Archive for September, 2016

“INEQUALITY FOR ALL”

September 6, 2016

Susanne and I finally watched “Inequality for All” (available through Amazon) last night. It’s a 2013 documentary directed by Jacob Kornbluth which won an award at the Sundance Film Festival in the year of its release. The “star” and narrator is Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton and now professor at Berkeley.

The film points out with precision, facts, and figures that while the last thirty years in the U.S., before the last recession, the economy doubled, the gains went to a very few. In fact, the top 1% now take in more than more than 20% of all income (three times what they did in 1970)and the four hundred richest Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 150 million combined.

Of course, anyone who followed the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders will not be surprised at these facts, but the film uses lively lectures by Reich, compelling graphics, and personal interviews to make the economics leap off the screen. Anyone who doubts the veracity of Sanders’ claims and (to some degree) Hillary Clinton’s simply must watch this movie! Although a Sanders’ supporter, one wonders why Reich didn’t ‘go on tour’ with this film during the campaign. Bernie could have used him!

Reich blames the income inequality primarily on two factors: globalization and technology. Both of these factors, in various ways, have hollowed out the middle class while dramatically increasing income inequality. The only real prescription for a reversal of this lethal trend in the film is to invest in the middle class who are the real job producers. This can be done by requiring the wealthiest among us to pay their fare share of taxes, make the minimum wage a living wage, and shore up our crumbling educational system to provide college educations and technical training to all who are willing to engage in them.

A not-surprising, but sobering observation is that the graph tracing income inequality over the last thirty years (which looks like the Golden Gate Bridge outline, spiking at either end) and the inability of the major political parties to find common ground are almost identical. In other words, the farther apart the parties become and the less common ground they can find, the wider income inequality becomes.

The film is not sanguine about solutions to this dilemma, but does end on a hopeful note with Reich challenging his students to become informed and to get involved. I see the passion once demonstrated by the Occupy Movement and the surprisingly enthusiastic support of so many young people for the elderly Senator Sanders with his progressive ideas as signs of hope.

While many are not as fired up for Hillary Clinton as they were for Bernie, I can only suggest that everyone view this film and then compare the party platforms of the Democrats and Republicans, There will only by one way, then, to cast your vote.

You’ll know it when you see it!

 

OUR PRAYER FOR LABOR DAY

September 5, 2016

ALMIGHTY GOD, YOU HAVE LINKED OUR LIVES ONE WITH ANOTHER THAT ALL WE DO AFFECTS, FOR GOOD OR ILL, ALL OTHER LIVES: SO GUIDE US IN THE WORK WE DO, THAT WE MAY DO IT NOT FOR SELF ALONE, BUT FOR THE COMMON GOOD;

AND, AS WE SEEK A PROPER RETURN FOR OUR OWN LABOR, MAKE US MINDFUL OF THE RIGHTFUL ASPIRATIONS OF OTHER WORKERS, AND AROUSE OUR CONCERN FOR THOSE WHO ARE OUT OF WORK;

THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD, WHO LIVES AND REIGNS WITH YOU AND THE HOLY SPIRIT, ONE GOD, FOR EVER AND EVER. AMEN

Labor Day Weekend

September 3, 2016

Whenever we observe the Labor Day weekend, I make a kind of strange connection. And I think of a priest and monk named James Huntington. Fr. Huntington was the founder of the Order of the Holy Cross, the first permanent, Episcopal, monastic community for men here in the United States. I’ve been an Associate of Holy Cross for over 30 years and used to make my retreat regularly at their mother house in West Park, NY while I was serving at our Episcopal Church Center.

Holy Cross has always been a community committed to active ministry rooted in the spiritual life. They take seriously the admonition like this one: “…be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” (James 1:22) Last Sunday’s Collect sets out the process for the Christian life – for monastics like the brothers of Holy Cross, but also for everyday Christians like you and me:

“Lord of all power and might, the author and give of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works…”

See the pattern? First, the love of God must be grafted (implanted) in our hearts. Then we begin by practicing the disciplines of our religion (increase in us true religion); as we live that life we begin to experience the goodness of God; and then finally, God begins to bring forth from within us “the fruit of good works.” We start being doers of the word…and not hearers only.

That’s exactly the path James Huntington followed. He experienced what he believed to be a call to the religious life in the early 1880s while attending a retreat at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. Then he, and two other priests, began to test that vocation by living a common life at Holy Cross Mission on New York’s Lower East Side, working with poor people and the immigrant population there.

That challenging ministry, especially working with immigrants and young people, drew Huntington to the social witness of the Church and he became increasingly involved with the single-tax movement, with the fledgling Labor Movement, and really led the way for The Episcopal Church to become increasingly committed to what became known as the “social gospel.”

This was an early 20th century movement which applied Christian ethics to social problems, especially issues of social justice such as wealth perceived of as excessive, poverty, alcoholism, crime, racial tensions, child labor, and inadequate labor unions. The leaders – some of whom overlapped with Huntington – were people like Richard Ely, Washington Gladden, and especially Walter Rauschenbusch.

This movement was not without its critics, even at the time, in The Episcopal Church and the wider Christian community, but it sowed the seeds of our increasing involvement in issues of justice and peace and the realization – arising again in our day in the so-called “emergent church”– that “Jesus did not come to found a church; he came to announce God’s Kingdom!” That the Reign of God begins now! And we need to work to build a society that reflects those values.

What does all this have to do with Labor Day? Well, of course, Labor Day – as a commemoration on the first Monday in September — was a creation of the labor movement and was dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers and to the contributions they have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country. It began to be celebrated in the early 1880s (just about the same time as James Huntington experienced his call to the religious life!)

There is some debate about who originally proposed the Labor Day observance, but records seem to indicate that it was Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, first suggested the day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold” (History of Labor Day, from the DOL)

Of course, no one can deny today that the labor movement itself has been fraught with its own internal problems, but the ideals of its founders, as well as the commitment of people like James Huntington over the last century reflect Gospel values and are well worth celebrating. Perhaps our Collect for Labor Day in the Book of Common Prayer puts it best, in a spiritual context:

“Almighty God, you have so linked our lives with one another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord…” (BCP 261)

While the unemployment rate still way too high in the sure – but oh so slow – economic recovery we are in the midst of, I hope we will redouble our efforts in this country and around the world to see to it that our people have adequate and meaningful work to do. It’s part of being a human being! And the Collect has it about right…

We are so intertwined with each other in this world that everything we do affects all other lives. What we do for good and what we do for ill — affects others. So let’s remember not to just look out for number one, but to realize that we are all in this together. And, as we expect to be paid a living wage ourselves, let’s see to it that others are paid fairly for the work they do. Most of all, let’s remember those who, this day, are out of work. Very few of them want to be. And everyone deserves a chance for meaningful employment.

So, enjoy your Labor Day. But don’t forget where it came from, and what its ideals are. For if we are to become “doers of the word and not hearers only,” we need to follow James Huntington’s example and let God’s name be grafted in our hearts…to put our religion into practice…and to be nourished by the goodness and grace of God…so that we may bear good fruit — the fruit of good WORK !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donald Trump and God on Immigration

September 1, 2016

Donald Trump: “There will be no amnesty.”

“Anyone who is in the United States illegally is subject to deportation.”

“It’s our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are                                the likeliest to thrive and flourish and love us.”

(August 31, 2016 speech on immigration)

 

God:                       You shall divide (the land) by lot for an inheritance among yourselves and                                 among the aliens who stay in your midst, who bring forth sons in your                                       midst. And they shall be to you as native-born among the sons of Israel;                                     they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.

(Ezekiel 47:22)

 

Choose this day whom you will serve!