“Men Were Created to Work”: this is the headline of the new ad for men’s ministry guru Patrick Morley’s new book, A Man’s Guide to Work. “We feel most happy, most alive, and most useful doing the work we were supposed to do”, the blurb states.
This continues a long connection between men’s ministry, business and work. Particularly within evangelical ministries, work is used as a signifier for masculinity and, following the prosperity gospel, the pursuit and receipt of wealth through work is seen as a sign of God’s favour. As William Connolly amusingly puts it, “the right leg of the evangelical movement is joined at the hip to the left leg of the capitalist juggernaut. Neither leg could hop far unless it was joined to the other”.
Men’s ministry leaders often flaunt their business pedigree to confirm their ministry leadership and masculinity. Indeed, ministry leadership is often spoken of using business terminology. For example, Patrick Morley is described as ‘Chairman and CEO’ of Man in the Mirror and his biographical details refer to his past business success. And now Morley’s new book makes this connection between Christian masculinity and work even stronger.
There are problems with this from two different directions.
First, too many men are already dissociated from their interiority: the last thing they need to do is to start constructing their masculine identities around yet another external variable such as work. The seemingly endless pursuit of work is one of the things which results in a pathological masculinity.
Second, it is part of the continuing co-opting of the spiritual into the economic domain, demanding that we employ that last part of the world that belongs to us (the spiritual) in the office 9-5. The end game here (usually engineered in the management realm) speaks more to the priority of work than us as individuals. As Jeremy Carrette and Richard King say in their excellent book $elling Spirituality, “What is being sold to us as radical, trendy and transformative spirituality in fact produces little in the way of a significant change in one’s lifestyle or fundamental behaviour patterns (with the possible exception of motivating the individual to be more efficient and productive at work)”.
No thanks, Patrick.