Day 09 Devotional & Discussion – February 27, 2015

Romans 13:8-10

We often think of love as an individual expression of looking out for the interests for another person. Have you ever considered public policy as an expression of love for neighbor? Why or why not? Think of a current labor policy that expresses love for our neighbors? Are there any labor policies that “do harm to your neighbor”? If so, what?

“Justice is what love looks like in public.” -Cornel West.

Do you agree or disagree? Why?

6 comments

  1. My imagination was really captured by Kyle’s suggestion in yesterday’s discussion about imposing a “maximum wage”. That was at least part of the idea behind the progressive income tax structure in the United States, instituted in 1913. Over the past 100 years, the rates and number of tax brackets have fluctuated. The current top rate is 39.6% for those who make $457,601 or more (married filing jointly). To compare, the rate for an equivalent income was 62% in 1963. And in that same year, the highest tax bracket was 91% for married households who earned the equivalent of $3 million. The top rate was 70% as late as 1981 for the equivalent income of $586,000. Starting In 1982, the top rate began dropping (remember Reaganomics) and there were fewer tax brackets. In 1982, the top rate was slashed to 50% for married household making the equivalent of $214,000 or more. And in 1991, the top rate was again reduced to 31% for those earning the equivalent $144,000 or more. I know this is too many facts and figures and your head is probably swirling, but it made me realize our public tax policy has not always given our highest wage earners a pass. And it made me realize that our current rates are showing love to our rich neighbors while doing harm to our poorer neighbors as we push the tax burden down to lower earners.

    For a fascinating read (if you have a lot of time on your hands), you can look at tax rates for the past 100 years at http://www.scribd.com/doc/190499803/Fed-U-S-Federal-Individual-Income-Tax-Rates-History-1862-2013

    1. One part of the US Tax Code does demonstrate love for the low-wage worker with a family–the Earned Income Tax Credit. Enacted temporarily in 1975 under Gerald Ford–a Republican–the EITC ensured that low-wage working families received assistance with rising costs and an off-set of the FICA tax. It was made permanent in 1978 and expanded in 1997 with the introduction of the Child Tax Credit. Believe it or not, Ronald Reagan called the EITC the most effective anti-poverty legislation to come out of Congress. However, the provisions of the expansion are set to expire in 2017 and there are plenty of people in Congress today who want to see the EITC and the CTC eliminated.

  2. Sitting on the bus this morning, I was struck by two things regarding the driver: how much is he paid to drive this bus (and could I tip him for his work) and how lonely it must be for him to see/meet tons of people, but not really have a *meaningful* conversation with any of them. Obviously, the former is a product of the Lenten compact, as I am unsure that I would have given much thought to the driver’s pay before now. But the latter is something very human; a hearty hello or a deeper conversation with a bus driver can communicate a “love thy neighbor” tack and possibly make his day a little better. In my mind, one should not be discussed without the other; it is absolutely necessary to know those neighbors around you, especially a person you see daily on your commute. What should separate us, as conscientious people of faith, is our attention to those in need, no matter what their need, be it pay, food, or a good conversation.

    In other words, I know public policy can and should be an extension of a love thy neighbor sentiment and I have thought about it that way, especially when it deals with capital punishment, imprisonment, food availability, and more (probably due to other lenten compacts), but putting a human face on any issue should remind us all of its importance at a visceral level and help us to understand public policy’s impact on each human life.

    1. This is a great observation, Jay. In the case of the bus driver, he’s the sort of person people might take for granted, until he wasn’t there. I made it a point to learn the name of my daughter’s bus driver because I was a nervous wreck of a first-time kindergarten parent, but I’m so glad I know it so we can talk about her by name. I’m still trying to do this more with the other regulars in our life.

  3. Love as a concept has made a splash in the business world recently. I think of McDonalds’ recent commercials (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQboscYOV3Y), and yet they have a reputation for not showing love by paying fair wages to their employees. Then there is the book Love Is The Killer App (http://www.timsanders.com/books/love-killer-app.html). It seems there were loads of Super Bowl ads that emphasized caring for one another, all, I would presume, in an attempt to make sales. I appreciate the caring sentiment, but I wonder, now a month later, if those same companies would feel that their marketing methodology was worth it.

    I also wonder if, in the eyes of government, or in the eyes of business, if love, in and of itself, is enough for those in power to give generous wages to their workers. We Christians have a strong motivation, of course, and because of passages like this, ought to lead the way in generous giving. But I could foresee non-caring, greedy employers saying “Forget love, I want to pay a low minimum wage, and I don’t care.” Would the government or business feel that the imposition of Christian love on their practices is too religious, too much of church meddling with state? How do we get them to share the love? I suggest we need to start it radically amongst ourselves. In the church!

  4. Okay – I will throw this into the mix. In a relationship between unequals when it comes to power, the separation of interests occurs. What ensues is a game or battle. One side protecting its power and the other attempting to gain an equal share. St. Paul suggests when we love our enemies it is as if we pour hot coals on their heads(not generally understood as a gesture of love) Loving those who hold us in a position of inequality or in an exploitive relationship is very hard and I have had a hard time with the notion. The difficulty is exactly why the instruction holds so much power. I believe I have a certain type of love even for the Waltons, for instance. My love for them rests on the understanding that they desperately need to be put in right relationship with others and thereby with God. This they might resist but I believe we can and should relieve them of their unequal share of the wealth. I would love to do that – I would love to see them welcome it. The parable of the rich young man suggests they won’t. Christ suggest the Kingdom come over any objections. For our own good – as my parents used to say.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s