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Saturday, February 24, 2007

the minimal minimum wage

Congress is on the verge of raising the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade, but many states have already taken further steps to ensure that their workers won't get left behind by inflation. As of the beginning of this year, twenty-nine states have higher minimum wage requirements than the federal law. Most of the other states have tied their minimum wage to the federal level. Only one state has a minimum wage lower than $5.15 an hour.

In Kansas, workers not covered by the federal law -- about 19,000 people -- are subject to a minimum wage of $2.65 per hour. A bill to raise the state minimum to the federal minimum was rejected this week. Geraldine Flaherty, who was my representative when I lived in Wichita, called the defeat a "crime against humanity," adding, "Kansans deserve better."

But legislators from Johnson County, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, disagreed:

“This is one of the greatest superstitions of all, that if you raise the minimum wage you are doing anybody any favors,” said state Rep. Mike Kiegerl, R-Olathe.

Rep. Benjamin Hodge, R-Overland Park, argued against the increase saying the state should avoid “European-style socialist bills.”

On one level, Rep. Kiegerl is right. Raising a person's annual income from $5500 to $10,700 is not doing them a favor. It's still not nearly enough to keep a family out of poverty.

Some people would argue that, if minimum wage earners wanted to make more, they should get an education or learn new skills. But such thinking is delusional at best. It's true that some individuals may be able to improve their economic status by getting new skills or education, but they can only do so if others fail to keep pace.

This is the point at which the debate usually goes off course: Those who oppose regular increases in the minimum wage refuse to look at the bigger picture. If everyone in the nation had a postgraduate degree and knew how to perform neurosurgery and could program the guidance system of a satellite, we as a society would still have a need for people to perform menial work.

Raising the minimum wage is a moral issue. It is a matter of society agreeing that work -- all work -- is valuable. If we don't have someone to clean the bathrooms at our workplace, to stock the shelves in the grocery store, or to wash our dishes at the restaurant, we won't survive long as a society.

That's why raising the state minimum to the federal level -- even the new federal level that Congress is considering -- would not be enough. A minimum wage that does not keep a family out of poverty is a disgrace, especially for a nation wealthier than any other that has ever existed.

If we can't find a way to ensure a living wage for full time work, then we don't deserve to survive long as a society.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

the fast i choose

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

"Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?" Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

- Isaiah 58

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

guess the author

The following is a quote from a well-known Christian thinker of the 20th century. This is probably the best articulation I've seen of the view known as "theistic evolution".

For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an animal because all its physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends. Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say "I" and "me," which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty, and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past. This new consciousness ruled and illuminated the whole organism, flooding every part of it with light, and was not, like ours, limited to a selection of the movements going on in one part of the organism, namely the brain. Man was then all consciousness... Wholly commanding himself, he commanded all lower lives with which he came into contact. Even now we meet rare individuals who have a mysterious power of taming beasts. This power the Paradisal man enjoyed in eminence. The old picture of the brutes sporting before Adam and fawning upon him may not be wholly symbolical. Even now more animals than you might expect are ready to adore man if they are given a reasonable opportunity: for man was made to be the priest and even, in one sense, the Christ, of the animals--the mediator through whom they apprehend so much of the Divine splendour as their irrational nature allows.

The same author considers the meaning of the Fall within the theistic evolution paradigm:

I do not doubt that if the Paradisal man could now appear among us, we should regard him as an utter savage, a creature to be exploited or, at best, patronised. Only one or two, and those the holiest among us, would glance a second time at the naked, shaggy-bearded, slow-spoken creature: but they, after a few minutes, would fall at his feet.

We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state. But sooner or later they fell. Someone or something whispered that they could become as gods--that they could cease directing their lives to their Creator and taking all their delights as uncovenanted mercies, as "accidents" (in the logical sense) which arose in the course of a life directed not to those delights but to the adoration of God.
We have no idea in what particular act, or series of acts, the self-contradictory wish found expression. For all I can see, it might have concerned the literal eating of a fruit, but the question is of no consequence.

This act of self-will on the part of the creature, which constitutes an utter falseness to its true creaturely position, is the only sin that can be conceived as the Fall.

Any guesses as to who wrote those words?

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

love your enemies

A church in Australia has attracted attention by putting up a sign that says, Jesus Loves Osama. John Howard, the Prime Minister of Australia, is none too pleased. "The prayer priority of the church on this occasion could have been elsewhere," Howard said.

To be sure, it would be much easier to focus our prayers elsewhere. But for Christians, if we want to take seriously Jesus's own command, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," then Osama bin Laden needs our prayers. More importantly, we need to pray for Osama.

Will prayer really make a difference?

Once there was a man named Saul. Saul hated Christianity and everything it stood for. But while he was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus one day, he saw a blinding light and heard Jesus speak to him. His entire life was transformed. After being an enemy of Christianity, Saul -- renamed Paul -- became one of its greatest advocates. Did the early Christians pray for Saul before his conversion experience? We can't know. If they did, their prayers weren't recorded.

What we do know is that for centuries the early Christians prayed for the salvation of the Roman Emperor. Then, some time after the year 300, Constantine saw a vision of the cross the day before a major battle, and later made Christianity the official religion of Rome. (Whether that was a good thing or bad, I think, is up for debate.)

If Osama bin Laden ever sees a vision and becomes a follower of Christ, the world would be a better place. But I can't imaginge it ever happening, and I doubt I am alone in that skepticism.

But why is that? Is it because we no longer believe in the power of God to change lives? Do we think some people are beyond redemption? Is hatred a stronger force in our world than love?

What if we really made an effort to love our enemies, and to pray for those who would harm us? What if we lived as if love were stronger than hate? Could we change the world?


Sunday, February 11, 2007

my theological worldview

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Classical Liberal


Neo orthodox


Roman Catholic




Modern Liberal


Reformed Evangelical




What's your theological worldview?
created with

At first glance, it looks like I haven't changed much in the 14 months since I first took this test. I'm still classified as Emergent/Postmodern, though I've never fully embraced that label. Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan is second on the list, followed by Classical Liberal.

But a closer look reveals significant change. My Emergent score has dropped by 11%, while Wesleyan has increased 14% since the first test. At this rate, in another four months I'll be a true Methodist.

Also increasing by double digits were Neo orthodox (15%) and Roman Catholic (11%).

I think two factors have grown in their influence in my life over the past year, and these have influenced the direction my journey has taken. First was my involvement with Advocates to End Chronic Homelessness before I left Wichita. Working with Christians from so many different denominations has helped me to have a greater respect for those with whom I disagree theologically.

The second factor has been a growing interest in practices of the ancient church. From Lectio Divina to labyrinths, the more I learn about the historic Christian faith, the less I want to forge a new Christianity for a new world. The more I read about the saints of old, the more I want them and not modern society to be my frame of reference.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

because you have shed so much blood

King David was a "man after God's own heart." Granted, he wasn't perfect: He had an affair with the wife of one of his soldiers, then had the soldier murdered to cover up his sin. And there was the little indiscretion of the naked public dancing, which didn't make his wife too happy. And he served more than a year in the army of the Philistines, Israel's enemies. And when his son Absalom conspired to sieze the throne by force, David fled to the wilderness, leaving his concubines to deal with the usurper.

But David, unlike most kings of Israel and Judah, worshipped one God. And he worshipped with a fervency not seen again in the history of either kingdom. The stories of his trust in God in extreme circumstances are legendary. David's name appears on more than 70 psalms. Even his naked dancing was an offering to God. Because of his faithfulness, God promised to give David an everlasting kingdom.

David was also a warrior king. He conquered the Jebusite city of Jerusalem and made it his home. He planned to build a house there for his God. But God declined.

David said to Solomon, "My son, I had intended to build a house to the name of the LORD my God. "But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 'You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to My name, because you have shed so much blood on the earth before Me. 'Behold, a son will be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. 'He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.'

1 Chronicles 22:7-10

It wasn't David's adultery, or his callous treatment of Bathsheba's husband Uriah the Hittite. It wasn't David's naked dancing, or his defection to the Philistines, or his abandonment of the throne that offended God's holiness such that God didn't want David to build the temple. It was his military success. David was not a man of peace, therefore he could not build a house for God.

Instead, the temple would be built by the brutal and idolatrous Solomon, who as a young man had earned a reputation for wisdom but later abandoned both his wisdom and his love for God. He conscripted 30,000 men -- non-citizens living within Israel -- into forced labor to build his palace and the temple, then kept them in slavery to build other projects for him. Then he married their sisters and daughters, and worshipped their gods. His foolishness split the kingdom in two.

For all his faults, Solomon was not unworthy to build the temple of God. But David -- the faithful one -- was, because David was not a man of peace.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

christian peace bloggers

Michael Westmoreland-White has created a new blog-ring: Christian Peace Bloggers.

I've reluctantly joined. Reluctantly, not because I don't believe in peace, and not because I don't think peace is essential to the Christian faith. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. When he was born, angels proclaimed peace on earth. Jesus himself said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," and when he sent his first disciples, he told them to give blessings of peace to any who accepted them (Matthew 10:5-15 | Luke 10:1-16). Clearly, peace is a central element of the gospel message. I don't have a problem with that.

No, the reason I'm reluctant to join this blog-ring is that I simply don't know what I can do or say about peace that will make a difference. Last summer, when the conflict in Lebanon was in full heat, I faced this same dilemma. What do I know? What difference can I make?

But, as one of the requirements of joining the Christian Peace Bloggers, I've committed to blogging about peace on a regular basis, and that means I'll have to become more informed. I'll have to grow. Deep down inside, I'm not sure if I really want to grow. And, to be honest, that's the real reason for my reluctance about this.

Still, too many things in my life are converging around peace for me to ignore. Is God trying to tell me something? I'll blog more about this when I know more.