A powerful deity has been added to the pantheon of gods. It is as if a star has appeared in the heavens to guide its worshipers through the maze of modern-day life. Though relatively new to the world stage, this deity now commands enormous respect, especially in the western hemisphere, and particularly in the United States. It is worshipped by untold millions — the great god Career.

People will go to almost any length for the sake of Career. They will leave friends and family, forsake their church, forego leisure and play. In the name of Career, they will sacrifice their marriage, interests, and even morals. They will do whatever it takes to experience the blessing of Career.

A generation ago, at least in some circles, Education ruled supreme. Since then there has been a shakeup in the heavenly pantheon. Education, once sought as an end in itself, now exists for the sake of Career. Today, its acolytes, professional educators, must frame the rituals and sacrifices of education as service to Career. Education has become a satellite deity that is only important if it revolves around Career.

Children, particularly children from affluent families, are often educated for the sole purpose of dedicating their lives to Career. Parents take advantage of school choice laws to send their kids to the best schools in their district or they go out of district to expensive private schools. They do this in the hope that their children will be accepted into top-tier colleges where they will learn to be Career-driven, Career-minded, and Career-wise.

When my children were young, I coached little league baseball for a couple of summers, including tee-Ball. The tee-ballers would swing and miss repeatedly, or swing and hit the tee, knocking the ball to the ground. Some parents would shout at them from the stands: “Keep your eye on the ball! Swing harder! Run faster!” For these parents, even tee-ball was an initiation rite for 5-year-old into the good graces of Career. So, of course, failure was unacceptable.

That is because they believed Career has power to bestow happiness, fulfillment, and material goods on their children. But children who miss out on its blessing because of laziness, deficiency in intellect or appearance, or societal injustice are destined to eke out a meaningless existence in humble circumstances.

As faith in the power of Career has spread, priests and prophets have emerged to serve the deity. These priests go by various titles: Career coach, certified career counselor, success guru, and career blogger, among others. Career also has major and minor prophets, whose writings impart vision, provide inspiration, and instruct neophytes in the ways of their god.

The idolization of Career is dangerous on many fronts. People who are willing to pay any price to secure the blessing of Career will always be at the mercy of people who have the power to bestow it. This is one of the principal truths the #MeToo movement can teach us, but few realize it and even fewer dare to speak it, perhaps from fear of committing Career heresy and offending Career worshipers everywhere.

In an explosive expose in The New Yorker, six women told Ronan Farrow that sexual harassment from CBS chairman Les Moonves had damaged their careers. One, a former child star hoping to make a comeback, said: “I’d been taught that powerful people can hurt you, they can ruin you, they can ruin your career … I thought, ‘Wow, is this the way the world works and I just don’t get it?’”

Farrow’s story portrays Moonves as a bad man, but it also reminds us that “Career First” is a bad policy. The women in Farrow’s piece acquitted themselves well, but think of the women who didn’t, who placed Career above integrity. To do so virtually guarantees dissatisfaction, either now because of failure or later because of success. It takes some people a lifetime to realize it, but what each person has in the end is not a Career but a self, which has been formed by the choices it has made. Career can be changed or abandoned, the self cannot. We are stuck with it.
— Shayne Looper is the pastor of Lockwood Community Church in Branch County, Michigan. Read more at shaynelooper.com.