Sam Van Eman is another of the HighCallingBlogs.com people I’m getting to know.

Culture Editor at HCB, Sam also blogs at New Breed of Advertisers: Becoming Good Neighbors to the Consumer Next Door, inviting marketers to become good neighbors to the consumer next door.

He wrote On Earth as It is in Advertising? Moving from Commercial Hope to Gospel Hype (Brazos Press), about which he humbly advised, “Folks either love this book or doze off by the middle of Chapter 2, so go into it with mediocre expectations and you’ll be alright.”

Sam is also a staff specialist for the CCO, an organization that partners with colleges, churches and other organizations to develop men and women who live out their Christian faith in every area of life.

Ann: HighCallingBlogs explores the intersection of work and faith. Please explain your work for my readers.

Sam: Thanks, Ann. For years I’ve cared about something we call double-study. For college students that means putting as much time into knowing the Bible as they do their Biology textbooks. C.S. Lewis said, “The job is really on us, on the laymen” to inform Christians how to go about their work faithfully. It’s silly, he notes, that people believe, “The Church ought to give us a lead.”


The exploration of work and faith depends upon engaged workers – informed and doubly-educated laypeople – to take the lead. HCB promotes this kind of engagement.

What do I do? I’m the Culture Content Editor so I try to help the community engage with cultural observations. I’m not cutting edge (Where do you even get a Twitter account?), but I enjoy facilitating a faithful response to the world around us.

Ann: You just got back from the Jubilee conference—can you tell us a little about it, like what it is, how you’re involved and some highlights, perhaps?

Sam: Ooh, I love talking about Jubilee. Jubilee is a CCO-hosted conference in Pittsburgh that started in the early ‘70s on the topic of work and faith. In Colossians 1, Paul wrote, “In Him all things hold together.” We take that literally. Speakers share from their professional experience on how to live out God’s call in everyday work, which means sessions include NASA researchers, DC lawyers, foreign language teachers, social media experts (hat tip to Marcus Goodyear!), you name it.

When I worked on campus, I took college students. Now I teach, support and network at the conference as a Staff Resource Specialist. How encouraged do you think I am from watching 2500 students and guests discuss how “The job is really on us”? After eleven years attending, I’m as charged as ever.

(Did I mention that Marcus, L.L. Barkat, and Michele Corbett joined me there, along with other HCB members who work for the CCO? Highlight for sure.)

Ann: Not long ago on HCB, you shared examples of how varied your reading can be. What’s on your desk or nightstand at the moment?

Sam: Loving Monday by John Beckett (HCB’s current book study)
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
El Superzorro (Fantastic Mr. Fox) by Roald Dahl
Of the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis
Relevant magazine

Ann: I’d say that’s a wide variety! Sam, I love your profile photo with your daughter grinning over your shoulder. Since I’m the HCB Family Content Editor, I’d love to have you tell us a little about your family.

Sam: I’m learning to be a better dad. I like to work but last year I realized Emma was already eight. Soon she won’t care to hang out with me as much so I made more time for reading and playing games – like the illustration game, “Who? What? Where?”. Even Alice at five holds her own, and it puts the four of us at the table for quality time.

Ann: As our resident Culture specialist at HCB, could you give my readers some thoughts on how to process what’s going on culturally in the world around us?

Sam: Paying attention is probably the first thing I do. Again, I don’t mean knowing what’s happening before anyone else does, but I mean waking up. Kids and schools and politics and media move constantly and we need to pay attention to patterns as they emerge. This doesn’t need to be overwhelming, though, since the second action is asking “What is the motive?” to which we discover, Not much of anything different than ever before.

In other words, people don’t really change. We didn’t have Twitter feeds five years ago, but we use the service for the same old human reasons: connection, affirmation, information. Knowing both the what and the why help us care for our neighbors. Jesus did the same thing when he told localized parables. He knew the current cultural patterns and connected them with human longings in a way that revealed his compassion.

Ann: Okay, so this is totally random, but on Fridays I host a carnival over at annkroeker.com called Food on Fridays. People link up with anything food-related. So would you offer a food-related thought? You can tell us your favorite food (with or without a recipe), stick on your advertising hat and critique the Doritos commercials, or talk about the culture of food. It’s up to you. So…Sam and food. Go.

Sam: Scones and Earl Grey, dark chocolate and Earl Grey, biscotti and Earl Grey. What joyous pairings. (I do like other teas, but I see little need for them. Ha!)

Several years ago I wrote an article called A Recipe for Film Consumption and began by talking about biscotti of all things. How about that? I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that everything is made from raw ingredients. When God told Adam to cultivate, he meant more than gardening. By no later than Genesis 4 there were musicians and miners. It’s like the mandate was meant to explode.

And guess what came out of it? Biscotti. Well, that and Levi’s commercials and Super Bowls and Lent.

Ann: Sam, as you know I’ve written a book about families slowing down in our fast-paced world. In one chapter, I talk about the impact of advertising on our kids, encouraging them to grow up fast. Thoughts on that?

Sam: I hope to read your book, Ann. I have another on my shelf by Jean Kilbourne called So Sexy, So Soon. (Don’t tell her I haven’t started it yet.) Sometimes I think we shelter our girls too much, but does my five-year-old really need to know about Hannah Montana? Without the barrage of The Next Thing, would they remain content at their current stage longer? I think so.

Besides, Emma’s imagination and growth and sense of justice are developing just fine as we read a book like Black Beauty together.

Ann: How about slowing down on a personal level—how have you and/or your family been affected by the pace of our culture? And have you adapted your lifestyle at all to something slower?

Sam: No TV for Lent. I’ve done it before and it has always forced me to spend my time elsewhere. I go to bed earlier and read more, and when I eventually get back to the tube (wow, that’s an old reference) I see it more clearly. Paying attention and listening for motives come easier to me after being away.

Ann: Thanks, Sam, for making us think, slow down, pay attention, listen for motives…and yearn for biscotti.

Visit Bibledude.net for Dan King’s interview with Sam: “tebow, barna, and culture [an interview with sam van eman]”

Glynn Young highlights Sam at Faith, Fiction, Friends.

“Cool Bus” photo of Sam with students (Sam’s the one with the cap) and Sam-with-daughter profile picture provided by Sam Van Eman. Used with permission.

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