For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Henry David Thoreau's anti-work spirituality and a new theological ethic of work"

by Malesic, Jonathan (2017)


Although Henry David Thoreau stands outside the Christian canon, his outlook on the relations among spirituality, ecology, and economy highlights how Christian theologians can develop a theological work ethic in our era of economic and ecological precarity. He can furthermore help theologians counter the pro-work bias in much Christian thought. In Walden, Thoreau shows that the best work is an ascetic practice that reveals and reaps the abundance of nature and connects the person to the immanent divine and thereby glimpsing eternity. Thoreau thus offers the outline of a transformed theology of work even as he challenges Protestant vocationalism in the early industrial era. He is therefore a fitting if challenging guide for formulating a theology of the self as agent and product of work, at a moment when the postindustrial ideal of work that is both meaningful and remunerative seems ever more unattainable while the negative impact of our work on nonhuman nature is ever more apparent.


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