A Day in the Life...

Having finished my thoughts about the theology of the bourgeoisie I wanted to find out what a typical bourgeoisie day looked like. I wanted to know, outside of sleeping, eating, and working, what the bourgeoisie had left over for spiritual formation or ecclesial pursuits.

After some search I hit the jackpot. Apparently, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics annually tracks how Americans spend their time. Just go to the Bureau's annual American Time Use Survey report. There you will find tons of data on how Americans spend their time.

At the Time Use Survey website I found the chart I was looking for: How do we spend our time each day?

Summarizing the chart, the Time Use Survey states:

[T]he chart above shows how employed persons ages 25 to 54, who live in households with children under 18, spent their time on an average workday. These individuals spent an average of 8.7 hours working or in work-related activities, 7.6 hours sleeping, 2.6 hours doing leisure and sports activities, and 1.2 hours caring for others, including children.

In many ways, the point of my last series is to get us to face up to the realities and challenges posed by the chart above. Work, family, sleeping, eating, and household chores/duties account for 19.4 hours of a 24 hour day. That doesn't leave a lot of leftover time for spiritual formation activities. A little church attendance, some prayer time, a bit of volunteerism. That's about it.

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16 thoughts on “A Day in the Life...”

  1. So, Richard, to continue my contrarian stance :-)... What if this is precisely the goal of satan/the demonic; or alternatively, the direction that human finitude/evil flows?

    What if the whole "point" is that, given our human tendencies, we will look for ways to provide ourselves with safety and comfort (which are, of course, not bad in themselves), and modern "bourgeoisie" culture has, in an attempt to procure those values, has actually bought into a system that works to dull our souls toward God?

    I am not asserting a proposition here, but I do wonder if, in spite of the benefits the bourgeoisie have brought to western society, there is a deeper problem that remains unaddressed precisely because we (Christians) fail to take seriously the revolutionary nature of the Gospel?

    As one commenter put it in a previous thread (I think?), God's goodness may be at work in the world, but it is in spite of the bourgeoisie, not because of them. Whatever good exists is because God allows humanity to participate in the imago Dei, but that isn't a call to glorify humanity.

    What will happen if Christians surrender their call to be the Kingdom, because a cultural system has managed to fulfill a (small?) portion of that call?

    Just musing... this has been a great series for thought!

  2. Geoff,
    I guess this series is trying to pose those very questions: Is that pie chart an evil thing? And is the graph in my last post, the world created by that pie chart, to be seen as the devil's gift?

    I think it is problematic if we answer either "Yes" or "No" to those questions.

    So I guess that is the point of this whole line of reflection: If the answer isn't clearly yes or no what, exactly, is the answer?

    (And, BTW, Heaven forbid I judge someone for being contrarian.)

  3. Yes. I mean, no. :-)

    The reason this is somewhat intriguing to me is that lately I've been working on a paper about Kierkegaard and Zizek. Zizek's assessment of Kierkegaard's "suspension of the ethical" (from Fear and Trembling) appears to be: Since the true act of faith, such as Abraham's decision to kill Isaac, can only appear as faith to the individual - to the rest of the world, Abraham appears as an insane, monstrous, unethical person - then it is impossible to say where the true "suspension of the ethical" (in Zizek's case, politically speaking) which leads to meaningful change actually takes place, because to the rest of us it will look like an unethical act... it may very well have taken place in Lenin's revolution (but has since been corrupted).

    So, Zizek suggests that truly meaningful behavior will have something of a Kierkegaardian element to it: The ethical isn't the primary goal, it will be secondary to the act of real meaning. From a theological angle, I think he has a point. I'm still not sure I understand Zizek, but if I'm reading him accurately, it's very compelling. Christians should, at some level, really follow Christ to the "cross" and forget about how any ethical system might judge them. In fact, all religions ought to operate this way, or they should be honest enough to admit they don't really believe what they claim. At least that's what I think today...

  4. Geoff,
    I haven't read Zizek, although everyone seems to be talking about him now. I need to find out what is going on. Recommendations on where to start?

    In college I loved Kierkegaard. Now I wrestle with him. He's a ghost that haunts me.

    The struggle is this. On the one hand, I get the Knight of Faith (and the application to the cross of Jesus). The romantic side of me is deeply moved by the idea. But something (the Kant inside of me) just pulls back at the last minute. I think Zizek's wrong. I think morality has a kind of universal sanity about it. When we see decency and kindness and honesty we don't say "Crazy!" We feel moved. We feel what the psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls "moral elevation", as sense of awe and reverence. We feel humanized by the moral when we witness it.

    And yet, my inner Søren rises up and says: What about St. Francis, Gandhi, and the prophets? What about the crucifixion of Jesus? Where not these considered crazy? Jesus was accused of being demon-possessed, right?

    And on and on it goes in my mind...

  5. Richard, Geoff,

    My sense is that Kierkegaard, like Nietzsche, probes far but doesn't probe far enough to consider how in God's name God can demand (does God?) that Abraham demonstrate his loyalty to God through Isaac's sacrifice. Why do the subsequent "faithful" including the Rabbi's and the writer of Hebrews not see that being faithful means to listen to the second voice in the story and not the first? Why are we willing to sanctify the God willingly complicit in the suffering of Job?
    Or to state, for the sake of penal atonement ideology, that God set up history so that the "innocent" Jesus might be tortured to absolve humans of their responsibility?

    Chesterton once wrote that the story of God's action in the world through Jesus is too sane, too wild, too good to be true. Jesus' mother and his brothers and sisters thought him mad. And that's why philosophers cannot and will not believe the story but children do.


  6. Richard/George, those are great questions! I'll have to think about those in more detail...

    As for a book by Zizek, most people seem to recommend either "The Parallax View" or "The Sublime Object of Ideology." I don't think it's easy reading at all, so I started with a nice book by Adam Kotsko called "Zizek and Theology" which lays out a lot of the basics of his thought and how he's connected them to Christianity.

  7. "Work, family, sleeping, eating, and household chores/duties account for 19.4 hours of a 24 hour day. That doesn't leave a lot of leftover time for spiritual formation activities."

    Maybe not sleeping (though I accept it is necessary), but the rest of those can be/include spiritual formation activities, I reckon.

  8. If the central question here is how much time and energy is available for religious practice could we translate that to the deeper questions of what practices ? And what life ? It's really only a recent Western phenomenon that religion has been fractionated off from an integrated and wholistic view and life practices. Even up til the 19thC religious questions were part of the debates in the public square though religious practices were not important to the lower classes. The point being that defining theology's role as being the content of the sermon on Su is a historical aberration.
    I'd also suggest that it's not very constructive or productive. Religion, imho, should be trying to reach the other 99% of life not just with principles but with practices that help the bourgeoisie life their lives well, based on values. So if Theology wants to be relevant it needs to come down from the pulpit and into those lives as they are lived.

  9. Richard, I've been remiss to comment lately, but I've read your recent series intently. Enjoyable and thought-provoking as always.

    Geoff, I think I need to add Zizek to my reading list. Perhaps I'll get to him in the summer when I have more time to delve into difficult reading.

    From what you've said in summarizing his take on Kierkegaard's "suspension of the ethical" and from the people Richard mentioned in his response, I'm reminded of Emerson's line "To be great is to be misunderstood."

  10. Just to be clear, Zizek is not a Christian... simply a "prophet" of suspicion... he's a dialectical materialist, in case anyone was wondering.


  11. That doesn't leave a lot of leftover time for spiritual formation activities.

    What about the idea that Jesus has redeemed even all these so-called "secular" activities to the point that there is no longer any need for such compartmentalized "spiritual formation" activities.

    What if Colossians 3:7 does mean that?

  12. Justin, seems like a stretch... Paul's speaking there in the context of an ongoing transformation, which implies that it's not complete. Plus, that would conflict with a lot of Paul's (and Jesus') other statements about the need for continual spiritual growth. I would suggest that "secular" activities may be catalysts for growth, but shouldn't be a substitute for intentional spiritual activity.

  13. I also am interested in how the life of faith is integrated and expressed in each slice of the pie. (Harry Wendt of Crossways.org talks directly about that, even using a pie-chart motif as well.)

    For example - as I drive and have to deal with people trying to merge into my lane on the freeway, I've started to hear an echo of John 14:2b "...I go to prepare a place for you." Clearly not what Jesus had in mind, and yet it has made driving in traffic a place where my spiritual life manifests in my own experience and (usually) in my outward behavior as well.

    If I was a truck driver, that could open up the bulk of my work life to concrete spiritual expression. Alas, I'm merely a pastor!

    But it makes me wonder, how else can we merge work life and faith life in whatever we do, for our own sake and the sake of others?

  14. Feral - let me riff off your point and reinforce my earlier one. Should questions of theology be separate from the rest of our lives ? Or should they in fact inform the conduct of our entire lives ? And beyond that shouldn't theological constructs result in practices that help us live better lives ?
    The Buddhists talk about Right Thought, Right Action and Right Livlihood. I just finished a four hour marathon discussion with a friend this last Su on how to translate his Faith-search into meaningful ground for his daily life. Richard's charts tell me that contributions to human happiness and well-being are based on value-grounded lives; yet all around us we face value-challenges.
    Where to from here ?

  15. Here is one thought I had.

    William Stringfellow has the notion that Christian living is to learn to "live humanely in the Fall." For Stringfellow, the outcome of the Fall is dehumanization. The goal, therefore, it to die to the ratrace so that one can act as an exemplary human being, full of mercy, grace, forgiveness, service, and hospitality. We can do this anywhere. At home, in traffic, and at work.

    This seem to be what John the Baptist was after when he spoke of repentance:

    Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"

    "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them.

    Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?"

    He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay."

    John's message seems to be that I should pursue my vocation humanely and to not contribute to the forces of dehumanization.

  16. Richard,

    YES !!

    Exactly, Bingo,

    even Bravo Zulu :) !

    So...for your next trick can we consider operationalization ? That is how to put into practice in our daily lives the principles we espouse here ?

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