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More on Good Work

Further Wendell Berry quotes on good work:

by our work we reveal what we think of the works of God.  How we take our lives from this world, how we work, what work we do, how well we use the materials we use, and what we do with them after we have used them--all these are questions of the highest and gravest religious significance.  In answering them, we practice, or do not practice, our religion.

The significance--and ultimately the quality--of the work we do is determined by our understanding of the story in which we are taking part.

Good Work

This from Wendell Berry:

Good human work honors God's work.  Good work uses no thing without respect, both for what it is in itself and for its origin.  It uses neither tool nor material that it does not respect and that it does not love.  It honors nature as a great mystery and power, as an indispensable teacher, and as the inescapable judge of all work of human hands.  It does not dissociate life and work, or pleasure and work, or love and work, or usefulness and beauty.  To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonor God, nature, the thing that is made, and whomever it is made for.  This is blasphemy: to make shoddy work of the work of God.  But such blasphemy is not possible when the entire Creation is understood as holy and when the works of God are understood as embodying and thus revealing His spirit.


Last week during General Synod, the United Church of Christ voted to begin a process of divesting from fossil fuels.  The Washington Post covers the story here.  

The original resolution called for immediate divestment, and I did not support it.  My reservations were

  • Many members of the United Church of Christ, including friends, family, and church members of mine, work for fossil fuel companies or receive royalties for oil and gas.  
  • A place like Oklahoma would be even poorer and more backward without the profits from fossil fuel companies, jeopardizing other of our social justice aims.
  • The best fossil fuel companies view themselves as energy companies and are the institutions with the resources and position to invest in sustainable and alternative energy.
  • I also thought we need to start a conversation, not make a final judgement.
The compromise resoultion, which passed, I could support.  It was worked out with United Church Funds and the Pension Board and called for aggressive action by UCC investors, including requiring us to bring resolutions to shareholder meetings.  It does begin a conversation, takes gradual steps, and allows for investments to remain in energy companies that are "best in class."  It was also a great example of democratic compromise (Congress, take note).

Low state income tax rates do not correlate to economic development

Despite politicians who argue that lower state income tax rates (usually in states with already low income tax rates) will spur economic development, the facts demonstrate that economic development generally correlates (though causation is not demonstrated) with higher income tax rates.  Read Richard Florida's article about this, with maps, here.

Thatcher myths

WaPo lists five myths about Margaret Thatcher.  It is a older piece, from when The Iron Lady was about to premier.  I particularly like what it says about Thatcher's views of economic regulation: 

But the deregulation she pursued had nothing to do with the lack of oversight that contributed to the meltdown on Wall Street. Before Thatcher, commissions of civil servants decided, for example, what sorts of cars Britons should drive. That was the kind of regulation she ended. She was a passionate proponent of regulation that makes free markets function properly — otherwise known as the rule of law.

Thatcher supported stringent bank regulation. Consider the 1986 Financial Services Act which, contrary to its reputation, closed loopholes in investor protection laws, boosted the enforcement power of regulators, and applied the same investor protection standards to a broad range of securities and investment activities.

Thatcher stood for thrift, sound money and balanced budgets, powered by private enterprise. The uncontrolled explosion of debt in Western economies that followed her time in power would have appalled her.



Arianna Huffington, writing from Davos, discusses "resilience," the new value necessary for surviving and thriving in the 21st century.  

I first heard resilience discussed in an NPR story as a value that some cities were embracing in their architecture and design.  No longer is sustainability enough, we have now moved into the era when we must cope with globe climate change and defend ourselves against it.

Huffington takes the value to the broader level of global systems.

I'm curious how it will apply in the smaller systems in which I work, church, non-profits, household, etc.

"Eunuchs of the Universe"

The cover article of the first digital-only Newsweek is novelist Tom Wolfe writing about Wall Street.  His lively satire The Bonfire of the Vanities was such a huge hit in the 1980's and here he writes about the decline of those "Masters of the Universe" as trading has radically transformed.  After this essay, I understand things about Wall Street and the financial crash that I had not before understood.  And it is written with Wolfe verve and wit, not like some boring financial piece.  I highly recommend.

How the Church Fails Businesspeople (And What Can Be Done About It)

How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and What Can Be Done about It)How the Church Fails Businesspeople by John C. Knapp
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A year or more ago my Stewardship Committee chair requested that we do something on the intersection between faith and work. Our staff recently planned an upcoming worship series with the theme "Make Our Work Worthy" that will focus on vocation and spiritual gifts. For an accompanying study, I read this book, which I had seen well-reviewed in The Christian Century. I will use the book for the study.

The title isn't the best and suggests the book is less meaty than it is. There are good discussions of the church's theological traditions on work and money. The main focus of the book is that people compartmentalize work and faith and that the church (and business) have not helped people to integrate these aspects of their lives.

I most enjoyed the early chapters which explored the differing natures of business and church and some of the church's theological tradition. The noticeable lack was anything about the social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on work.

The second part of the book wants to move toward coherence. It begins with a chapter on rethinking Christian vocation, drawing on the teaching of Luther and Calvin. I thought this chapter could have been longer and stronger. The next chapter was a good approach at developing a moral theology of work.

The last two chapters weren't very engaging. The penultimate discussed the faith at work movement, which seems to primarily be a phenomenon for conservative evangelicals. I learned things in this chapter, but didn't find it spiritual or theologically interesting. It will prompt some interesting discussions when we read it at church though.

The final chapter was supposed to be about the church's potential in helping to integrate faith and work. Most of what was covered had already been (except for an interesting section on Charles Sheldon). I expected more in this last chapter than what was presented.

The book will be good at generating discussion and raises all the issues that I'd like to raise as we explore this question at First Central.

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