Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Coming to America will kill your love and pursuit for Godliness.

Written by: on February 18, 2023

Max Weber, German Social Scientist and author of The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism, Explains and reveals an interesting way of looking at Capitalism and its relationship to Protestantism. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (German: Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus) is a book by Max Weber, a German sociologist, economist, and politician. Begun as a series of essays, the original German text was composed in 1904 and 1905 and was translated into English for the first time by American sociologist Talcott Parsons in 1930. [1] I realized that Weber’s work has been very influential in many areas of our society, being highly referenced by authors and academicians in various areas of study, including sociology and religion. “It is considered a founding text in economic sociology and a milestone contribution to sociological thought in general.”[2]

My few remarks as I review Weber and Clark’s work are primarily on the Protestant Work Ethic and how materialism continues to show up.

Capitalism began because of technological developments, especially power, but adding a set of ideas did make Capitalism possible, and these are religious ideas, not just any religious ideas. Still, Capitalism was created by Protestantism, specifically Calvinism.

Below are some of the critical points that Weber makes.

  1. The burden of proof.

Weber gives as one of his reasons to support his idea that Protestantism makes you feel guilty; Catholics can become a priest and confess their sins and transgressions for cleansing and purification but Protestantism. Weber argues protestants believed only God could forgive sins, and he does not reveal his intentions till the day of judgment, which left them anxious and guilty desires. “Protestants are left with heightened feelings of anxiety as well as life-long guilty desires to prove their virtual to a severe all-seeing God.”[3]

  1. God likes Hard work.

Weber speaks about the Protestant Work Ethic; Due to guilty in the eyes of an angry God who will require accountability at the end of their life on earth, Weber believes protestants became obsessed with hard work “The sins of Adam could only be expunged through constant toil.”[4]

  1. All work is holy.

For the Catholics, the Weber writes that holy work was limited to the ministry by priests and nuns, yet this was different with Protestants, who way that “any kind of work would be done in the name of God.”[5]

  1. Belonging to the Community counts rather than a family.

Weber adds that in countries where Catholicism values are upheld, family values are greatly upheld yet in for Protestant countries he says, community belonging is given more value than family. “The family could be haven for selfish and egoistic motives; for early Protestants, one was meant to direct one’s selfless energies to the community as a whole, the public realm, where everyone deserved fairness and dignity.”[6]

Anxiety, assurance, and Providence

Clark, in his “Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis did return to Protestant Work Ethics as well.
The ongoing measure of whether this inner assurance was valid was now located and   anchored in the doctrine of providence. The confirmation of feelings about assurance was to be seen in providence operating in the daily life of individuals.[7]

I see what my friend meant now.

“Jean coming to America will kill your love and pursuit for Godliness.” Was Al’s response when I pleaded with him to help me come to America in 1992. I remember writing back to Al and trying to hide my inner sadness since I did not understand the logic behind his denial. Part of me thought Al was not ready to do the hard work and struggles of sponsoring a young refugee boy from Uganda to North America.  Seven years later, I came to America without Al’s sponsorship. I had vowed to show him I would remain passionately serving Jesus regardless of the material wealth found in North America. Still, he was unfortunately diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and died while I had just arrived. Inside these pages, I see my relentless passion for professional growth and helping others realize God’s potential. Al’s prophecy must be catching up with me as I race against age and attempt so hard to become a person of influence in a world that seems to present nothing but resistance.

[1]The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” Wikipedia, February 1, 2023, accessed February 18, 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Protestant_Ethic_and_the_Spirit_of_Capitalism&oldid=1136817341.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Warwick, “Max Weber and the Spirit of Capitalism,” Universty of Warwick research, Education Studies, n.d., https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/ces/research/current/socialtheory/maps/weber/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Jason Paul Clark, “Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogeneses in the Relationship,” Faculty Publications – Portland Seminary (June 2018), https://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1131&context=gfes.

About the Author


Jean de Dieu Ndahiriwe

Jean de Dieu Ndahiriwe is a Clinical Correctional Chaplain and former Child Refugee from War-torn Rwanda. A member of the Maxwell Leadership Certified Team, Jean is passionate about Servant Leadership and looks forward to seeing more leaders that inspire Lasting Peace and Justice for all, especially "the least of these".

10 responses to “Coming to America will kill your love and pursuit for Godliness.”

  1. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Jean,

    You did a marvelous job highlighting the main factors Protestantism that contributed to the rise of capitalism. I am particularly struck by the connection of “all work is holy” and “God likes hard work.” I would affirm both of these statements, but also I think an overemphasis on this has caused local church participation to decrease. I see people all the time avoid volunteering, or even attending church weekly because the demands of life (which is mostly work and family) are too much and take priority over church.

    In regards to the story about Al, what do you imagine it was in particular that Al said “will kill your love and pursuit for Godliness”? Is it the entanglement of capitalism and the pursuit of with within Evangelicalism?

    • Good points David,
      The rise of capitalism has made it difficult, everything requires Money and finding volunteers is not as simple as used to be.
      It must be related to what my friend Al thought. He had come to the villages and poor communities of Uganda spending time on the mission field. I imagine he had seen and appreciated the commitment and passion in these poor peasants and refugees spending countless hours praying and serving, expecting nothing back since they had nothing.

      Al was thinking once in North America, the focus will turn to seek to gain, yes the entanglement in capitalism as you suggested instead of serving selflessly as it was in Uganda.

  2. Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

    Jean, Thank you for your post. I appreciated how you highlighted four of Weber’s critical points and summed them up in a way that is so understandable. I found Weber’s writing quite complex and am really benefiting from everyone’s rewording of his thesis.

    Also, I was really struck by your friend Al’s words. How did he hold on to his love for God and pursuit of Godliness?

    Thank you, Jean! I so appreciate your thoughts,

  3. Tonette Kellett says:


    What a great post, and such powerful words from your friend Al. I think it is the materialism in the US that drives people away from following the Lord and to pursue other “gods”. We lose our passion for Him in the madness of the day to day living, don’t you think?

  4. Hi Tonette,
    I do agree with you, my friend. Unfortunately, this materialistic drive has now spread across the world. It is not in the US alone; I find it more problematic in the developing world where so many people strive to break out of centuries of impoverished living and do all sorts of skims to serve this “prosperity god.”

  5. Alana Hayes says:

    You always amaze me so much! Your strength and tenacity are unlike many!

    How has pursuing a career in the states challenged your faith and how have you continued to rise to the challenge?

  6. Hey Alana,
    I am so blessed to serve, and there is no better place to work than in the United States; As a Chaplain, I am paid to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
    I guess when I look at where I have come from, I am full of gratitude, and my faith fuels my growth.

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