August 2014


This week a careless backhoe operator hit a clearly marked water line in my neighborhood while digging a hole for the installation of fiber optic cable. The project promises 100% faster Internet for subscribers. But now, because of the accident, we must boil water until test results come back sometime Monday. I commented to a friend how ironic it is that in our quest for faster speeds to stream movies and download whatever, we were thrust back to the Dark Ages, having to purify our water as if it came from a creek.

Such ironies in fact abound in our so-called “connected” day. We walk around with our ears to or our eyes on our phones and pay little attention to the people or the sights around us. We have 1000 friends or followers on social media, but don’t know the person down the street. We display some of our worst tendencies toward cruelty and stupidity sometimes when commenting on a news story or someone’s “status.” Our technology has not improved the human heart. Indeed, it has given us new and more efficient ways to humiliate and kill each other.

I’m no Luddite. The irony of my writing a blog post about the evils of how we use our fancy tools does not escape me. But I wonder sometimes if in our quest for speed and efficiency, we have forgotten how to slow down, take time truly to listen or merely enjoy silence. If we could do that, I think we would begin to recover our essential humanity, the wholeness God desires.

And that really would be progress.

© 2014 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.

Raymond Burse, interim president of Kentucky State University, has given up more than $90,000 of his salary so university workers earning minimum wage could have their earnings increased to $10.25 an hour from the current $7.25.

Burse, a former president of the university, retired from an executive position with GE with good benefits and says he doesn’t need to work. His voluntary salary reduction is a way to recognize the needs and importance of those who are on the lower end of the pay scale, but, as he says, “do the hard work and heavy lifting.” “I did this for the people,” he explained. He still will make almost $260,000 for his twelve months as interim (note 1).

Burse has set a wonderful example of real leadership that every high-paid executive (is there any other kind?) could and should follow. What if the “Christian” CEOs of a well-known big box store and a certain craft chain that has been in the news would take similar steps to ensure that their employees make a wage that would lift them out of poverty, so the cashiers and stockroom workers wouldn’t have to rely on food stamps for groceries and could afford basic health care? Suppose football coaches, paid obscene salaries and benefits by universities, didn’t live in million-dollar homes, but insisted on lower pay that would go to fund the custodians’ and groundskeepers’ and cafeteria workers’ wages? Or maybe the “rock-star” preachers on TV could donate the royalties of their books and videos to Habitat for Humanity or their local food pantries.

Pope Francis recently said that “Jesus teaches us to put the needs of the poor above our own. Our needs, even if legitimate, will never be so urgent as those of the poor, who lack the necessities of life.” He has set an example by driving a Ford instead of some luxury car and living in the Vatican guesthouse instead of the Palace (note 2). Of course, his opinions and lifestyle have not endeared him to some “Christians” in our Congress. Too “liberal.”

If two men, one in a secular university, the other the world leader of a church, can live so, why can’t others with wealth and power? Why can’t some do with a (relatively) little less so others may simply have enough? Those who keep amassing more and more while other suffer want may not answer me or you, but they will have to answer to Jesus.

Note 1: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/08/01/3361549/ksu-presidents-gives-up-90000.html

Note 2: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/06/pope-francis-poor_n_5654732.html