Monday, September 03, 2012

A Labor Day Meditation

If you aren't working today (and if you are God bless you), it is right and proper to enjoy the holiday in many of the ways typical for a three day weekend. Set off the fireworks you weren't allowed to use during the fire ban. Grill. Go swim before the pool closes.

Today, in addition to playing with the kids (and not to "blabor" the point, blogging), I finished building the play set I had started work on with my father-in-law last month (see the picture), cleaned the van, and now anticipate doing during nap time what I love best. Reading.

So what to read on Labor Day? Well, I have some suggestions. First, consider the All Fayetteville Reads book pick for this year, The Working Poor: Invisible in America. Since I personally know so many people in this category, it's a topic that touches my heart, and is worth considering on this Labor Day weekend.

I kind of also wish if Clint Eastwood were going to have a conversation with anyone at the RNC, he would have chosen the working poor instead of Obama. I think they would have talked back.

Another fantastic piece, more obscure but worth the time, is Bethany Moreton's To Serve God and Walmart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise. Since I live in Northwest Arkansas, Wal-mart has a very large presence. They are perhaps the largest employer in the area, especially if you count all the companies that are here as vendors. Lots of great people from our congregation work at Wal-mart or various vendors. Walmart has a very interesting understanding of work in relation to faith, much more complex than the caricature it often receives, and it's worth spending time with Moreton's ethnographic work on the topic.

If I think about books that inform a sense of my own work as a pastor, perhaps the most important are Gordon Lathrop's The Pastor: A Spirituality, Heidi Neumark's Breathing Space, and Will Willimon's Pastor. The first is the work of pastor as prayerful work. The second is the work of pastor as embedded in context work. The third is the work of pastor as work.

Besides pastoring, I have two avocations. The first is being a dad. On this topic, I love Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs. My other avocation is to the intellectual life, and a little known book that should be much more widely known, is my touchstone for this, The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods, by A.G. Sertillanges.

By now you can tell that I believe reading is itself a good and proper form of labor. More of us should engage in it more often.

If you are interested in reflecting a bit on a wider understanding of labor in our culture, I suggest two possibilities. In Wisconsin, I used to serve on the board of Interfaith Worker Justice. This is a classic social justice organization advocating on behalf of worker rights. I have great respect for their work. Another interesting resource, this one funded not by Wal-mart but by Tyson, the other big corporation here in Northwest Arkansas, is The Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace. Tyson has one of the most interesting workplace chaplaincy programs I've encountered, and they offer lots of learning opportunities through this center at the University of Arkansas.

Finally, I consider integrity in the workplace to be a dominant motif in Lutheran vocational reflection. In addition to a classic Lutheran work on vocation such as Gustaf Wingren's Luther on Vocation, I recommend Stephen Carter's Integrity. In this election cycle, I wish every single politician would be required to read it three times before gaining access to any funds from their SuperPAC.I kind of wish they were also required to read Paul Griffith's Lying: An Augustinian Theology of Duplicity, but alas, no one will listen...

Finally, although I was raised "dirty" collar, that is, on a farm, and so grew up with deep respect for that kind of labor, and although I now work in a pastoral context with a lot of white-collar folk, my deepest sympathies probably always remain with blue-collar people. On this topic, you can do no better than to read works by two of my friends, Darren Cushman-Wood's Blue Collar Jesus, and Tex Sample's Blue Collar Resistance and the Politics of Jesus. Both will knock your socks off.

And that is quite enough. This turned into a Labor Day bibliography more than a Labor Day meditation. But then I find bibliographies meditative, and reading is work, so...

Labor Day blessings to all.

1 comment:

  1. Great words! I had today off, but without what does that say? Another great book you might want to read is called, "A Country Where All Colors Are Sacred and Alive" by author Geoffrey Oelsner. This book empowers people to take note of their own non-ordinary experiences and to reflect on the implications of those for the vastness of our full potential.