Service and Justice, Peace and Solidarity
This dissertation examines the significance of work and leisure from the perspective of Christian theology and ethics. Specifying work as obligatory activity and leisure as discretionary activity, the dissertation argues that a theological vision for work as a form of service and leisure as a form of peace can challenge some of the most damaging assumptions about paid employment and the use of free time. In the process, the dissertation also identifies the personal and social transformations necessary to make the theological vision a reality, and it proposes a distinct methodology for linking ethics with both lived experience and substantive theological claims. Chapter one outlines the current state of work in the United States, asserting that changes in the nature of work, the demographics of the workforce, and the structure of business have made workers more dependent on paid employment and less secure in their jobs. After discussing the implications of these changes for gender assumptions and family life, this chapter argues that the root causes of dependence and insecurity lie in an increasingly individualistic culture and its concomitant spirit of consumerism. Responding to the problems identified in chapter one, chapter two offers a theological vision for what work could become if Christian theological convictions were integrated more fully into this sphere of life. A critical overview of the traditional language of vocation yields a "charismatic-vocational" understanding of work, which stresses the dynamic nature of both God's call and an individual's response. This vision is further refined with insights about the relational nature of the human person and about Jesus' work for the kingdom of God. Christians, then, are encouraged to see their work as an intrinsic good that uses their particular charisms to serve God and neighbor. Chapter three uses the virtue of justice--biblically defined as right relationship--to pinpoint the structural reforms needed to make the theological vision for work more viable. In conversation with Catholic social teaching, this yields a constructive vision for just remuneration and a necessary critique of executive compensation practices. The result is a more relational understanding of work for employers and employees alike. Shifting to leisure, chapter four notes that the two most common leisure activities (watching TV and using digital media) are defined by superficiality and isolation. The former is described in opposition to depth and "flow," and the latter in contrast to robust community ties. In both cases, relationships are identified as the key casualty. Chapter five distinguishes leisure (flow-like activities) from recreation (non-flow activities) and engages Christian eschatology to insist that leisure is properly a temporary prefiguration of peaceful rest in God while recreation serves as a form of recuperation that helps one fulfill his or her charismatic-vocational responsibilities. Augustine's classic categories of enjoyment and use are then adapted to create a balanced approach to leisure and recreation that avoids idolatrous extremes. Chapter six develops a general ethics for leisure and recreation by relying on the virtue of solidarity. The distinctively Christian notion of this virtue yields a defense of a weekly day of rest for every worker. Parallels with Aquinas then create an ordering of leisure as well as guidelines for the ethical evaluation of particular recreational pursuits. The conclusion addresses the central benefits of the overall project, highlighting the value and necessity of promoting the practice of ethical discernment in everyday life.