The Kye to Poverty:
Equity Pooling, Job Creation, and the Church

[Note: This article was originally posted in June 2004.]
In an article critiquing Samuel Huntington ‘

Published by

Joe Carter

Joe Carter founded Evangelical Outpost in 2005. He is the web editor for First Things and an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. A fifteen-year Marine Corps veteran, he previously served as the managing editor for the online magazine Culture11 and The East Texas Tribune. Joe has also served as the Director of Research and Rapid Response for the Mike Huckabee for President campaign and as a director of communications for both the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and Family Research Council. He is the co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicaton.

  • JimFiler

    You make many good points here about the “work ethic” and the role of the Church. Approaching 65 in October and retired after 30 years with the railroad, I survive by supplementing my pension check with a job in Special-Ed at a local public school. When I married over 42 years ago, it was quite possible for a man, alone, to support his family. Not today. I watched Reagan kill the Aircontrollers’ Union and begin the big onslaught and, while I admit it was a two-way street (I was sandwiched between two concerns that cared nothing for the individual worker), the only reason I held a job for three decades with that company was the union. I hear people say that the illegal immigrants only work jobs that others won’t work. It’s more like they work jobs the rich won’t pay the union to do; and illegal is illegal any way you look at it. The Church needs to return to its first love; and our government needs to be purged of millionaires who no longer connect with the working class. But…lest I sound like no more than some grumpy old man, let it be known I served ten years in the Navy for a country I yet love and have walked with Christ for over three decades and love His people. It is all, to me, just signs of the times. I put it to prayer and invest myself in His cause. Peace……….

  • George

    A couple of comments…
    First, a major difference in family income today and 1964 is the average tax burden. Basically, the federal and state government taxes have gone up so much (see here) that it is much more difficult to raise a family without two incomes. Of course, according to DC democrat politicians, taxes should be much higher so they can make the economy boom.
    With regard to the ATC firings, I supported it then and I support it now. There is no a priori reason I see that a small group of workers should be able to hold the country hostage for more bucks by throwing a wrench into the gears of the economy. Of course, as a railroad employee, I can understand why you would disagree with that. My dad and grandfather were railroad employees, too, so I know a little bit about railroad labor law. I clearly recall the union’s claim that firemen were needed on diesel locomotives. And that’s not even the biggest bellylaugh. How do you define a “full day”? Care to share the mileage with us?
    I find it amusing that you mention unions and the work ethic in the same breath. Wasn’t it the French unions that forced the 35 hr French workweek? There’s a “work ethic” for you. France’s economy is so robust in comparison to ours that surely we should strive for their economic solutions. As an aside, I happened to be living in Britain when Maggie Thatcher broke the miner’s union. It amused me to watch unionists on TV arguing that the government should keep mines open in spite of the fact that there was basically no more coal to be mined out of a particular pit. Why? Because they had been raised in that particular mining village and didn’t want to move.
    On the work ethic more generally, when I lived in MA (home of Kennedy/Kerry, nacherly) in the mid-80’s, the state government (aka democrat machine) was funding courses teaching people how to game the system for welfare benefits and, once their hands were securely in the pocketbooks of the working people, to maximize those benefits. Maybe between the unions and the democrats, we can get to the point that nobody in the country works, everything is free, and somebody else pays for it. I suppose one problem is we haven’t found the right sugar daddy.

  • Rob Ryan

    Good post, Joe, and very relevant.
    Joe wrote:
    “During the 18th century, for instance, John Wesley became a a fervent exhorter of work. The evangelist even preached a sermon in which he encouraged believers to

  • Franklin Mason

    If one wishes to say something about the necessity that both husband and wife work, one must also mention the drop in real wages since the 60s. One must say something as well about the inflation-adjusted increase in health care and housing costs. Moreover, the increase in tax-burden is not so precipitious as you seem to imply that is is. 27.4% of income in 1960; 31.6% today. Since 1960, it has fluctuated from the high 20s to the low 30s.
    The rest of your response is composed of anecdotal information. The ability of such stories to establish facts about broad, multi-generational, multi-coutry trends is dubious.
    Your tone is quite clearly sarcastic. I’ve found that, for the most part, discussion here is civil. I expect that most here wish you would follow that example.

  • BrettR

    The early civil rights movement in the south had very similar origins with in the churches. In the church that MLK eventually became the pastor of as well as the ones that his father and his contemporaries preached at, they often organized into “birthday clubs.” There would be twelve clubs, all organized by what month the person was born in, then an amount of money or a task was given to the group to achieve. The groups heavily monitored themselves and rarely came up short. If it looked like the group was going to be short of a goal, each member was looked at individually and were asked persuasively to give their portion. This became a means of communication, unity, and self sustaining power by which they could make a stand and not back down because they had this base.
    Presently, it seems criminal for a pastor/elders in a church to know who is giving and who is not giving. This abuse of this knowledge can be a huge problem, but I don’t see any Biblical mandate that keeps a pastor/elder from “meddling” in such a way when the end result can be helping many people on their way to achieving something that the church can be proud of and giving the glory to Christ.

  • DLE

    Bless you, Joe.
    I’ll be tackling this and other work/liefstyle issues in the days ahead over at Cerulean Sanctum.
    You are absolutely correct, the Church in America has no clue how to deal with the 8-10 hour a day reality of the typical American’s work. We do a lousy job of helping people who lose jobs, have no concept of how to support small businesses run by men and women in our churches, and basically act as if the employment that takes up most of our day does not even exist.
    Too many sectors of the Evangelical Church think the ability to keep a mom home with her kids while dad works ten hour days in a cubicle fifty miles away is a major accomplishment. Yet we’re blind to the fact that perhaps dad should be home, too. Our inability to step back and ask foundational questions about the way we work and how the Church in America has undermined itself by sanctioning the Industrial Revolution is hurting us all.
    Thanks again.

  • Inquiring Minds

    I have had an idea percolating for several years, but haven’t acted on it.
    If two families could buy a duplex, and both make a full mortgage payment, they could have it paid off in 7-8 years. If they continued saving those mortgage payments, they could buy a second house within a year, and have two more families move in. You now have four mortgage payments. If the cycle were to continue, you could own an entire community free and clear, within a generation.
    The entire premise depends upon strongly held beliefs & values, delay of gratification, self sacrifice, discipline, ability to live in peace with your neighbors, ….
    maybe that is why it wouldn’t work. These are qualities we have largely lost.
    You would also need a group of young people willing to live in a starter house that isn’t $250,000 with four BR, three baths and a great-room.

  • DLE

    Inquiring Minds,
    $250,000 is too much for a house? I think you need to check what even tiny houses go for in some parts of the country. When we left Sunnyvale, CA, in 2000, a twenty-five-year old 1,600 square foot home with no yard to speak of cost $525,000.

  • stan

    Doesn’t the starting point for discussions re: unions have to be whether or not they were necessary in the first place?

  • stan

    Many years ago I discovered a passage in II Cor. 8, specifically vs 13-15. Paul is rather pointedly chiding the Corinthians for not keeping their promise to help the poor in Jerusalem. On two occasions he uses the word “equality” and cites an OT passage to back it up. It appears that the early church as evidenced by Acts 2:44-45 put this into practice. As one who does humanitarian/Gospel work in Cambodia, this gives me plenty of food for thought.
    “For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality–at this present time your abundance being a supply for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want, that there may be equality; as it is written, ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.’
    Any comments?

  • Michael Bates

    This sort of thing is sometimes called microcredit, and it’s gaining credibility as a development tool in the Third World. Grameen Bank in Bangladesh is an example.
    Its success may require cultural characteristics now lacking in mainstream American culture — a sense of honor and a sense of shame.

  • tom

    I watched Reagan kill the Aircontrollers’ Union and begin the big onslaught … and illegal is illegal any way you look at it.
    Okay, I know I juxtaposed to different points of your post, Jim, but it’s just to show how fickle we can be in making our arguments. The ATC strike was illegal, and they’d been warned several times not to strike. They thought they could call Reagan’s bluff, and they got what they deserved.
    As for unions, I’ve held exactly two union job in my life; they’re the only two jobs I was ever laid off from, because the company couldn’t afford to keep so many people on the payroll, and the ridiculous rule of last-fired, first-fired kept incompetents on the job while hard-working hard-charges were let go.
    Finally, look at the fiasco that is today’s Detroit. Almost every one of GM, Ford and Chrysler’s woes can be laid at the feet of greedy unions. (Just read about GM’s program to pay thousands of workers full salary and benefits not to work.) Okay, utterly stupid managment with the foresight of a flea bears some of the blame, too.
    Unions may have been necessary at one time, but they now bear a large share of the blame for failing industries.

  • Jim

    I took no offense at your earlier comments, Tom. We just disagree. The ralroad was a “closed shop”, you were given no option, and, in 30 years, I saw both sides of the story. You speak truth when you refer to the ludicracy of what most employees demanded of the company. I saw, firsthand, how “incompetents” were ignored and the work passed on to the guy who tried to give his best. I was merely a clerk and “low man on the totem” compared to engineers and switchmen; and felt for many years like I paid union dues for nothing. I’ve lost wages picketing only to be forced back to work by the government, paid into my pension only to have the government both rule on my retirement and then tax me on money that has already been taxed once. But I also worked those last few years for the CSI (the intermodal part of the business)doing the same work I had done for the CSX for 15 years. They split under some legal mumbo-jumbo, claimed they were different companies, and I nearly lost my pension in its entirety. Only the union saved it for me and enabled me to hold a job till I could go. To me, it’s where we’re at: “global”-shmobal. We’re killing the middle class and turning us into another third-world economic clone. They’re cutting off jobs and giving them to India. Merger. Merger. Merger. Employment is up; but what is it paying? We’re headed for filthy rich or filthy poor. No in-between. I’m wondering how old you are and what you do for a living? It’s all usually a matter of where you’re sitting that determines how you see things. At any rate: this I know. Christ has seen me through it all and I’m content to leave the future in His hands. Hoping you know the same. Peace, my friend………

  • stan

    If Detroit designed and built better cars the union wouldn’t be an issue. The designers and engineers and upper management are the problem, not the folks on the line.