Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Paying a living wage is "anti-Christian"?

Over the last couple of days I’ve been engaged in an extraordinary discussion on the alt.religion.christian.east-orthodox newsgroup. Someone had posted an article about a living wage being anti-Christian. It struck me as extremely odd that any Christian could say that, much less Orthodox ones, who have the teachings of the Fathers.

Part of the article was about some proposed US legislation, and as I don’t live in the US, I did not discuss the merits of the proposed legislation, but rather the title of the article, which was simply a blanket statement that a living wage was anti-Christian. Whatever the policies or their implementation, the title, which seemed to be the conclusion, was a lie.

But three Americans on the newsgroup vehemently defended the the proposition that a living wage is “anti-Christian”, using secular economic theories, and no theological arguments at all.

They said that a living wage was wrong because it was “artificial”, but that did not explain why they thought it was anti-Christian, and anyway their economic theories seemed far more artificial. At first I thought we could discuss it from the common ground of the Orthodox faith, but they seemed to shy away from that, and would not come near, clinging rather to the security of their economic theories.

At first I thought they were just being obtuse, and perhaps wilfully ignorant, in a sort of ironic way, that their arguments were tongue in cheek

Then as the discussion went on, it appeared that they were deadly serious. They really believed the sort of things that they were saying. Perhaps it was a cultural difference: growing up in American culture they just absorbed these values with their mother’s milk, and could not communicate with people from a different culture. But not all Americans are like that. I’ve met plenty of Americans that I’ve had no difficulty in communicating with, so perhaps it is some sort of sub-culture there.

But then it began to look more and more like idolatry. They really did think that their secular economic theories trumped Christian ethics. Though the economic theories themselves may be secular, these people were turning them into a religion. It seemed a bit like what the Russians called dvoeverie, double-mindedness — trying to worship both God and Mammon, but as they wnt on, it seemed that God didn’t get a look in — it was Mammon all the way.

The latest phase, however, seems to have degenerated into raving lunacy. Two of them accused me of committing armed robbery. They seemed to imagine that I had accused them of all sorts of crimes: I hadn’t. I simply questioned the idea that paying a living wage was anti-Christian. And this seems to have sparked off these bizarre fantasies that I had committed armed robbery.

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