Church Leaders and Basic Economics

The PC(USA)’s Stated Clerk issued a statement on Labor Day praising the dignity of work and arguing for increasing minimum wages.

I affirm the former and dissent from the latter. (As the Onion recently put it: “Secretary of Labor Assures Nation There Are Plenty of Jobs for Americans Willing to Outwork Robots.”)

One of seemingly countless frustrations I have with the church councils between Anchorage and Louisville that purport to support the ministry of the local congregation is their habit of speaking as if they represent the church, in areas outside their authority, and, sadly, their expertise.

The Acton Institute‘s Peter Johnson discusses these twin problems in a blog at Juicy Ecumenism. First, he addresses the tendency of these speakers to say “we” when they mean “some of us”:

These affirmations are couched in euphemistic rhetoric that obscures the divisiveness of the issues and alienates those in the church with dissenting views. For example, when the PCUSA affirmed “reproductive options” using words like “justice” and “compassion,” it failed to acknowledge that the issue may be contentious for pro-life members.

But beyond that, there’s a reason people disagree about these issues. Some of us aren’t as ignorant as others:

Unfortunately, the superficial understanding of economic realities goes well beyond a federal minimum wage. It is an all-encompassing worldview for [PC(USA) Stated Clerk] Parsons who expounds on the church’s support for misguided economic policies like “public investment” in jobs for minorities, “progressive taxation”, and even anti-austerity for Southern Europe.

The Labor Day message is a prime example of good intentions unmoored from economic realities. At the organization where I now work, the Acton Institute, we have found that religious leaders are a group of cultural influencers who tend to be woefully ignorant of basic economics.

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