Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Illusion of a Vocation So-Called

A most important thread in American life is work. It's usually one of the first things people ask you after your name, "Where do you work?", "What do you do?" etc. And this is not inherently bad, work is a part of creaturely life. However, the mistaken is to confuse God's calling, our vocation, with this sort of thing.

To even use the word "vocation" is to conjure up an evil theological ghost, created during the Reformation and mutated to the present day. Many of the Reformers wanted to abolish the secular-religious distinction for peoples, where the latter were the truest Christians and the latter submitted to the Church and followed a watered-down ethical code. This was just as evil, and why many Reformers blasted monkery as a grave error. However, due to maintaining the structure of Christendom, the Holy Society, Church and State formed into a single nation, this began to mutate into the idea of a certain sort of professionalism. It's not that you happen to be a merchant, but God called you to be a merchant, in a special way, and not in His general providence.

While the idea is that God cares about you in all your pursuits, it turns into a sanctification of worldliness. It's not as much a calling for you to follow Christ in your mundane and normal affairs, or to act according to the truths of the faith in all that you do, from the home to the worksite. Rather, one's religion becomes attached to a certain profession, whether it's "blue-collar" or "white-collar" type of work. This only continued the problems of Medieval society. It's part of the reason, or so I think, why "Sunday-Christian" is a phenomenon and why men are many times absent from devotional and ecclesiological life. But I digress.

For reflection, here are some words from Pascal, on the illusion of finding some purpose or transcendental meaning in our common labors:

97. The most important affair in life is the choice of a calling; chance decides it. Custom
makes men masons, soldiers, slaters. "He is a good slater," says one, and, speaking of soldiers,
remarks, "They are perfect fools." But others affirm, "There is nothing great but war; the rest
of men are good for nothing." We choose our callings according as we hear this or that
praised or despised in our childhood, for we naturally love truth and hate folly. These words
move us; the only error is in their application. So great is the force of custom that, out of
those whom nature has only made men, are created all conditions of men. For some districts
are full of masons, others of soldiers, etc. Certainly nature is not so uniform. It is custom
then which does this, for it constrains nature. But sometimes nature gains the ascendancy
and preserves man's instinct, in spite of all custom, good or bad.

98. Bias leading to error.—It is a deplorable thing to see all men deliberating on means
alone, and not on the end. Each thinks how he will acquit himself in his condition; but as
for the choice of condition, or of country, chance gives them to us. It is a pitiable thing to see so many Turks, heretics, and infidels follow the way of their fathers for the sole reason that each has been imbued with the prejudice that it is the best. And that fixes for each man his condition of locksmith, soldier, etc. Hence savages care nothing for Providence.

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