Advent, Part III

Every preacher has a sermon ready for this weekend or next in a folder labeled “Keep Christ in Christmas.” The theme is such a cliché that it is better to leave the folder in a file cabinet, away from the pulpit. Ordinary lay people know how to sufficiently navigate December’s commercialism. And who says that Christ is not in the office parties, the shopping for gifts, the decorating, the baking and all the rest? For those who falter, there’s a… Read more

Advent, Part II

Contemporaries Karl Marx (1818-1883), Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) and Charles Dickens (1812-1870) were concerned about the social question: Why in an industrial economy that promises upward mobility is there so much misery? By the mid-1800s prosperity was arriving for “factory and mill and transportation interests,” writes Les Standiford in his intriguing biography of Dickens, The Man Who Invented Christmas (Crown, 2008). Suddenly, “a growing number of managerial workers were beginning to enjoy the relative ease of a middle class. But most… Read more

Christmas So Soon?

The grocery store was more congested than usual this morning because Christmas has taken over two entire aisles—miniature lights, extension cords, wreaths, decorative boxes, greeting cards and wrapping paper. Plus there are several gift displays at the front and back of several other aisles—trays of chestnuts/hazelnuts/pecans and holiday sausage plus winter ale, which I bought for Thanksgiving and which I’ll get more of later. My regular grocery cashier, who is also a floor manager, mentioned that she spent her first… Read more

Health Care

Larry Keogh, a fellow teacher at our community college, began each semester by telling his students: “Life is not fair.” He used various techniques and examples to make this point. To master his course (social science) our students needed to ponder this maxim, Keogh believed. They likewise needed it to navigate their careers and their personal lives. Atul Gawande is a surgeon in Boston and author of best-selling Being Mortal (Picador, 2014). He recently interviewed a couple in his Ohio… Read more

Shop Talk

Lousy writing is intentional, insists George Orwell (1903-1950). Shoddy writers may not be aware of their bad intentions. But our writing “becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish,” he continues. And “the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” I was a teacher at a community college for nearly 33 years. I tried to help students be better writers by presenting Orwell’s virtues and vices of writing. I would then ask students… Read more

World Series

Back in March 2017 I picked the Dodgers in our usually friendly betting pool. I have admired the team, dating from the era that Roger Kahn describes in The Boys of Summer (Harper Collins, 1971). I wasn’t around to experience the debut of Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) in April 1947. In time, however, I followed Robinson and his teammates. (Full disclosure: the Dodgers were never my absolute favorite team, nor are they now.) 42, Brian Helgeland’s inspiring 2013 movie about Robinson… Read more

Theology of Work

Death is the penalty we pay for Eve and Adam’s disobedience. How do we know? Because that is what our religion teacher said. Also, it is mentioned now and then in sermons. It is, however, fake news. Take a look at Genesis 3:4. Who explains things to Eve? It is the Prince of Lies who links mortality with Eden’s special fruit tree. In Genesis 2:18 God names a relationship between the fruit tree and death, but God never promises immortality… Read more

Housing, Part 3

I just returned from St. Paul. In the early 1970s, as part of the War on Poverty, I lived and worked in a St. Paul neighborhood called West Seventh. On this and in previous visits I observe a drastically changed West Seventh. Its anchor, the Xcel Energy Center, opened in September 2000 as the home of the Minnesota Wild. (Lady Gaga performed there just after I left.) There are two hotels, one just opened. Several restaurants and bars line West… Read more

Garbage Justice

  Rev. Martin Luther King (1929-1968), one of our country’s foremost leaders in race relations, is less remembered for his advocacy of the dignity of work. The City of Memphis is sending a tax-free grant of $50,000 each to 13 retired sanitation workers, plus one more still on the job. This gesture, N.Y. Times (7/26/17) reports, is “an improvised fix to one of the most bitter legacies of Memphis’s labor history.” In February 1968 two Memphis garbage workers died, crushed… Read more

Wages, Part II

Back in 1992 New Jersey raised its minimum wage. Social scientists David Card and Alan Krueger studied its effects. Specifically, they compared fast food restaurants in New Jersey with others in adjoining Pennsylvania, where wages were not raised—a total of 410 restaurants. Their findings, published in the September 1994 issue of American Economic Review (www.aeaweb.org), showed no decrease for fast food employment and no loss of profit in New Jersey. This study is frequently used to bolster an argument for… Read more

Follow Us!



Browse Our Archives