Enfolded by Love — Leveling the Playing FieldPosted: October 4, 2015
Enfolded by Love — Leveling the Playing Field
SLIDE 3: JESUS’ SYMPATHY FOR PROSTITUES
The Law of Divorce greatly favored men in the time of Jesus. A man could divorce his wife for the slightest cause, while a woman was saddled with her husband almost no matter how unfeeling or cruel he might be. Also a woman had no property rights or rights to her children in the marriage, and in a world where there were no jobs for women, an abandoned wife might have to turn to prostitution in order to feed herself. This may also explain Jesus’ sympathy for the prostitutes.
SLIDE 4: JESUS SOUGHT TO LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD
Jesus sought to level the playing field by preventing women from being dumped. Jesus teaching is not as relevant today, but God is still speaking demanding that woman should have justice with equal pay and property rights, and children should not be denied access to their parents when there is divorce.
SLIDE 5: CHILDREN MATTER
Another way in our scripture Jesus was leveling the playing field was in welcoming children into his ministry. In the Ancient World children did not count. Given the number of children who died of child-hood diseases, infants and young children were not expected to live and therefore had no status within society. Only when a child had attained an age, where it looked like they might survive to adulthood were they accorded any significance in the life of the community.
For Jesus the Common wealth of God turned the world upside down. “These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: ‘Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.’” Jesus was always leveling the playing field. If you would be greatest in the commonwealth of God you must become as the least, the servant of all. For the first will the last and the last will be first.
SLIDE 6: ARE YOU PREACHING AGAINST GAYS BUT NOT DIVORCE?
John Barber was sharing with me that the new director of social concerns for the Southern Baptist denomination was taking his audience of ministers to task. He pointed out that 50 years ago, divorce as a “no-no” in Southern Baptist Circles. Then all of sudden there were so many divorced Baptists, that pastors stopped preaching about the evils of divorce. So the director of social concerns made the point, if you have been preaching about the evils of homosexuality, and you have not said anything about divorce in the last 20 years then you are being hypocritical.
Again we are talking about leveling the playing field. And so this morning I would like to explore a couple of other areas, where I think Jesus might want to suggest that as followers of the way we might work to help level the playing field.
SLIDE 7: REPUDIATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY
The Discovery doctrine is a concept of public international law expounded by the United States Supreme Court in a series of decisions, most notably Johnson v. M’Intosh in 1823. Chief Justice John Marshall justified the way in which colonial powers laid claim to lands belonging to foreign sovereign native nations during the Age of Discovery. Under this doctrine, title to native lands lay with the government whose subjects travelled to and occupied a territory whose inhabitants were not subjects of a European Christian monarch. The doctrine has been primarily used to support decisions invalidating or ignoring aboriginal possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments.
SLIDE 8: CITY OF SHERRILL VS ONEIDA NATION
And in case we should think this Doctrine of Discovery is an historical anachronism, the doctrine has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court as recently as 2005, in the City of Sherrill, New York verses the Oneida Nation. The Court ruled that ownership of the land occupied by the Native American Peoples became vested in the European Nation at the time of “Discovery” and has since passed to the original states and then to the United States. The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has noted that the Doctrine of Discovery is socially unjust, racist and in violation of basic and fundamental human rights. I don’t think we can reverse 400 years of history, but we might consider repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery as an ongoing corner stone of American Law. It may be a little late, but let’s level the playing field.
SLIDE 9: RACE
Another issue that begs for a leveling of the playing field is race. Despite some progress brought by the civil rights movement, a much higher percentage of African American families are trapped in cycles of poverty and crime, than any other ethnic group. Thirty-two percent of African American males will serve time in state or Federal Prison during their lifetimes. Hispanics further face the added burden of the anti-immigrant movement in the United States, as politicians play games of who can be tougher on immigrants. Some gestures in the direction of affirmative action in the past tried to bring more minorities into the middle class, but poverty among many African American and Hispanic families is endemic.
SLIDE 10: SKIN COLOR STILL AT THE ROOT OF PREJUDICE
While our ideal is that the law should be color blind, the recent case of police brutality against, Sureshbhai Patel, a dark skinned India grandfather right here in Madison County suggests that skin color is still at the root of our prejudice. The demand that Black Lives matter is about more than just the deaths of African Americans in police custody it is a cry for help against a system driven by prejudice that still discriminates because of race.
The Alabama legislature just gave ample evidence of racial discrimination. Now I am sure they will claim that closing Driver’s License facilities was a budgetary necessity. But consider that in a State where photo ID is required to vote, the legislature just closed the Driver’s License facility in every county where 75% or more of the registered voters are African-American. After years of fighting discrimination in voting the playing field still is not level.
SLIDE 11: LOW WAGE JOBS
Another major area, where we can begin to level the playing field is in our economy’s treatment of low wage workers. The current minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 per hour. If a person works 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, they would earn $15,080 per year, slightly below the Federal Poverty Guideline. But that does not take into account that many Discount Retailers like Wal-Mart for their own purposes in order to deny health, sick and vacation benefits define full time as 32 hours per week or $12,064 per year well below the Federal Poverty Guideline. And let us remember that Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in Mexico, Canada and the United States.
SLIDE 12: MINIUMUM WAGE
To the criticism of low wage jobs many corporations claim that entry level jobs give employees an opportunity to earn a living and improve their lives through education. Today, however, the majority of low wage workers have earned a high school diploma, and many have earned a college degree without attaining any upward mobility. The biggest increase in employment between 2004 and 2014 were in low wage jobs offering only stagnation and no upward mobility.
SLIDE 13: JESUS CONCERNED FOR MARGINALIZED WORKERS
On several occasions Jesus taught and showed concern for marginalized workers. Remember the story of the day laborers in the vineyard. In Jesus’ day peasants were being pushed off the land, where they found themselves in competition for the very few jobs paying a daily wage. Today Jesus would advocate for people who are trapped in dead end low wage jobs insisting that the economic playing field needs to be adjusted.
SLIDE 14: MARGINALIZATION OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Another issue where people of faith need to be concerned about the fairness of the playing field is the marginalization of our environment. Many individuals and corporations with deep pockets have vested interests in exploiting our environment. One of the most egregious examples is mountain top removal mining. Where the natural environment is simply blown up and permanently change in order to mine for coal. The Elk River Chemical Spill in West Virginia and the release of toxic mining chemicals into the Animas River in Colorado point to the marginalizing of our environment. Climate change, depletion of natural resources, deteriorating air and water quality are all issues where the public good is often ignored, because private profit has more political leverage.
SLIDE 15: BEST POLITICAL SYSTEM MONEY CAN BUY
We have the best political system money can buy, especially at the state and local level. Presidential campaigns cost billions. House and Senate campaigns can soak up hundreds of millions of dollars. But a few thousands of dollars, even hundreds of thousands of dollars can turn the tide in State House elections – a lesson the Koch Brothers have learned well.
SLIDE 16: FEDERAL BUDGET TOTAL
One last area where I think Jesus would ask us consider. In this election season we have politicians claiming that Medicaid and Food Stamps are bankrupting America. I suppose it all depends upon how we look at the Federal Budget. If we look at total spending Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment sometimes called entitlements make up almost 60% of Federal Spending. Now I don’t know about you but after participating in payroll taxes for many years I think of Social Security and Medicare as a prepaid insurance not some kind of hand out.
SLIDE 17: DISCRETIONARY SPENDING
So let’s look at discretionary spending that is primarily supported by income taxes and corporate taxes. Under the title of discretionary spending 55% is military. So please tell me how Medicaid and Food Stamps are bankrupting our nation. There is even an argument that Medicaid and Food Stamps that help to support low wage workers are a form of Corporate Welfare for companies who pay low wages.
SLIDE 18: JESUS CRUCIFIED TRYING TO LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD
Now I know I am treading dangerously close to “politics,” especially in an election season. So I will back off. But let’s remember that Jesus was crucified, because he sought to level the playing field.