Work as worship. Admittedly, this can be an odd thought, especially if you have tended to equate work with God’s judgment upon people. If you’ve journeyed with us, you know we think of work as a good thing… a great way of talking about what we were created to do. That too may be an odd thought, but highlights why it is important to consider why we work, and who we are working for.
The “why” and the “who” questions are often answered in ways we are unaware of. This article entitled, Workism Is Making Americans Miserable, at The Atlantic has been around for a bit, but since it has popped across my screen recently, it felt worthwhile to point it out again. Largely because it does a great job of pointing out that our contemporary view of work, has moved beyond being “necessary for economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose.” He rightly calls this a “gospel,” thought it isn’t good news at all.
If you heard a few alarm bells go off in your head, and especially if you didn’t, I commend the article to you. The author convincingly show how American culture has been shaped by this worship of work.
It starts young,
“They are reared from their teenage years to make their passion their career and, if they don’t have a calling, told not to yield until they find one.”
In the last several decades,
“…elite American men have transformed themselves into the world’s premier workaholics, toiling longer hours than both poorer men in the U.S. and rich men in similiarly rich countries.”
The author reflects,
“Perhaps long hours are part of an arms race for status and income among the moneyed elite. Or maybe the logic here isn’t economic at all. It’s emotional–even spiritual. The best-educated and highest-earning Americans, who can have whatever they want, have chosen the office for the same reason that devout Christians attend church on Sundays: It’s where they feel most themselves.”
There is much to commend. I appreciate the author’s reflections on how Workism is reflected in popular culture and even in our laws and health care policies. I’m alarmed by his reflections on Millennial burnout and the role of social media in overwork.
“The problem with this gospel–Your dream job is out there, so never stop hustling–is that it’s a blueprint for spiritual and physical exhaustion.”
I don’t think the solution starts with public policy alone, or even first. I do think we need “to make work less central.” But it starts with a shift from worshipping a thing to worshipping a Person.