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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Michelle Obama: Protestant work ethic praised

(John Calvin, 1562)
It could rightfully (and righteously) be said that the very heart and soul of Michelle Obama's 2012 Democratic National Convention speech was about the essential goodness of working hard for a cause greater than oneself.

The following quotes from this speech are right in line with such a theory (and theology):  But despite these challenges [multiple sclerosis], my dad hardly ever missed a day of work… he and my mom were determined to give me and my brother the kind of education they could only dream of…  Like so many of us, that was his measure of success in life – being able to earn a decent living that allowed him to support his family…          But day after day, she [Barack's grandmother, who – like so many other women – had "hit a glass ceiling" at work] kept on waking at dawn to catch the bus… arriving at work before anyone else… giving her best without complaint or regret.  And she would often tell Barack, "So long as you kids do well, Bar, that's all that really matters."

In other words, this country wasn't really built on rock and roll, but rather upon the sweat of many a Puritan brow.  And today, this Puritan work ethic (aka "Protestant work ethic") remains a driving force in many a Reformation-inspired region (such as the United States, Canada, and Northern Europe).  Whereas Catholics had long held that good works were a necessary prerequisite to salvation, Reformers "taught that good works were only a consequence of an already-received salvation."  Since not all were predestined to be saved, "hard work and frugality" were signs that you were one of God's "elect."

Wikipedia reports that the term "Protestant ethic" was first coined by sociologist Max Weber in 1905.  His book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, has been deemed by the International Sociological Association to be "the fourth most important sociological book of the 20th century."


Copyright September 6, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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