Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Protecting the Dignity of Labor

The national battle between conservative groups and labor unions has come to our state.  Outside groups are applying pressure on our Missouri legislature to pass controversial legislation that would strip unions of the power to compel workers in union shops to join.  The legislation is known as Right to Work, would allow employees to decide whether to join a union, and whether to pay union dues. 

In reality the legislation is an effort to break or reduce the power of organized labor.  Unions in the 24 states that have passed Right to Work have seen sharp drop-offs in dues-paying members after the law takes effect.

As a person of faith I believe that if the dignity of work is to remain protected, then the basic rights of workers must be protected.  I believe we must protect workers by providing fair wages, freedom from discrimination, and the right to organize and join unions. I believe in justice and in the common good.

Right-to-work laws go against everything I believe.  Economists tell us that right-to-work laws devastate economic justice. They lower wages for all workers, and they lessen benefits for all workers. They increase poverty in our communities.  “Right to Work” laws drive down wages and make it harder for working families to find jobs with good wages and decent pension plans.  These laws do not have anything to do with “rights” or “freedom,” but instead they make it harder for working families to get by.

If Missouri were to pass this law, wages would go down and our entire community would suffer. As Governor Nixon pointed out recently, last year Missouri ranked in the top 10 nationally in private sector job growth which is better than every single one of our “Right to Work” neighbors.

It is clear that this issue is not really about jobs, rights, or freedom.  It is an out of state, special interest agenda designed to drive down wages for working families.  Instead of trying to fix something that isn’t broken and engaging in such partisan, divisive tactics, the legislature should focus on real issues like Medicaid expansion and improving education.

Right-to-work laws do not help the least among us. Rather, they enrich those who already hold most of the power and wealth. They foster extreme inequality, inequality that can only lead to extreme disparities and extreme division.  In the book of Isaiah, the prophet proclaims, “Woe to those who make unjust laws.”  I encourage you to make your voice heard.  Tell you legislator to vote NO on the “Right to Work” and “Paycheck Deception” bills that come up for a vote this year.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dealing with Our Fears

Excerpts from Matthew 14:1-34 (NIV)
3 Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet. 

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 

Lenten Devotional

The fourteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel includes three stories.  To say the least it is an action packed chapter.  Any one of these stories could capture our attention, but maybe we should focus on the common message of all three.

Herod is a vicious ruler who seems afraid of everyone.  When he hears about Jesus he is afraid John the Baptist has risen from the dead.  Matthew tells us the cruel story of how Herod had killed John in response to a request from his wife, Herodius, and her daughter.  The gruesome account reports that John’s head was delivered to them on a platter during the party.  Even after he has executed John, Herod still fears him.

The second portion of the story records the feeding of the five thousand with only five loaves and two fish.  When Jesus is confronted by the desperate crowd his response was compassion.  He healed their sick and taught them about the Kingdom of God.  For many in the crowd the most pressing question everyday was where could they find their next meal.   Jesus was not merely providing a convenient meal.  He was addressing a critical need and one of crowd’s greatest fears.

The final story in the chapter is Jesus walking on the water to meet the disciples in the boat.  Jesus sent the disciples ahead as he dismissed the crowd.  Then he went to be alone and pray.  Later that night he went out to them—walking on the water.  The disciples are terrified.  Peter attempts to join him on the water and is recued by Jesus.

Life is filled with frightening experiences.  The question is how will we deal with them?  Will we react and lash out in fear as Herod did, or will we seek the direction and provision of God.  The Jesus Way was never meant to be without struggles, but our Savior helps us find our way in a frightening world.

This devotional was written for our Lenten Devotion Guide for First Baptist Church in Jefferson City where I am a member and serve part-time as the Church Administrator.