No crooked table legs came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth

Our Saviour Subject to His Parents at Nazareth, by John Rogers Herbert

In nothing has the Church so lost Her hold on reality as in Her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation. She has allowed work and religion to become separate departments, and is astonished to find that, as a result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become irreligious, or at least, uninterested in religion.

But is it astonishing? How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life?  The church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.

Church by all means, and decent forms of amusement, certainly—but what use is all that if in the very center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry? No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. Nor, if they did, could anyone believe that they were made by the same hand that made Heaven and earth. No piety in the worker will compensate for work that is not true to itself; for any work that is untrue to its own technique is a living lie.

Dorothy L. Sayers, Creed or Chaos?, (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949), 56–57.  Quoted by Thomas B. Griffith in “How Do We Practice Our Religion While We Practice?”, Clark Memorandum, Fall, 2004, p. 15.
Image credit: “Our Saviour Subject to His Parents at Nazareth,” by John Rogers Herbert (1810-1890). BYU Museum of Art.

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Transferring spiritual energy to conduct

We come after. We know now that a man can read Goethe or Rilke in the evening, that he can play Bach and Schubert, and go to his day’s work at Auschwitz in the morning. To say that he has read them without understanding or that his ear is gross, is cant. In what way does this knowledge bear on literature and society, on the hope, grown almost axiomatic from the time of Plato to that of Matthew Arnold, that culture is a humanizing force, that the energies of spirit are transferable to those of conduct?

George Steiner, Language and Silence: Essays 1958-1966 (1967); Preface

Civilization, morality, duty and good conduct

Civilization is that mode of conduct which points out to man the path of duty. Performance of duty and observance of morality are convertible terms. To observe morality is to attain mastery over our mind and our passions. So doing, we know ourselves. The Gujarati equivalent for civilization means “good conduct”.

Gandhi, Hind Swaraj, Section XIII. Full text online.