“Nothing Is to Be Preferred to the Work of God”: Cultivating Monastic Detachment for a Postindustrial Work Ethic
- Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics
- Philosophy Documentation Center
- Volume 35, Number 1, Spring/Summer 2015
- pp. 45-61
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Traditional terms for theology of work, including co-creation and vocation, tend to overvalue work, abetting the alienating conditions of postindustrial labor. To develop a theology that can help workers make sense of work’s expansion, abstractness, and precarity, this essay proposes a postindustrial ethic of selective detachment from work. The Benedictine tradition offers a model. According to the Benedictine Rule, monastic work is important as a penitential practice but is strictly circumscribed, with prescriptions to forestall overinvestment in work. By detaching themselves from work, monastics cannot place labor ahead of prayer. In the medieval economy, monastic labor demonstrated work’s role in sanctification. Today, the Benedictine Rule demonstrates the need for worldly ascetical practices that will limit work so it does not inhibit someone seeking holiness.