Commentary

Council of Churches leader: The passing of a shameful anniversary

It has been 10 years since Congress raised the minimum wage. Some states have raised their minimum without a federal mandate, but not North Carolina. This 10-year span follows on the heels of a previous 10-year span without a minimum wage increase. Until 1997, the wage was adjusted fairly regularly, even if not fairly regulated. Consider that 1968 was the highpoint for minimum wage earning (adjusted for inflation) and it’s been losing ground ever since.

On July 24, 2009, the minimum wage went from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour, the last step of a process that began with Congress in 2007. If inflation had remained stagnant through this wage stagnation decade, we wouldn’t have a problem. But it hasn’t. Millions of Americans across the country are struggling to get by on $7.25 an hour; not to mention tipped workers trying to make it on just $2.13 an hour. For the past ten years, the minimum wage has increased a grand total of seventy cents. If you’re among the fortunate few who actually work forty hours a week, most work less, for this salary, your weekly wages are only $18 more than they were in 2009 or roughly $121 a month. That won’t make a car payment these days or buy a month’s worth of groceries for a family of four. It won’t buy groceries for me and I live alone.

Scripture has much to say about wage inequity, starting with the basic mandate to pay the worker enough for that worker’s family to have food, clothing, and shelter. The minimum wage no longer provides this moral baseline. And yet, the wealth gap in our nation continues unabated with wealth continuing its upward flow to the few at unprecedented rates.

The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few is not a new phenomenon. That’s why the biblical Holiness Code created a system that allows people to acquire wealth through ingenuity and industry, but not to amass wealth in proportions that are unhealthy for a just society. Read more

Commentary

Christian leader to state lawmakers: No more mottos

Rev. Jennifer Copeland

Hours after teachers marched on Raleigh to talk about funding needs for their schools, their students, and, yes, even themselves, a bill (House Bill 965) was introduced in the General Assembly to place mottos, national (“In God We Trust”) and state (“Esse quam videri”—”To Be Rather Than to Seem”), on the walls of our public schools. The teachers and their allies didn’t have that one on their list and it’s no wonder why.

In a country whose dominant norm is Christianity, the loudest current version being evangelicalism verging on fundamentalism, the word “God” conjures up images of “Our Father who art in heaven.” Hence, the motto “In God We Trust” is not benign, as some would have us believe. For those whose god is other than “our father,” whose beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, a bit of mental translation is necessary to reinterpret the motto’s meaning to fit one’s own religious tradition. For those who have no religious tradition, whose beliefs also are protected by the First Amendment, the motto is an affront.

For those who DO believe the tenets of Trinitarian Christianity, we don’t need a sign at school telling us who we trust. Families and faith communities offer ample opportunity in the course of a week to reinforce that trust—worship, prayer, Bible studies, fellowship gatherings, small group studies, etc. There’s plenty of trust in God found among the congregations affiliated with the North Carolina Council of Churches and we can provide ample resources to help build more trust.

It’s a clever ploy to appropriate a motto already found on every coin in every child’s pocket, but this particular motto has its own loaded history worth understanding before we start plastering it on our public school walls. Read more