Cathedral—and once had the pleasure of seeing my children race around it at top speed before they climbed the tower and searched the high vaults for bats—I’ve never been on a formal retreat involving labyrinths. Perhaps that’s because I’m more familiar with informal collapses than with formal retreats. Fortunately an economic alternative has suggested itself: puddle hopping.
I love looking at old photographs; it’s the closest thing to time travel that I know. I find myself staring at century-old black and white photos taken on the streets of large cities. I look at the people. I search their faces, wondering what was going on in their minds. Often they are turning toward the camera—an item that was much less common then—with a shocked expression.
The highest incarceration rates in the United States are in red states, especially in the South, but some conservatives are having second thoughts about the war on crime launched by President Nixon. Among them is Chase Madar, former Virginia state senator and attorney general who was president of Prison Fellowship for ten years. Madar was persuaded that a new approach to crime is needed by visiting prisoners, seeing the conditions they live in, and discovering that virtually no rehabilitation of criminals is taking place. He now advocates the use of restorative justice, a plan that returns criminals to the communities where they committed their crimes to confess at public meetings and ask forgiveness (American Conservative, February 3).