Do you need a job? Most of us feel the pressure to find a career and a good living, possibly with a house in the suburbs, and two cars in the driveway. There are many career counselors, and I’m sure they can give better advice than me, but I think we can all learn from the Blue Banana.
This strange name comes from economics, and it is also called the backbone of Europe. On a map, it’s blob, maybe like the shape of a banana, and it gets colored blue on maps. Today it shows where the most people live and where the big cities are. From the north, it stretches from England, to Germany, and to the big cities in northern Italy. There are many important points between that I didn’t mention.
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There is a spiritual lesson here.
In history, this region is where the industrial revolution happened, and that explains why the big cities are there today. People live near the jobs. The industrial revolution taught the world how to give jobs to people; careers with houses in the suburbs, and children in school. Before that time, refer to Robin Hood or Game of thrones for career possibilities. If you need a job, don’t go that far back.
In history, there is step three, where it all started, and this is a lesson for us all. The industrial revolution happened where the good workers lived. And who were those good workers, the human capital of the industrial revolution, the first employed people?
Farmers work hard everywhere, but people in that part of Europe have a long history of also reading the Bible, and praying in their homes, and living their Christian lives at work. I’m not making this up; a scholar named Max Weber studied these people, and wrote about the Protestant Work Ethic, also known as the Puritan or Calvinist Work Ethic. Max Weber believed that these people were sincere Christians who worshiped God with their work. For them, belonging to Jesus meant living a new life.
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If you can imagine Mennonite or Amish people working hard and living simply, with Bible reading and prayer at home, the heart of the Blue Banana is their ancient homeland. The ancestors left to escape persecution.
At the south of the industrial Blue Banana is Turin, or Torino in Italy. Nearby are the Italian Protestants, who trace back to the Waldensians, devout Christians from the time of Robin Hood. They have a long history of persecution.
Just north is Switzerland, the home of John Calvin and others who gave Reform Christianity to places like the Netherlands and Scotland. And England has a long history of Hedge Preachers, Puritans, Baptists, Methodists, Plymouth Brethren and others. In Scotland, history includes the Covenanters. They worshiped in secret and paid with their lives.
There is a common theme. Imagine a Game of Thrones place, where the common peasants follow and worship Jesus, and the powerful overlords follow the official, approved religion. Imagine the terrible persecution.
And then industry happened. Imagine a new factory to make steam engines, cotton cloth or some other industrial product. The factory could be located anywhere, but the best location is near the best workers, the human capital. There were people who worshiped God with their diligent work. A factory filled with devout followers of Jesus could make money for the owner, and that explains the location of the Blue Banana. It also explains why most persecution stopped.
And that is where our modern industrial economy started. Jobs and careers, and the suburban support system, were built around honest Christians. Max Weber told us that.
I saw this in my grandfather, my mother’s father. He was a paper hanger from Kirkintilloch, just east of the industrial city of Glasgow in Scotland. He painted, plastered, and wall-papered the interiors of homes, for wealthy people. He was not an important man but he kept busy. At some time, he made a personal decision to follow Jesus. He didn’t have to do that; he could have just gone to church like everyone else, but he made that decision.
He also moved to Canada, to an industrial city in the north, Sault Saint Marie. There he married my grandmother and they started a large family. At the beginning of the marriage, Grandma got worried. Her new husband came home late every day, and Scottish people have a close relationship with alcohol. Grandma was worried, and she hunted her husband down. She found him, on a street corner, with a Bible. Grandpa preached about God, to people on the street, in that industrial city. He wanted to be a Christian every day.
I left out some information. My Grandpa had a strong Glasgow accent, which is like a foreign language to most of us. And one more thing, Grandpa had a cleft palate. His mouth opened to his nose, and he spoke that accent through his nose. I never understood my Grandpa, I learned to just smile and nod when he spoke.
That little Scottish paper hanger was a fool for Jesus. He was hard core and we all knew that a new man was in the place of original:
We can question his methods, but anyone would hire him. If he cheated a client, or did bad work, we know he would believe that he had cheated God.
Hire that guy.
The spiritual lesson is; God will make us employable, if we let Him change us. Modern industrial society, with so many benefits, grew from one region in Europe and was imitated around the world. At the core was the human capital of the Blue Banana, hard core Christians like my Grandpa.