This introductory chapter examines the relationship between religion and labor. The biblical reading of Detroit Industrial Mission (DIM) ministers offered a creative and thought-provoking analysis of the human costs of industrial capitalism. Yet, their insistence that the biblical tradition unambiguously promoted work as an inherently ennobling human experience reflected their specific theological, historical, and class position. For centuries, laborers within the Western religious tradition learned a very different lesson: work was proof of the curse of human sinfulness. In the mythical fall from paradise, work entered the world as a human mandate. People must “earn their bread by the sweat of their brow,” not because labor was innately rewarding, but because God demanded it. The chapter then provides an overview of the role of religion in working-class culture.
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