The desacralization of work

Marvin Olasky's America

The funniest paragraph we read on the road was in USA Today's lead story on June 11, "Diversity grows as majority dwindles," by Haya El Nasser and Paul Overberg. USA Today, it seems, has a diversity index that measures how racially and ethnically diverse the U.S. population is. Here's the immortal prose: "The 2009 national index is 52, up from 47 in 2000. This means that the chance of two randomly selected people being different is slightly more than half. In 1980, the index was 34, a 1-in-3 chance."

Susan and I found during our travels that the chance of two WORLD readers being different is 100 percent. That goes for people generally. The chance was also 100 percent in 1980, and it will continue at 100 percent at least until the clone wars begin. Even then two clones who have had different experiences will not be the same: We are more than the sum of our DNA.

Susan and I started out on the New Jersey turnpike quoting Simon and Garfunkel: "I'm empty and aching and I don't know why."

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I know one reason---or I think I do. The desacralization of work. The sense that the activity on which we spend the most time in life, next to sleeping, is meaningless. The desacralization of work means that its purpose is gone. It means thinking of work without consideration of calling. Other reasons for aching emptiness are also evident, but if we don't get work right everything else gets distorted.

The desacralization of work is not a new phenomenon. The elder brother in the prodigal son parable desacralized work by seeing it as tedious obligation. The younger brother did the same by running off and avoiding work until necessity forced him into a terrible pig-feeding job. But now that we tend to think of man as the sum of his material parts, it's easy to start thinking of work as something we merely do to oil the machinery.

That's an error. Each of us is unique. Each of us has a unique calling. As George Will put it in his book title, baseball is all about "Men at Work." I'll write about this more in the magazine, but it was fun to sit with WORLD readers who are also men and woman at work (although not at that moment), uniquely carving out their callings. Some are still looking, but they all seem to understand the need to find God's purpose for their lives and to pursue it.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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