Here in December 2021 there are signs posted everywhere looking for workers. Restaurants, welding companies, hospitals, warehouses – you name it, they’re looking for someone to work. Even those businesses who have staff are amazed at the casualness with which work is viewed. People feel free to quit for any reason. Too hard, too hot, too cold, not a challenge, too much challenge, disliking the boss, disliking co-workers … pick a reason or pick them all.
There are very few living memories of America’s Great Depression – the last time great numbers of people were out of work with no government-sponsored safety net. There are very few living memories in our country of great numbers of people being hungry. Based on the long lines at a local Salvation Army “Free Lunch,” it’s hard to say that no one is missing a meal in America. Still, it makes you wonder who?
The ones I know who live on the edge are all ‘unemployable’ for one reason or another. Behavioral/mental/emotional disabilities or old age are the main culprits. It seems like the safety net is more designed for those who can but won’t take care of themselves than it is for the old and incapable.
Granted, this is my observation and not thoroughly investigated research. What I mean to highlight is that the combined effort of government schools and government incentives has been successful in breaking the back of a mainstay of American culture – the Protestant work ethic.
Many argue against Max Weber’s 1905 essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, where he posited that the economic success of European populations (which included the U.S.A.) was largely an effect of Calvinist understanding of Christianity. The correlation is not arguable but the causation, they say, is not definitive.
Maybe not in 1905, but maybe in 2021. Few would say that 2021’s America enjoys a dominant Christian ethic. Who will argue that America’s ethic in 2021 is superior to the ethic of America in 1905? Anarchists, perhaps. Marxists, definitely. No matter, the missing work ethic is just as correlated to the missing Christian ethic in 2021 as the general work ethic was related to the general Christian ethic in 1905.
But unlike there being no living memories of the Great Depression, there are memories of a Protestant morality in the minds of many Americans – and they miss it even if they don’t realize how it was lost.
The path to where we are today was never hidden. We have been sleep-walking our way to it since public education was introduced. Allowing centralized control of any institution always risks having that institution’s leadership captured by those opposed to truly Godly governance.
Consider the following representative quotes by those who advocated government control of education:
Horace Mann (1796 – 1859) – “Our common schools reach, with more or less directness and intensity, all the children belonging to the State, — children who are soon to be the State.”
Henry Barnard (1811 – 1900) – “No one at all familiar with the deficient household arrangements and deranged machinery of domestic life, of the extreme poor, and ignorant, to say nothing of the intemperate – of the examples of rude manners, impure and profane language, and all the vicious habits of low bred idleness – can doubt, that it is better for children to be removed as early and as long as possible from such scenes and examples.”
And then this, from the man most influential in molding the philosophy of public school teachers in the early twentieth century:
John Dewey (1889 – 1952) “You can’t make socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society, which is coming, where everyone is interdependent.”
By most accounts, Mann was a Christian and wasn’t truly interested in removing Christianity from the common schools. His intent was imposing state control of the schools. Dewey, however, was an atheist and co-author of the original Humanist Manifesto. With Mann’s government take-over of the schools completed, it was a small step to subverting the teacher colleges and the NEA.
What’s remarkable is that the agenda was always out in the open. And it was executed small step by small step because these pagan commies have a generational commitment to their cause. The Protestant ethic was not guarded by Christians because, after all, Jesus is coming any minute now. Their generational view was discarded.
So we Christians gave up the public schools, the universities, and the seminaries. They turned out socialist leaders with no founding in biblical concepts generational succession who led their own generation into pursuits of selfish hedonism.
And now we reap the whirlwind. No proper sense of what’s right and wrong. No thought to the future. No civility.
To recover a peaceful, civil, and thriving society we’ll need to implement grass-roots solutions in the same way the commies did. One family, one church, and one community at a time needs to be reclaimed for Christ. Education using the ethic of the Bible as a starting point is the key and the lead needs to be taken by self-consciously Christian people – clergy and parents, alike. We lost the schools – now, let’s reclaim schooling.
Societies that work have a Protestant ethic.
~John Bingaman, December 2021