Thursday, August 31, 2006

LABOR DAY--SHOULD WE REALLY CELEBRATE WORK?

Here's an article from Kairos Journal--just in time for Labor Day. It is a great truth worthy of considering, yet one that is seldom pondered.

The Real Biblical Work Ethic
The New York dramatist, Elmer Rice (1892-1967), is best known for his 1923 play, The Adding Machine. Its main character, Mr. Zero, spends 25 years of his life faithfully crunching numbers for a department store until he is replaced by a machine. In a fit of rage Mr. Zero kills his boss, only to find himself adding and subtracting in hell. For Mr. Zero, life boiled down to punching a time clock and receiving a paycheck—it was a meaningless existence that led to a meaningless afterlife. In The Adding Machine, Rice satirized his perception of the Protestant work ethic. He was wrong. The Protestant or, better yet, Christian work ethic is about much more than punctuality and profit.
Rice’s dreary view of the work ethic is attributed to Max Weber, author of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, first published in 1905.1 Weber linked the Reformers’ exaltation of work with the rise of capitalist greed. This thesis must not go unanswered or God’s view of work will be lost. Two careful thinkers who did much to restore a biblical view of work are theologian
Carl F. H. Henry (1913 -2003) and the British businessman and politician, Sir Fred Catherwood (1925 - ). Henry cut down the Weber thesis, arguing that the Christian work ethic is only loosely connected to the modern “success” ethic. Catherwood continued the discussion with a positive explanation as to what it means to be a “working” Christian.2
Fifty years after the debut of The Adding Machine, Henry confronted a generation of youth supposedly condemning capitalism by rebelling against the Protestant work ethic. Henry wanted them to understand capitalism is not equivalent to the Christian work ethic; in fact, secular society, as Henry put it, “is almost entirely severed from Christian roots.”3 Indeed, Henry attributed the “success ethic” of modern America more to the rags to riches stories of Horatio Alger (1832 – 1899) than the theology of
Luther or Calvin.4 Scripture approves a hard day’s work (the heart of Alger’s philosophy), but when reduced to merely this, the Christian work ethic becomes a secular work ethic and, thus, a “radical rejection of Christianity . . . motivated more by spiritual rebellion than by ethical earnestness.”5 Henry was clear: simply working hard for profit is not working for God—God has a greater design for our labor.
Catherwood explained that God’s design for work is about more than punching a timecard and earning a paycheck; it’s about honoring God and loving neighbor. God is honored when His creatures reflect back His creativity and efficiency in making the heavens and the earth. Therefore, the Christian worker innovates, improves, and pushes himself to the very limit. According to Catherwood, the Christian “has a duty to train himself and develop his abilities, both academically and experimentally, to the limit that his other responsibilities allow . . . He should not stop until it is quite clear that he has reached his ceiling.”6 Furthermore, Christians love their neighbors by exemplifying a quiet lifestyle of hard work to their non-Christian friends. By obeying God’s command to work, the believer, said Catherwood, “demonstrates the nature and purpose of God to those who do not believe. . .”7 Indeed, hard work can be evangelistic!
Society needs the correctives offered by Henry and Catherwood. Not only has hard work fallen on hard times, but when the modern person hears of the “Protestant work ethic,” too often they think of nothing more than the grim world of The Adding Machine (which has been revived on stages throughout the U.S. and U.K.), the quiet despair of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, and the hollow life of an insurance actuary in Alexander Payne’s 2002 movie, About Schmidt.
It remains for the Church to tell a different tale, a better tale. Yes, work is hard, and often not fun, but it is always glorious. Just as a small child giggles with glee when dad lets him wash a dish, the Christian should rejoice in his work because the homemaker, plumber, and CEO are doing more than tying shoes, fixing pipes, and netting a profit—they are fulfilling the very purposes of God.
Footnotes :
1
See Kairos Journal article, "The Atheist Sloth Ethic."
2
See Kairos Journal article, "Pious Diligence in Australia."
3
Carl F. H. Henry, “The Christian Work Ethic,” Christianity Today (January 7, 1972): 23.
4
Horatio Alger (1832 – 1899) marketed the American Dream through a series of books whose popularity was overshadowed only by the books of Mark Twain. He convinced a nation that regardless of one’s humble beginnings, through hard work and integrity anyone could obtain success.
5
Henry, 23.
6
Fred Catherwood, “The Protestant Work Ethic: Attitude and Application Give It Meaning,” Fundamentalist Journal 2 (September 1983): 23.
7
Ibid., 22.


What do you think?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

WHAT ARE OUR CHILDREN LEARNING AT THE UNIVERSITY?

At the time of year when our kids are heading off to college, it is important to know what they are facing. I sure hope we have prepared them--or they are going to be chewed up and spit out. Consider the following article I read today:

ACCEPTED

August is back to school month here at tothesource. Hollywood got the memo and released Accepted this weekend—a modern “Ferris Bueller meets Animal House,” that has a disturbing amount of insight.

Stop for a minute if you are gathering school supplies or writing a tuition check. Face the grim reality that what students encounter at American colleges and universities may be more meaningless and vulgar than anything Hollywood sneaks past the MPAA.


August 22, 2006
Dear Concerned Citizen, by Julia Thompson
roving tothesource junior reporter

While re-reading Benjamin Wiker's "Faith Stealers," (tothesource 8/14) I got a call from the tts editor to review Accepted, the just-released college-lampooning teen movie. "Why me?" I asked. I was told no self-respecting adult would voluntarily sit through the movie, so the bottom of the totem pole gets the job.

Note to reader: if you do decide to see Accepted, don't go on Friday night unless you're a wiggly junior high kid who thinks it's hysterical to shine a laser pointer at the screen. The cabbage patch doll I sat next to shot me a grumpy glance as he munched Sour Patch Kids, probably thinking, "Why does the old person have to sit next to me?"

Accepted's charming Bartleby Gaines gets rejected from Harmon College, and all the real colleges he applies to. Accepted throws barbs at the stereotypical prestigious school, "Harmon," where the president schemes about how he can increase the number of students rejected each year. Those students lucky enough to be accepted at this "real college" partake in degrading traditions in order to fit into the Greek "caste system." One Harmon College legacy fraternity pledge has to dress up in a hot dog suit and shout, "Ask me about my wiener," to jeering passers-by. Other students get drunk or act like zombies who sleep through class as coke-bottle glass wearing professors drone on and on, while parents pay big tuition bills.

To save face, entrepreneurial Bartleby creates the South Harmon Institute of Technology (you can spell out the acronym for yourself) by using a website, an abandoned psychiatric hospital and "a little elbow grease."

The website attracts hundreds of other "rejectees," and overnight South Harmon combusts into impromptu courses ranging from "Skate Ramp Building" to "B.S.ing 242" to ogling busty girls in bikinis—"Anatomy."

When the scantily-clad girls frolicked across the screen my little friend stared at them with saucer eyes from under his baseball cap, squeezing the life out of his Mega Big Gulp with his tiny little hands.

Here's the bad news, parental units. Accepted is naughty, and both of the colleges in the movie are pretty unacceptable--but they only scratch the surface of what's probably going on behind the scenes at a college near you.

As the pubescent crowds burst out laughing at the naughtiness of Accepted, their clueless parents, conspicuously absent from the theater, are home dutifully stuffing coins in college piggy banks to unwittingly send their beloveds into utter depravity.

I speak from experience. The following exhibits are representational, not comprehensive.

Exhibit A: Art History Italian Renaissance final at USC. The teacher had an article on reserve for required reading on Jesus Christ's erections and their hidden and not so hidden depictions in art. Call me a goody-two-shoes, but that's exponentially more offensive than a guy in a hot dog suit spouting sexual innuendos, or adolescent boys drooling over bikini girls.

Exhibit B: Male Sexuality class at UC Berkeley. Students watched their instructor have sex on stage at a strip club, and then participated in an orgy (the orgy was extracurricular in this sex-for-credit class). When journalists exposed the "educational event," many parents snapped out of complacent comas and began to worry what their children were up to at school!

The college experience extends beyond the classroom.

Exhibit C: Co-ed showers and bathrooms. Many campuses, like Berkeley, have dorms where girls, boys, and others shower and go to the bathroom together. The latest bathroom development comes from the crowned jewel of prestige itself, Harvard, where the frontier of transsexual bathrooms is under exploration (wouldn't any bathroom do)?

In a welcome speech orienting University of Chicago freshmen, sociology professor, Andrew Abbott came clean on college administrators' rationale on debauchery: "Basically, we bring all of you here, brim full of needs and desires and hormones, let you loose on each other like so many animals in a wildlife sanctuary, and hope for the best." How inspiring! Is this what my parents took out a second mortgage for?

Abbott speaks as an authoritative representative of the school. Imagine a pastor, managing law-firm partner, or CEO kicking off a retreat by handing out copies of "Christ's Erections in Art" as required reading, and then telling everyone that they will be showering and going to the bathroom together. We all know what would happen. Heads would roll.

Clearly respect and dignity still matter to people. Yet every year parents send kids into the jaws of professors like the world renowned philosopher Richard Rorty, despite explicit warning: "Students are lucky to find themselves under the benevolent Herrschaft (rule) of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents. …Parents ought to be forewarned that we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable."

I'm sure many of you are thinking that I am na├»ve not to realize that college has always been this way. But there was a time when misbehaving was misbehaving—it was not endorsed by schools, subsidized by parents, and celebrated throughout the subculture. Today, instead of challenging accepted mores, students find that common shared morality has been written off altogether by the very institutions that used to uphold it. This is a tragic loss for America's future, a sample of which was sitting all around me in the theater.

Bartleby's charade is exposed, and with a "Hail-Mary" tactic he lands at a State Board of Accreditation hearing and delivers a sappy, off-the-cuff speech about how education should really be about expressing personal truth, and freedom from restrictions and convention. The board agrees and authorizes the South Harmon Institute of Technology as an institution of higher learning.

Bartleby's speech is strikingly similar to another pearl from sociologist Abbott's freshman orientation speech: "Since nobody in fact agrees on what the canon is—even in the broadest terms—the system definitionally does not have a canon. In fact, there is a common culture of examples and rhetorical figures in America today. But most of it comes from sports, entertainment, and current events." Whereas Bartleby looks within himself for knowledge, Abbott digresses even further to celebrities in People Magazine. So much for higher education. Since the university seems to have given up on any idea of central truths to impart, or even aims to lend cohesion, it is really no wonder that many college curricula bear uncomfortable resemblance to the South Harmon course catalog.

The schools that I attended offered "Explorations" classes, taught by seniors, on topics of their choosing, such as Harry Potter seminars. Faculty at places like Wesleyan University make it policy "not to get in the way" of students, even when their idea of educational experience consists of chalking sexually explicit profanities all over the school sidewalks to greet prospective students and families touring the campus. In light of some of the actual "intellectual fare" out there, South Harmon's classes become less facetious and more like projections of what students may find at real universities

When universities do not regulate the excesses of self-expression, the "liberal arts" education deteriorates into license for an expensive four-year free for all. Bartleby Gaines may as well be the spokesperson and planner for the current trajectory of the modern university.

Abbott is not finished with his demoralizing pronunciations. He proclaims, "the phrase 'aims of education' is nonsensical…it has no aim other than itself…Education in an invisible creativity that radiates from within…it is something you are." I can just see the student body of South Harmon whooping with joy as Abbott trumpets the relativism they so eagerly embrace.

Whereas many colleges, in their foundational charters, held unified truth and character formation as defining objectives, university authorities are now washing their hands of such "antiquated relics" altogether. With unified truth and shared morality discarded, universities are spiraling into a full-blown crisis of meaning.

I have to say that I wonder if the average American college student is likely to get much more out of school than Bartleby at the South Harmon Institute of Technology.

In founding a fake school Bartleby's resume boasts: starting a "business," leasing and developing property, creating promotional materials, problem-solving, galvanizing a group of people and maneuvering through red tape. The average college student from (insert school name here) may wind up with the following accomplishments, for all the university seems to care: paying tuition, going to class, sleeping, drinking, paying tuition, cramming, testing, paying tuition, post-test mental purging, paying tuition.

I remember my first visit to Tufts. I was elated, with the highest of hopes. At the end of graduation day when everyone began to wander off in separate directions I felt a troubling anti-climax. Perhaps it was the realization that the end had come, and after four years of "non-aims," all of a sudden the school didn't owe me anything, while I still owed them tens of thousands of dollars. Did I get what I am paying for?

It’s time for more colleges and universities to take responsibility for how they are shaping America’s future. Until then, students and parents have a choice. Find the notable exceptions and stamp REJECTED on the rest.
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© Copyright 2006 - tothesource

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

REAL PRAYING

Here's a link to a video that will touch your heart and I hope inspire you to pray--I mean really pray! If we could pray with the faith of a little child, what great things God would do.



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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

BUILDING A HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH, Message Eight
“ALL I WANT IS A LITTLE RESPECT”
1 Timothy 5:1-8

Many of my generation will remember a soul song written by the late Otis Redding called “Respect” that said, “All I want is a little respect.” While all of us desire and deserve respect, men must have it. Father's Day is a day set aside to respect and honor fathers. Respect is not optional—it is a commandment of God. “Honor your father and mother.” Paul stresses it here. Yet many men feel like the bug-eyed comedian Rodney Dangerfield who made this line popular, “Hey, I tell ya, I don’t get no respect!” At work, at home, at church we get no respect. This is serious. This is sin. Consider:

1. THE CRISIS FROM FAILING TO GIVE MEN RESPECT.
While Paul certainly tells Timothy to be respectful of the women in the church, I want to focus on the first verse, and the need to respect the men of the church. There is often a contrast in the way we acknowledge women on Mother’s Day and the way we treat men on Father’s Day. On Mother’s Day you may expect a sermon extolling the virtues of motherhood. We ought to do that. But on Father’s Day, we often hear a message enumerating the vices of men. They may be subjected to sermons that tell them what losers they are, how carnal, how unspiritual and uncommitted they are. Sometimes those things need to be said to men—and women! But I’m not going to do that, because we are in a crisis. I have noticed more and more men either becoming passive in regards to the church or dropping out altogether. Thank God for all the women who attend and serve in the church--we can’t do without them. It isn’t that I’m calling for less participation among the ladies, but for more involvement among men. When Jesus established the church, He selected twelve men to be His Apostles—the spiritual pillars on which He would build His unshakable kingdom. Scripture establishes that the spiritual oversight of the church is reserved for the offices of pastors and deacons—the elders of the church who are to be males.

Yet, the crisis we face today is that men are rejecting the church and that fact was brought home to me in a book I read several months ago, “Why Men Hate Going to Church.” Today’s church has developed a culture that drives men away. Here are the stats: More than 90% of American men believe in God, 5 out of 6 say they are Christians, but only 2 in 6 attend church. Don’t say that women are just more religious. Equal numbers of men and women are involved in Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism. Think of men’s commitment to Islam! The church has been “feminized.” By that I mean, that the virtues of gentleness, compassion and kindness which women do very well have been stressed to the neglect of virtues like courage, decisiveness and strength which men tend to do well. Women are good at nurturing children and so we stress those ministries, but how many men are we equipping to impact the world for Christ?

2. THE CONSEQUENCES OF FAILING TO GIVE MEN RESPECT.
Failing to live by God’s standards inevitably brings a crisis. All it took was one act of rebellion—a failure to respect God’s authority in the Garden of Eden and we daily face the horrific results.

Here are but a few of the consequences of failing to give men respect. One consequence is to men themselves. David Murrow said, “Men regard church like a prostate exam; it’s something that can change their lives, but it’s so unpleasant and invasive, they put it off.” And they suffer for it, maybe for eternity! The church is losing its future leaders. Single men ages 18-35 are the least likely group to attend church and these are the very ones we ought to be grooming to take the church forward. Family life is deteriorating. Strong families require strong fathers and the church is failing to produce enough of them. Our society is dying—only the Gospel can bring hope and it will take daring, risk-takers, creative and courageous men to bring a spiritual revolution!

3. THE CORRECTION FOR FAILURE TO GIVE MEN RESPECT.
The remedy will be a bitter pill for some to swallow. Business guru, W. Edwards Deming correctly says, “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting.” We must change. What we’re doing isn’t working when it comes to reaching men. We must intentionally develop a climate that will attract strong, dangerous men. I’m sick of pictures that make Jesus look like a pansy. He was a dangerous man—challenging the establishment, cleaning out corruption. Remember how Jesus forcefully walked into the Temple and cleaned out the religious hucksters operating their scam? He turned over massive tables loaded with coins. He made a scourge from ropes and began to whip that bunch of hypocrites, driving them out of the House of God they were defiling. Gentle Jesus, meek and mild? Not!

Jesus calls men to follow Him on the great quest as champions of the Kingdom of God. Dangerous men like Moses, Elijah, David, Daniel, Peter and Paul are what we need! Men like that are around but they are building businesses rather than the Kingdom, winning games and not souls, they have gone fishing rather than fish for men, and joining the army rather than fight for faith. We need those kinds of guys! Let’s issue the challenge. We need a Luther, a Wesley, a Billy Sunday.

Evangelist Billy Sunday had been a professional baseball player when he became a preacher of the Gospel. He said this, "As long as I have a fist, I'm going to punch the devil! As long as I have a foot, I'm going to kick the devil! As long as I have teeth, I'm going to bite the devil! And when I lose my teeth, I'm going to gum him!" That's a dangerous man. That's a man that commands respect. That's the kind of guy I want to be--how about you?