Spinning Your Wheels with Christianity
We live in the Christian paradigm of accepted morality, but more importantly, the values directing life’s activities. Raised in a Christian-dominated society, you likely only recognize a fraction of the religion’s control over you, and to find freedom, Christian cognitive and social chains must be understood. One of the most crucial identifications is the Christian influence over career success. Manifesting useless career and personal development advice, giving rise to a self-help and productivity guru industry, this value, the Christian work ethic, rarely delivers, often crippling the goal of success.
Recognizing the Christian Work Ethic
In childhood, society teaches you the counterproductive Christian work ethic. An abundance of this indoctrination’s evidence presents in nearly all Christian writing. The Children’s Evangelism Fellowship clearly shows this indoctrination’s embedding throughout their literature. The article, “Teach Kids to Weed Out Sneaky Lies,” describes how lies, like garden weeds, require constant discovery and removal. As you read, pay attention to the language, “Even though it’s hard work, you know it’s worth the effort.” This Christian value statement commonly taught to children reinforces work as a worthy activity using an implied reward. This Christian work ethic presents directly in the Christian Courier’s article, Teaching Youth the Work Ethic, which tells parents to “not allow” kids to “sit around” and waste time with TV, video games, or even in sports, going as far as to say, “A good person will do good work” and “they will put in a full day’s work for a day’s pay” and this thinking “will result in rich dividends in your child’s adult life.”
The Christian work ethic revealed in the above writings founds on scripture abundantly present throughout the Bible. This value forms a lattice of Christian ideology taught early then reinforced throughout life, which interweaves with the broader American culture. Famed sociologist Max Weber identified this work ethic in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, wherein Weber attributes capitalism’s growth to Christian ethics and values, specifically Protestant and Calvinist theology.
Superficially, the Christian work ethic appears sensible if not essential to child-rearing because teaching children to value work seems prudent when livelihoods and dreams are at stake. However, this belief only appears correct and necessary within a Christian-dominated society.
Everything Christian appears right and sensible in a Christian world — even if it is not.
Many critics attacked Weber’s thesis and the Christian obsession with capitalism that benefits only them and, most notably, rich Christians. Dr. Martin Luther King provided a potent rebuttal to Weber’s theory, stating,
…we have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that Capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that Capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor both black and white, both here and abroad…
Dr. King speaks of Capitalism and Christianity’s marriage that reinforces a hierarchical social order that conveniently maintains social class and religious obedience, keeping workers trapped in their position through an ethical mirage. In a Christian society, everyone, Christian or not, suffers indoctrination of capitalism’s effectiveness.
Religious and business leaders respectively value this indoctrination for funding churches and turning people into machines. Good Christians equal good workers because they accept work based on faith, which promises accessibility to the corporate ladder or better opportunity. In most instances, ascension’s illusion masks exploitation in Christianity’s counterproductive belief system that leads many, through continuous, futile work effort, to remain trapped in the working and middle classes they were born. Worse yet, the less you mirror Christian values, and more importantly, corporate leadership, the less opportunity for advancement. This prejudice explains perfectly white, Christian male domination of business in America.
You might be thinking that submitting to Christianity provides an advantage regardless of hypocrisy, and you are correct to some degree. Keep in mind the Christian work ethic doesn’t exist to make you successful but to keep you slaving your life away. This purpose clarifies in the constant reinforcement of the work ethic that produces limited results. Take the fast-food worker making $23,069 annually, averaging forty hours. To make more money, the worker must either work another job or overtime, and going up the corporate ladder does not provide the benefit of more personal time. Becoming a manager increases hours above forty, more realistically, 50–70 at an often-salaried position with an average annual pay rate of $56,590.
Even reaching the top does not mean less work. In a 2017 CNBC article, millionaires disclosed the enormous hours required to build and maintain fortunes claiming between twelve and eighteen hours a day, six to seven days a week. While some people have the stamina to work these enormous hours, most don’t, and realistically in lower-paid professions, there are no more hours left to work, making ascension to management increasingly difficult — not for lack of diligence.
Christians at the Top
Who sits at the top of many American corporations?
White male Christians.
Anyone not fitting that leadership mold becomes a Christian work ethic victim because no matter the tireless work, top-tier positions come rarely. This story plays out in the US over and over in the form of discrimination suits. In 2007, the EEOC and Walgreens reached a $20 million resolution to the EEOC’s suit alleging, “Walgreens discriminated against African American retail management and pharmacy employees in promotion, compensation, and assignment.”
Women also don’t fit the mold since most Christians believe women should remain submissive to men. This belief, combined with motherhood, braces the glass ceiling that keeps them from ascending corporate ranks. Between 2011 and 2014, the EEOC filed forty-four lawsuits charging pregnancy discrimination for $4.4 million in damages.
Keep in mind most discrimination goes unreported, which makes these EEOC figures disclosed by Forbes all the more staggering with “more than 21,000… charges of sex discrimination…in 2020, up by more than 31% from 2019” along with “Race discrimination lawsuits” increasing around 32%.”
We know Christianity infects American business simply through workers and managers sharing the religion that dominates the population. However, many companies proudly display their Christian affiliation and roots, which led some to a variety of discrimination lawsuits as reported by Business Insider:
Though a small list, keep in mind the many small, Christian-owned companies not bound by affirmative action laws, showing the Christian work ethic’s strong influence. While the Christian work ethic may help drive success for companies by keeping employees working, it only benefits the lucky or those born into wealth.
As a worker, Christian or not, you will likely ascend only so far within a company. Competition intensifies on the corporate ladder climb, but even more so, the Christian work ethic becomes less effective than networking and reputation since rules governing the hiring of management or executives hold little rationale, as research shows. You become snared in a cycle of ever-increasing work to accomplish life’s goals under the false belief of hard work’s reward. Realizing the need to work more, you seek ways to maximize time and energy, giving rise to productivity and self-help gurus.
Productivity & Self-help Gurus
Productivity and self-help gurus, even the popular, successful ones, typically provide methods intended to enhance work, offering either motivation or means to maximize productivity because they believe, like everyone, in the Christian work ethic. Following their advice might provide some benefit but overlooks the reality that increased efforts will likely not lead to the top of the corporate ladder or to building financial success through some other activity such as a small business. Why?
Because productivity improvement advice and strategies distill into the same Christian work ethic that promises rewards unlikely to manifest.
“Every day, work harder on yourself than anything else. ’Cause if you become more intelligent, more valuable, more skilled, you can add more value to other people.” ~ Tony Robbins
Working hard on yourself is good advice, and if Robbins stopped speaking at that juncture, his advice would be flawless. Robbins continues his wisdom, claiming your value increases with other people. Inferring “other people” to mean your “boss, clients, or the company,” we now know forms a roll of the dice, even if you are a white Christian male working his ass off. Many highly skilled, intelligent people with tremendous value struggle with careers and life, notably teachers who earn little and struggle in their socially-vital careers. If you’re thinking of applying this advice to a small business, you are still not seeing the problem. Most small businesses are owner-operated companies with few to no employees, and ownership typically means working more hours than a job, sometimes for less money. Believing, as Robbins and many other gurus claim, self-improvement efforts conjure success through increased value to others exemplifies the Christian work ethic. Robbins has restated the ethic just as many other gurus:
“Everything about you is a result of your doing or not doing. Income. Debt. Relationships. Health. Fitness level. Attitudes and behaviors.” ~ Jack Canfield
“Our words have power, but our actions shape our lives.” ~ Rachel Hollis
Productivity gurus preach the same Christian work ethic, teaching people to make themselves more efficient machines by adding a splash of science to the ethic. Articles discussing “maximizing the workday with your biological clock,” “staying focused with meditation tools,” “building concentration by eating properly when busy,” and infinite other topics fill career and money-making websites. Like the self-help masters, these gurus might provide limited benefits but deepen the Christian work ethic trap. The results you seek may never come to fruition no matter your effort since luck and hope reign.
Freeing Yourself of the Christian Work Ethic
Does hard work pay? Yes, but limitedly. This limited reward camouflages the Christian work ethic trap, but identifying the snare provides the most critical step to success by shifting belief in what works. Consider for a moment the success of some of those large corporations discussed earlier. Is it Christianity that makes Chick-fil-A successful, or the desirable product produced by mostly compliant, loyal workers? More to the point, Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy in 2019, citing competition with online retailers that hurt their business, which reveals the Christian work ethic’s inability to stave off market forces, no matter how deeply embedded in a company. Recognizing the falseness of the Christian work ethic elucidates your success’s dependence on market forces rather than faith in effort.
One of the most important components of career and moneymaking success is knowing market needs, applicable to careers or business ventures. Well-paid workers typically have skills that fulfill a market need: mechanics, doctors, lawyers, dentists, engineers, etc. If unable to obtain a skill in a high-paying field, a problem shared by many, you still can obtain better pay by shifting to better-paying industries, but most importantly, by judging market forces to know where to work. If forced to work an unskilled position, you should look for the highest paying, most in-demand job that requires the least amount of time so you can find and leverage more opportunities, rather than working hard for some magical success that will likely never come.
You should have no loyalty to a company beyond what they pay you to do because they will fire you when the market demands this action thus showing you are expendable.
Thinking I am stating the obvious? You’re wrong because the Christian work ethic that blinds you mixes with common sense forming a counterproductive logic. The Christian work ethic says, “work hard and be loyal” while combining with “work smarter, not harder.” This confluence of conflicting, uncritical thought often leads to the self-help and productivity gurus to maximize the job rather than altering the paradigm.
Working smarter only works if you can rationally work smarter.
Abandoning the Christian work ethic frees your mind to acquire a new discipline for working smarter. As strange as it sounds, people often take the adage “working smarter,” embark on a new promising career or business endeavor, then begin working their ass off to achieve the same long hours for maybe slightly higher pay. If you find yourself switching jobs frequently or constantly trying new business ideas in the hopes of one sticking, (take note MLM victims) you may be a victim of the Christian work ethic. When freed of the Christian work ethic, you see endeavors as knowledge acquisition, not effort.
The Tools to Work Smarter
You likely saw commercials for real estate investment systems claiming to make people wealthy, which rarely works. True real estate moguls may have a formula or method for buying and selling, but these people developed that system through experience and research. They study the market forces, learn what works at different times, and leverage real estate to make them wealthy. Don’t confuse these people with every successful agent or broker because not every successful real estate professional is truly successful. When the market crashed in 2008, many people in real estate bankrupted because they did not understand the market forces and likely followed a formula that led them to limited success but ultimately to failure. Anyone in real estate who understood these forces would have seen the coming recession and tried to prepare for it. These falls from success are common and show the need to understand the business (market forces) to strategize over buying, selling, and administrative tasks.
This same logic applies to all endeavors for success, seen clearly in the failure to understand it. People believe becoming a successful writer occurs following the Christian work ethic that dictates writing six hours a day or more and finding a publisher. Never mind the ever-changing, highly competitive digital publishing landscape because that publisher, who pays a pittance for a portion of your book’s rights with limited advertising, will choose you over millions of writers just because you worked hard writing your book. Similarly, you can start as an independent author, believing success is imminent by writing until your fingers bleed, posting hundreds of novels on Amazon, and never selling a book. If you want to sell books or articles, you need to understand the publishing industry and the market forces, which is no small feat. Understanding market forces entails more than just the needs but how to reach the market.
The Christian work ethic glares with failure when you witness hardworking people endlessly spinning their wheels, most prominently when they have a valuable idea they cannot share. People with great ideas write articles, build websites, open online stores, then start Facebook pages and work hard at all these efforts only to be rewarded with no engagement, sales or anything for the effort. Why? Because they didn’t have a clear vision of market forces and necessary knowledge and assumed, as everyone professes, effort applied to the X, Y, and Z’s digital formula for success renders reward: the Christian work ethic in action.
Had you not relied on a false work ethic as the vehicle of success, you would have seen you lacked a technical knowledge to drive your web endeavor and probably saved yourself enormous time and money simply by acquiring the knowledge to keep you from these futile efforts. More than saving time and money, letting go the Christian work ethic provides a means of honest self-evaluation in a mind clear of magical thinking. You will be far more critical of your ideas, if you don’t believe effort alone will carry success. You will be more honest since the Christian work ethic is a lie, deliberate or accidental, dictating your endeavor’s success founds on effort and faith, not meticulous, thoughtful development. For if you place faith in effort over knowledge, then what motivation do you have to truly perfect yourself and your ideas as a writer, entrepreneur, or to fill a better career position?
You can see this lack of drive and originality all around. Just look at all the businesses modeled on other businesses. The Christian work ethic tells these entrepreneurs that duplication and hard work yields the same results. This logic applies to everyone from app developers to writers, who duplicate other applications or spin articles, thinking somehow the mere effort dedicated to such mediocrity will produce success. Does this work sometimes? Yes, but more often it fails with many U.S. small businesses failing in the first year, and even more by their fifth year, and leaving only a third after ten years.
Oppositely, abandoning that useless Christian work ethic accepts no magical ending, awaits your effort, and inspires self-improvement, diligent research, originality, and idea refinement almost certain to yield success if not just better results.