Why Leisure Matters – Part 1 of 2

Peasants harvesting crops, by Flemish artist Pieter Brueghel, 17th century

Peasants Harvesting Crops by Pieter Brueghel

Work is divine. God is revealed as the great worker and it is through work that men become like God. It is through work that man finds his life and his life is measured by his work … to run away from work is to run away from life. To repudiate work is to commit suicide.
   —Gus Dyer, columnist in the 1930s

Many times the happy benefit of belonging to a certain nationality is that one can riotously criticize it, where otherwise it would be sacrosanct—and worse, politically incorrect! Anyway, coming from a rural German Protestant family I know a thing or two about a work ethic. Cleanliness might be next to Godliness, but work is even holier than soap. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, right”? Ever since being young enough to remember, a pristinely praiseworthy comment was, “oh my, but that person is a good worker.” And when that worker was me it was enough to motivate the righteous action of “putting one’s back into it” even more.

Oh yes, you could know a person by their fruits. In fact, chances were that if those fruits reeked of sweat and toil—Jesus was totally happy too. After all, you will remember scripture commanding, “do it as unto the Lord” (i.e. the Lord wants your all) and do it with all your strength (with that I would ask myself, “would Jesus be ok with just an 8 hour workday?”). If doing for God and with all your strength wasn’t enough, the proviso was added, “do it without grumbling and complaining too” (you wanna argue with Jesus?!! Now get back to work, slob! … after all Jesus went to the cross for you).

God bless my grandmother, but even when it comes to potential relationships, work ethic is one of the first questions asked. “Is this person a good worker”?

Thanks grandma.

And so I was stilled for a moment when I read “have leisure and know that I am God” in Josef Pieper’s Leisure the Basis of Culture (which has an excellent introduction by T.S. Eliot, by the way).

The search engine in my mind came up with nothing like that in the scripture I had read. I had never heard that verse before. (This will show my lack of Catholic bible tradition.) Trusting Pieper’s credentials, I went on to one of the most contrary ideas I had come across in my German upbringing, and it was written by a German none-the-less! Stupendous.

So what of grandma’s high valuation of a good work ethic? Well of course a good worker is something to be valued. If you have read Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism you will have read that capitalism itself has been greatly shaped by it. (It should be noted here that good ol’ Weber was prone to cherry picking quotes—a horrid thing—and his thesis actually shouldn’t be taken quite as serious as it is, considering proper historiographical methodology.)

Pieper is not against work itself—in fact, he says that you can’t have leisure without it! —however, he asserts, since God’s creation is good, our enjoyment is of the utmost to God. And of course enjoyment is not merely efficiency or production. It can include that, but those things in themselves aren’t ends. Ultimately, it is ends with which Pieper is interested.

Enter leisure.

To be continued tomorrow.

The post Why Leisure Matters – Part 1 of 2 appeared first on Relief Journal.

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God’s Friend?

My parents always maintained people of higher social standing probably wouldn’t mind—and might even be happy—sharing some of their experiences with me if I simply asked. They were mostly right. And I assume you wouldn’t think it too unusual if…
Source: Off The Page

Empowering Meekness

I have been thinking about what authentic Christian witness looks like for a while now, especially when we take the following two ingredients into consideration: energetic churches and individuals more inclined to introversion.   On the one hand, this might…
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Fighting for Social Justice

It’s wrong or right, white or black: there is no gray. It’s either this or that, with no in between: you are for us or against us, there is no fence-post sitting.   This type of thinking isn’t considered cool…
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The Chesterton I was Wrong About

Ever had one of those cool moments when, after reading about a favorite person, you suddenly receive this flash of insight? You feel one part shame for not seeing it before, but three parts satisfaction for at least coming to it eventually? Well, I should have seen this with G.K. Chesterton quite some time ago, but I didn’t. The surprising insight was that he was, like, actually, friendly.

I was introduced to a Chesterton who was so cool a cat that he could trounce any erroneous and ill-conceived ideology: political or religious or anything else which might stand in the way of orthodoxy. This Chesterton destroyed the proud scientific triumphalism of H.G. Wells and Huxley (think eugenics), the utopian dreams of Shaw, and other secular humanists of his time. This giant, mentally and otherwise, trounced the materialists and atheists with blasting wit and withering humour. To be truthful, I originally read the man in the following way: I searched for a topic that I disliked and then would try to find an essay on which Chesterton criticized it. (This is a wretchedly shameful thing, and I have since repented heartily.) Of course, generally if you look for a thing, you can find it. But it’s just not the right way to go about it. But everybody knows this, so I will move on.

I suppose I might have seen Chesterton as the Crusader—sword of truth in hand, gleefully excited  to bloodily slay the perfidious untruth—in light of him being introduced to me as an apologist. This is one of the troubles with some Christian apologetics: it seems that often the desire to be correct is more important than that the apologist demonstrates a loving alternative to an error in reason, however, that’s another topic. Anyway, I read how Chesterton had, with short shrift, dealt with the heretics of his day. To make matters worse, I read some of his more popular works (Orthodoxy, Heretics, What’s Wrong with the World and others) through that lens: tinted with impatience, brute force and pomposity. And of course, sometimes when having a crusader mentality, that seems pretty cool!

Yet, having read more of the man, I see that my early assumptions were about as far out to lunch as … well, I don’t know what. I was just really wrong. Chesterton was actually hugely humble, rarely took to an uncharitable offensive—according to most who knew him and all the biographers—and was exceedingly gracious. He also took the time to understand thoroughly the arguments of his opponents—a thing that Thomas Aquinas would approve—and tried to always gain some type of common ground with an opponent.

Moreover, unlike debaters of our own time, Chesterton was actually friends with many of his opponents. Yes, he actually was. I mean no disrespect towards to apologists like William Lane Craig for instance, but I doubt very much that if Mr. Craig died, Hitchens (if he were alive today) or Dawkins or Sam Harris etc., etc., would offer the widow financial assistance! Yet after Gilbert Keith Chesterton had passed away, this is exactly what Shaw did. During his lifetime, his opponents were truly his friends. And I wonder if this is why he was so persuasive in his life: because he was not wrestling against a person but rather an ideology. He loved people, and because his actions followed suit, people listened to him.

Chesterton once said “the mark of the Faith is not tradition; it is conversation.”

I wonder if today many of the apologist types—all of us—need to worry more about initiating conversation and friendship than in just being right.

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Where the Finite and Infinite Mingle

Have you ever spoken to artists and, after some time in discussion, thought they were slightly off their rocker? Sometimes they employ strange imagery when expressing their ideas. They “give birth to creations” or find themselves “surprised” at the lives…
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