Economic Justice

I am continually reminded that we are a Christian country. Evangelist Jim Wallis has pointed out that there are several hundred references in the Bible to helping the poor. Taking food off their plates does not seem very Christian to me.
Shakei Haynes 03-24-2014
Homeless man, wrangler /

Homeless man, wrangler /

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to spend the night at the Metropolitan House Men’s Shelter, part of Washington, D.C.’s, Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church.

And in this experience, Henri Nouwen’s, In the Name of Jesus came to life for me. In reflecting on his own experience of transitioning from Harvard University to L’Arche, a house for mentally disabled individuals, Nouwen realized he had to rediscover his true identity. Up until that moment, Nouwen relied on his accomplishments, achievements, accolades, educational training, and social connections to legitimize his impact and reputation in ministry as a priest. However, at L’Arche none of the things he relied on seemed to matter, and he had to gain credibility with those he planned to serve — the mentally disabled. Nouwen states, “I was suddenly faced with my naked self, open for affirmations and rejections, hugs and punches, smiles and tears, all dependent simply on how I was perceived at the moment” (28). Nouwen was forced to let go of his “relevant” self. Nouwen defines relevant self as, “the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things.” Nouwen would have to allow himself to become vulnerable while suppressing his “relevant” self.

Jim Wallis 03-20-2014

I don’t typically watch much television. But when I can, I watch The Daily Show. Jon Stewart brings humor, satire and truth telling to the news of the day — qualities also characteristic of the Hebrew prophets. When I once suggested that to Stewart, he immediately denied any similarity, saying, “No, no, no, I’m just a comedian from the Borsch Belt!” But further discussion revealed a selection of topics that evoke his moral passion and even a righteous anger at political hypocrisy.

That was on vivid display in a spotlight on what Fox News commentators were saying about food stamp recipients. It began with Fox saying how families who receive support from SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) should use their food stamps, and even what they should and should not be eating, which led to repeated condemnations of poor people.

The clips from those Daily Show commentaries are below and I suggest you take a few moments to watch them. They reveal what I am calling Fox News’ “preferential option for the rich,” which is in stark contrast to the gospel’s “preferential option for the poor” and what Pope Francis is now calling the church back to. Fox News’ repeated preference for the rich and condemnations of the poor is not just a political or economic issue, but a moral and religious failure. The faith community, in particular, should take note.

Brian McLaren 03-11-2014
L. Kragt Bakker /

Coalition of Immokalee Workers protest at an Atlanta Publix, L. Kragt Bakker /

Dear Publix Leadership,

I should begin by saying that I am in almost all ways a big fan of your company. I often shop in a nearby Publix, and shopping there truly is a pleasure. It is clean. The staff are friendly and helpful. The products are good and the prices reasonable.

I'm especially impressed with the way Publix hires people with disabilities.

To provide a needed service and then go above and beyond in seeking to benefit the community — that's a winning combination, and a legacy to be proud of.

That's why I've been so surprised to see Publix (along with Wendy's) refusing (so far) to join the Fair Food Program. And that's why I've been outspoken in my desire to see Publix live up to the ideals of its founder, George Jenkins, who said, “Don’t let making a profit stand in the way of doing the right thing."

Lisa Sharon Harper challenged her audience in Emerson Suites to imagine a world where children don’t have to worry about school shootings or where their next meal will come from; where everyone goes to the doctor regularly for check-ups and people don’t lock their doors. Then she said to imagine that every person in that world is African-American.
Last week, Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners wrote about how views of food stamps (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) have changed over the years.
After living a year in Washington, D.C., my husband and I are returning to Peoria. While in D.C. I visited our congressional leaders several times regarding producing a moral budget and the “Circle of Protection” for the poor and disadvantaged. Being an observer in the galleries of the House and Senate was instructive and often frustrating. I sometimes wondered why anyone wanted to work there.
Alec Hogg @alechogg Follow Jim Wallis at closing ceremony of #WEF14: "Skills are not the most important attribute. Sacrifice is. Nelson Mandela taught us that."
"The transformation of the world, which many of us long to see, requires the changing of frameworks, ethics, and, most of all, our decisions; and that will not happen without taking risks, a true leap of faith."
Sojourners @Sojourners Follow Can we get an amen? "It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode." @SojoWomen #SOTU
Mark Mueller 03-04-2014

3,000-sq.-foot addition to Archbishop John J. Myers’ summer house. Photo by Mark Mueller, courtesy of The Star-Ledger. Via RNS.

Every year, without fail, Joe Ferri writes a $100 check to the Archdiocese of Newark for the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, a fundraising drive that benefits a variety of religious causes.

This year, Ferri left the empty envelope on his pew at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Bloomfield. He’s done writing checks.

“If this is the only way I can be heard, so be it,” said Ferri, 70. “I’m disgusted. The archdiocese is not going to get another penny out of me.”

Two weeks after The Star-Ledger disclosed that Archbishop John J. Myers is building a 3,000-square-foot addition on the expansive home where he will spend his retirement, it appears the work will cost the archdiocese far more than the $500,000 allotted for construction.

Parishioners, infuriated by what they call a tone-deaf show of excess at a time when Catholic schools are closing and when the pope has called on bishops to shed the trappings of luxury, say they’re cutting off contributions entirely or sharply curtailing them.

Jim Wallis’s On God’s Side comes in two parts. In the first, he argues that biblical Christianity involves not only the personal, individual standing of the Christian before God and the individual’s relationship with Christ, but also a deeply communal element that inspires genuine concern for one’s neighbors. In the second, he fleshes out how these sometimes-competing concerns ought to inf luence Christian political thought and engagement. Wallis’s inspiration for the title of the book is a quote from Abraham Lincoln—“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side”—and he uses this second half of his book to explore exactly what being “on God’s side” would entail, tackling several prominent and hotly debated issues ranging from the structure of the American political system to specific policy issues.
As Stephen Mattson wrote in a post for Sojourners’ God’s Politics blog, reveling in #SochiProblems really feels like “Hey, let’s laugh about how other people actually live.” Or — more accurately — how many (probably most) people in the would be lucky and grateful to live.
Stephen Mattson, on the faith-based site Sojourners, accuses posters of making fun of stuff that’s normal for all but the world’s most privileged.
On February 21 and 22, 2014, Dr. Bernice King, Jim Wallis and 19 other internationally known speakers will join with ten musical artists, including Jars of Clay, Dominic Balli and Avion Blackmon at The Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, to share ideas about social and biblical justice.
Shakei Haynes 02-24-2014
Tip image, Paul Matthew Photography /

Tip image, Paul Matthew Photography /

There have been recent talks about increasing the federal minimum wage. However, there is a group of waged workers that is often overlooked in this debate: tipped workers. They are subject to the “tipped minimum wage” — $2.13 an hour. In fact, it has been 22 years since Congress raised the “tipped minimum wage.” According to federal laws, if a waitress or waiter makes more than $30 a month in tips, they can be subject to these wages. Out of the 50 states, 18 of these states pay servers $2.13 an hour, 22 of these states pay servers less than $3.00 an hour, and only seven pay them the federal minimum wage. Due to these unfair wages, it is estimated that servers are three times as likely to live in poverty.

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, speaks to the American Enterprise Institute. RNS photo: Lauren Markoe

Some of the brightest pro-business minds in the nation prodded the Dalai Lama on Thursday to offer a warm endorsement of capitalism.

But during an appearance by the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism at the American Enterprise Institute, one of the world’s most stalwart and, in conservative circles, respected free enterprise think tanks, they came up short. 

The Dalai Lama was the star participant in a morning of panels on “moral free enterprise” and “human happiness.”

Asked by AEI President Arthur Brooks and Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard whether he agrees that the free enterprise system is the most moral of economic systems, and why he thinks the U.S. is the richest nation on earth, the Dalai Lama answered in broken English with his own question: What do you mean by rich?

Sojourners, a Christian magazine dedicated to social justice, featured Dumpster diving on its cover in 2006, motivating Micah Holden to begin trying it a year later. Now he lives with his wife and daughter in Wheaton, Ill., where they occasionally blog about being a Dumpster diving family in suburbia. Holden, who is a nurse, said his motivations to go once or twice a week are mixed.
The World Economic Forum meeting then draws to a close at 1745CET/1145ET with a multimedia performance, chaired by WEF founder by Klaus Schwab, who'll be joined by Jim Wallis, the president of Sojourners and cellist and composer, Zoe Keating.
Catherine Woodiwiss 02-19-2014

I didn’t expect to get hit on during Super Bowl XLVIII.

I mean, I was expecting the usual stuff — the testosterone-fueled web hosting pitch, the adorable animals selling beer – but this was shameless. Someone really did their homework, because company after company turned up with things I like to hear: healthy families; cute biracial kids; a nation of immigrants; a thriving main street; victory for the marginalized; solving the world’s most pressing social ills. Check, check-check.

Progressive values, you are currently the it-girl for advertisement pickup artists. Enjoy it?

I, for one, do not.

Don’t get me wrong, commercials that celebrate our society as diverse and affirming are far more appealing than the advertising tropes we’re used to. But they also veil or flat-out misrepresent the structures and practices of the companies telling them. Without a significant shift towards justice on the part of these companies themselves, their social good stories shouldn’t charm us — they probably should leave us with a bad taste in our mouths.