It’s a bit rich that Christianity, which spent its whole youth and manhood (womanhood?) fighting charges that it made men slothful and useless and effeminate and disloyal, that it made them disdain their earthly duties to their country and their sovereign for the sake of some utopia yet to arrive, that it roused up the rabble to hysteria and riots with fantastic superstitions, distracting them from a moderating and disciplining toil that is their necessary lot in life, should have its memory disgraced on its very deathbed by the libel that it is a friend of careerism! A friend of Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition, yes. Of Duns Scotus and dim-witted theological abstractions, yes. Of Augustine and other dissipated men disappointed with their dissipations, yes. Of Francis and other excitable children who want a world where everything is a friend, yes. Of the Dominicans and fanatical bloodlusts and infinite hatreds, yes, yes, yes! But of such a one as St. Harriet Miers, never. I refuse to have my childhood beliefs polluted with such a filthy and base falsehood.
One problem in [X’s defense of her] is the use of “calling” to signify a career. A career cannot be a calling. That seems to be one of those secular corruptions of Christian doctrine. People are not “called” to serve Caesar. The only true calling is to serve God–a man cannot have two masters at one time. The unmarried, celibate state is higher, that is true, but precisely because it allows for direct and undivided devotion to God, as the apostle says: “The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.” That doesn’t mean raising a career above one’s marriage–Christ doesn’t actually do any carpentry (raising the dead, yes; carpentry, no).
Now, that true or divine calling might, as your friend suggests, be understood to involve some “secular” work, if that work is done for the salvation of the souls of men. But a man must deny his very self, etc., and must never forget his true lord might return at any time, will return soon, and will want an account (the talents are to be put to work for the Master) –to the extent that any work, even a devotion to God, forgets this, it is not a calling (e.g., bureaucratization / professionalization of religion). The highest examples are all of men who surrender their “careers” to follow Christ. Christianity was not a bourgeois religion, but a religion of the poor, who reasonably enough were not inclined to see much to hope for from their “work” or from worldly rewards, and who felt a lot better spending their time at late-night, crowded candlelit events in underground caverns where they were inducted by forbidden rites by a fervent young man into a movement turning the whole world upside down by raising them up (“the mighty he has pulled down from their thrones”) etc. The most middle-class guy you get is the centurion (“Lord I am not worthy to have you come under my roof / But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”), but he hardly seems a model for careerism–what the heck is he doing tending to his dying slave, when he should be out shopping for a new one if he’s serious about his work. (Did Saul/Paul just stop reporting for work? Was the blinding light his excuse to “sick out”? At any rate, “see the light” does not mean “advance your career.”)
Miers is not an admirable woman–I want the word “admire” to still mean something. (Some of us may even wonder if she’s still a woman after all these years slaving at such an unwomanly job; or are men still men after years at office jobs?) There isn’t a single example in the New Testament of a career woman, not even priests or disciples (“Women should be silent in the churches . . . If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home”). The New Testament gives women womanly “careers” (–mother, nurse, wife, widow, prostitute etc). Why would it raise mothers so highly, if career women are to be praised? You have widows and prostitutes, but they’re not shown as doing anything but tending Jesus. Even the Whore of Babylon is not what we would call a career woman.
Christianity has one central and unique doctrine: anti-careerism. That’s what the attack on the Pharisees and the money-changers means, the attack on dutifully and narrowly following rules and on the self-satisfied accumulation of respect and status, the attack on the Jewish suffocation of genuine faith and love by 1,001 rules. That’s what God on the Cross means, and King of Kings born in a manger next to animals, conceived out of wedlock from a Jewess and an unknown father; Sermon on the Mount, etc.–Everything that is successful or powerful or respectable in the world is wrong in the eyes of God (“the wisdom of the world is folly in the eyes of the Lord”)–it’s at best to be tolerated.
It’s true that Miers has some echo of the secret complacent faith of a Christian that everything will turn out well, but she lacks almost all sense of what our passing pilgrim status on the world should mean about our respect for the world (let alone breaking off an engagement for it!). When the New Testament says, have no care for tomorrow (be like the birds), it doesn’t mean work like a dog today oblivious of death; on the contrary, it means forget about a career or even clothing, since you can’t do much for yourself compared to what God has done, to concentrate on the joy of God’s creation etc.