If you were to visit one of the many big mega-churches being built in the US, you would likely find an important part of Christian heritage missing and forgotten. As I learned from a blog, Domesticated Theology in a post by "Jeremy", Paul was a tent maker, an itinerant craftsman, who earned his keep through the efforts of his own hands as he built the Christian church. From that point, responsibility to skilled manual service was an important element in Christian life and faith. It conferred humility to its practitioners, self reliance, a sense of service to others, and no doubt provided the opportunity for early Christians to exercise and develop the moral values that arise through craftsmanship.
This early Christian principle of integration of hand and spirit was an important component in all the early Christian monasteries. The same principles were carried forward by the Benedictines. In the US, the first schools to consciously integrate hand work as a component of intellectual education were schools of theology. The rationale was presented by Theordore D. Weld of the Oneida Institute in 1832 as follows:
(1) The present system of education makes fearful havoc of health and life; (2) it effeminates the mind; (3) it is perilous to morals; (4) it produces indisposition to effort and destroys habits of activity and industry; (5) it is so expensive that its practical effects are anti-republican.In contrast:
(1) The manual labor system furnishes exercise natural to man. (2) It furnishes exercise adapted to interest the mind. (3) Its moral effect would be peculiarly happy. (4) It would furnish the student with important practical acquisitions. (5) It would promote habits of industry. (6) It would promote independence of character. (7) It would promote originality. (8) It is adapted to render permanent all the manlier features of character. (9) It would afford facilities to the student in acquiring a knowledge of human nature. (10) It would greatly diminish the expense of education. (11) It would increase the wealth of the country. (12) It would tend to do away with those absurd distinctions in society which make the occupation of an individual the standard of his worth. (13) It would have a tendency to render permanent our republican institutions.And so, how do we restore the just and proper role of the hands in American society and in education? I would think that a year's worth of sermons could be written on this topic. But that would not be enough. It requires action as well as the exercise of language. Perhaps reading Paul would offer some important inspiration.