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Faith and Learning - Work and Leisure

Americans are standing on the threshold of a revolution in leisure.... No longer is our work day dictated by the rising and setting sun. The twenty-five or thirty hour work week is more than a wild dream - it is a threat. Sir Thomas More had visions of a nine hour work-day, sixty hour work-week in his Utopia (1516). From a leisure standpoint, we are now living in Utopia.
-- Robert Lee in "Religion and Leisure in American Culture" Theology Today 19 (April 1962).

In our culture of "total work" (a phrase used by the late German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper), the question of what role leisure has to play in our (post-)modern lives is one that can be answered relatively easily: leisure (also known as "unwinding," "taking a break," "enjoying some down time") is what enables us to do more work. Without it, we would so exhaust ourselves that we'd no longer be able to function as productive members of our families, professions, churches, and society in general.

But in God's design, is leisure's purpose really nothing more than to serve as the handmaiden of productivity? And what is the nature of true leisure? Does zoning out in front of the TV count?

These questions and others like it find provocative answers in Josef Pieper's classic book, Leisure, the Basis of Culture. Although it is now 50 years since it was written, Pieper's message about the true nature of leisure and its inescapable necessity is as pertinent (and counter-cultural) today as it ever has been. In fact, we thought it was so pertinent that we chose to read it with two different faculty reading groups in 2003-2004. It's what we would call "highly recommended." Read a review of Pieper from

Another excellent read is a 1962 article by Robert Lee entitled, "Religion and Leisure in American Culture," [Theology Today (April 1962) 39-58]. You can access it from the Theology Today website, but you'll have to browse to the article through the Archives. Just look for the April 1962 issue.