BRITE DIVINITY SCHOOL
TEXAS CHRISTIAN UNIVERISTY
FORT WORTH, TEXAS
The Living God and the Living Wage: A theology of human dignity and independence
BRITE DIVINITY SCHOOL
LIVING WAGE CAMPAIGN
June 16, 2007
RODNEY ALPHONSO THOMAS JR.
“And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is God not of the dead, but of the living [.]”
Jesus Christ, Our Lord
Oftentimes in Texas political dialogue, we hear candidates use the phrase, “the sanctity of life.” To claim that all life is sacrosanct means that human life, in our experience, points the community to an Ultimate Reality that guides our being, thinking, and doing. The recognition of a Higher Power requires that community work for the common good as an assurance that life remains sacred in the eyes of the individual and public. A living wage at Texas Christian University would be an example of such an assurance; it would make a statement to the TCU community as well as the city of Fort Worth and the state of Texas that TCU affirms the sanctity of life as well as values independence and freedom.
The notion that all of life is sacred is grounded in the general recognition that the entirety of creation, including every human person originated from a Creator. In particular from the Christian religious perspective, all of humanity is created in the image of God, the imago Dei. This means that every person is endowed with innate, God-given attributes such as intelligence and freedom, and above all, life itself. While we are all dependent upon God for all that we are, God’s gift of freedom allows for each individual to function freely in relationship with her/his community. God is love and freedom is necessary for the highest quality of relationship with God as well as with others. If the life of freedom and independence are freely given by God, any encroachment of these gifts is a violation of human rights. Christian liberty within a community is one of many values in Scripture. The apostle Paul told the church at Thessalonica, “But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly towards outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1st Thessalonians 4:10-12).
As a community of faith, Texas Christian University should adopt a living wage policy because it best reflects the value, independence, that our community’s professed religious tradition endorses. TCU, as an institution, however, has members of its community who follow a plurality of religious tradition. We also have a number of faculty members who are adherents to Judaism and Islam. While these traditions do not share the same experience and history as the “C” in TCU, the concept of independence is not a foreign idea to Islamic and Jewish life. In Judaism, the twelfth-century legal scholar Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon noted that the highest form of charity was the kind that gave the recipient independence. His conclusion was derived from his interpretation of Leviticus 25:35, which says, “If any of your kin fall into difficulty and become dependent on you, you shall support them.” A living wage at TCU would share the same aim as Maimonide’s scale of charity, or the tzedekah. In Muslim life, generosity is required as one of the five pillars of Islam, Zakat. The giving of the alms is “for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors”; it is an obligation that is useful to stabilize society and purify the faithful from becoming greedy. It is this spirit of charity that a living wage at Texas Christian University would set an example for the Fort Worth community to act justly towards those who have become dependent on society, particularly the impoverished.