Century Marks

Century Marks

Living wage

Debates about the minimum wage usually overlook the religious roots of the concept. John A. Ryan, an Irish Catholic priest from Minnesota, coined the term “living wage” and based it on Catholic social teaching. In 1894 he wrote in his diary: “We must have a more just distribution of wealth.” In 1906 he published a book called A Living Wage. In 1937 he became the first Catholic to give an invocation at a presidential inauguration (Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second). A year later FDR signed the first national law requiring a minimum wage law—25 cents an hour (Tikkun, February 26).

Yeast of the Christians

Some churches are using the popularity of craft beer and home brewing to reach out to young adults. Valley Church (Methodist) in Allendale, Michigan, holds semiregular meetings of beer enthusiasts and home brewers. The events go by the moniker “What would Jesus brew?” St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, sponsored a home brewing contest with other churches in the city as a fund-raiser. At least two church brewing groups have turned into commercial operations—Hess Brewing Company in San Diego and Monday Night Brewing in Atlanta. They claim they are part of an old church tradition: some monasteries have long brewed beer to serve their guests (Wall Street Journal, March 8).

Occupy success

Critics of the Occupy Wall Street movement say it failed largely because of a lack of organization and focus. Jeff Madrick argues that the movement was a success not so much in changing policies as in raising public awareness of inequities. “We are the 99 percent” will remain a political slogan every bit as galvanizing for its time as “Hell no, we won’t go” was for the antiwar protesters of the 1960s and 1970s, he says. Civil rights demonstrations and antiwar movements were criticized in their day for being unfocused, but they led to enduring change (Harper’s, March).

Papal powers

Liberal Catholic theologian Hans Küng points out the Ro­man Catholic Church got along without the papacy as we know it today for a millennium. It was Pope Gregory VII in the 11th century who gave Catholics three enduring elements of the Roman system: “a centralist-absolutist papacy, compulsory clericalism and the obligation of celibacy for priests and other secular clergy.” Küng argues that the church needs a pope who knows how deep the church’s crisis is and how to lead the church out of it. He calls for the church to hold another council along the lines of Vatican II, this time gathering a “representative assembly of bishops, priests and lay people” (New York Times, February 27).

Protest in the academy

Marshall Sahlins, a highly regarded anthropologist at the University of Chicago, has resigned from the National Academy of Sciences in protest. He objected to military-related research projects done by the academy and the election of anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon to the NSA. If it is involved at all in military-related projects, Sahlins said, NAS “should be studying how to promote peace, not how to make war.” Sahlins accuses Chagnon of having “done serious harm to the indigenous communities among whom he did research.” Chagnon has just published a new book, Noble Savages (InsideHigherEd, February 25).