Jesus Juking McDonalds: Love is Endless, but Your Business Model Isn’t

Josh, enjoying some American fries, the type he can no longer get in England.

Josh, enjoying some American fries, the type he can no longer get in England.

McDonald’s has taken quite a few hits lately in the news, whether it be from allegedly discriminating against employees to falling profits, right now is not a good time to be an executive at McDonald’s. While it’s been known the past decade or two that McDonald’s is hardly nutritious, the last few years their product has more than likely contributed to a decline in their profits.

Never fear, however, because in the Corporate World™ a problem with the product is easily fixed through…marketing. While common sense dictates that a problem in the product or in how a company is managed requires the product and management style to change, in the Corporate World™ all that’s required is better publicity. Such strategies have proven to work, that is, until the advent of social media. Regardless, McDonald’s isn’t aware of such things and instead has produced a “commercial aimed at millennials.” Rather than fixing the product, like Chipotle did, McDonald’s is trying to just change the public perception by focusing their commercials around the idea of “love.”

Thus, we end up with this:

Now what, exactly, does “love is endless” have to do with eating horrible tasting hamburgers and fries? How does anything in that commercial or message make me think, “Well, maybe I should eat at McDonald’s”? The idea that “love is endless” is certainly true, but to cheapen it as a ploy to get people to buy hamburgers kind of negates the sentiment.

And now for the Jesus Juke…

See, love is endless because God is love, and he is infinite. To state that “love is endless” is certainly true, but one has to ask if McDonald’s is really qualified to use this statement. After all, a Christian approach to business, one centered on endless love, wouldn’t really allow for McDonald’s business practices, especially with its employees.

The same Bible that tells us that Jesus is God and that God is love tells us that God expects fair, livable wages to be paid to employees. Consider James 5:2-5 (ESV):

Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

James is quite emphatic about the type of wealth these people have acquired; not just wealth in general, but wealth gained off of wage fraud. The phrase “kept back by fraud” is actually just one Greek word: ἀποστερέω (apostereo), which means to hold back from someone or to deny them their due. Even Jesus in Luke 10:7 says that the laborer deserves his wages.

The idea of justice in Scripture is based on love – a love of God will always lead to justice with God and a love of one’s fellow man will always lead to justice with one’s fellow man. Justice, in a Scriptural sense, refers to putting others on equal footing with yourself (that is, after all, the second Greatest Commandment, to “love thy neighbor as thyself”). Biblical justice involves wholeness, repairing and making whole that which was broken by sin. In terms of poverty, Christian justice is the act of giving to the laborer a wage worth a living, and then giving to the needy what is needed for them to survive. Proverbs 29:7 says as much;

“A righteous man understands how to judge on behalf of the poor, But the ungodly man will not consider such knowledge; For he has no understanding heart for a poor man.” (Orthodox Study Bible)

If McDonald’s wants to try and use “love” as some gimmick, then they must understand they bring upon themselves quite the burden; love is endless, but it’s one thing to say love is endless and entirely another to live it. Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that McDonald’s actually loves its employees, but merely want to point out the importance of taking important phrases and subjecting them to triteness.

From the Christian perspective, love is endless whereas money has a definite ending. Love then is the focal point of the Christian life and supplants all other pursuits, including that of money. Not that money isn’t important or that it’s inherently wrong to be rich as a Christian, but instead that for wealthy Christians, especially business owners, that wealth ought not be obtained by denying fair wages to others. And by “fair” I do not mean the “market standard,” but instead the type of wages on which a person can live. How can Christians claim love is endless if they’re unwilling to display that love in a monetary way by paying their employees a fair wage? We can’t expect consistency from McDonald’s – even if their business model is quite absurd (they want consumers to pay for their food, but want to keep their employees poor, thus removing their employees from the consumer section and eliminating their own profit; the company’s policy of keeping wages low forces the company to eat itself) – but we should expect consistency from Christians in regards to paying a livable wage to their employees.


Human Dignity vs. Minimum Wage or, Where the Right Goes Wrong

DSC02097Matt Walsh, the male Ann Coulter for the right (and he’s on the same path), is back at it again, creating a straw man and then hacking it to pieces. This time around, he’s picking on Walmart employees that don’t enjoy the wages and treatment, saying they should be thankful to have a job and that if they just worked a bit harder, they’d all get promotions. In this conservative utopia where hard work is always justly rewarded, everyone becomes the manager, everyone works their way up to the top, and everyone becomes rich who deserves to be rich. Sadly, however, Matt Walsh (and conservatives in general) ignore the importance of human dignity within the wage debate (not that liberals do any better; they demonize and dehumanize the rich, whereas the conservatives demonize and dehumanize the poor).

From a purely practical standpoint, basic psychology tells us that if we treat someone as less than human then that person will act as less than human. One wonders why in the Roman Empire there were so precious few slave revolts until one realizes that beating slaves and treating them as less than human led them to believe they were less than human. The same rings true within the American south, where slaves didn’t revolt even when they made up a majority. Typically, when humans are exploited, they begin to think of themselves as “lesser than” and act accordingly. It should serve as no surprise, then, that when you put a minimum investment into a person you get a minimum return.

The better I’m treated, the less I have to worry about bills, the more incentive there is to earn higher pay for working harder, the likelier I am to be a better worker. The promise of an eventual promotion that may or may not come is merely dangling a carrot in front of the horse, getting him to run harder without the promise of ever actually eating the carrot. “If you work hard, then perhaps someday you too could become an executive in this corporation!” This, of course, is assuming that you’re able to keep a roof over your head, pay for electricity and water, and then afford the necessary education to get promoted. More than likely, however, even the hardest working Walmart employee (or any other big retail chain) will find herself stuck within store management, typically after years of hard work.

See, for all the love between Christianity and American conservatives, we would do well to remember that the two are not the same. Modern conservatism, or neo-conservativism is actually Darwinian and materialistic in its outlook on life. Modern conservatism, at least economic conservatism, is nothing more than the bastard child of Ayn Rand, the ugly offspring of objectivism. Within this philosophy the individual reigns supreme, even over the family unit. The essential core is that if a man wants to be rich, he has to be willing to outwork and undercut anyone around him, even if it’s his wife and kids. The end objective of existence is for the individual to realize himself. Such a teaching stands in stark contrast to Christianity, which teaches that the individual is nothing without the community, that a man must sacrifice himself to his family’s needs, and the objective of existence is to become like God.

Thus, the minimum wage debate is an interesting one in which we have conservatives, many of whom want to “take back” a “Christian America,” arguing for pragmatic utilitarianism, one of the most anti-Christian philosophies out there. “I’ll pay you for what I think you’re worth, depending on what you bring me.” Such a thought process inherently views the laborer not as a person, but as a commodity. The laborer is then viewed as nothing more than livestock, produce, or whatever it is the company happens to sell. While the labor itself is a commodity, the laborer is not; he is a human being and worthy of dignity and respect. The Christian view, then, is that the commodity of labor is to be treated fairly to the laborer because he is made in the image of God. Continue reading

What About Morality in Economics? or, Virtue Capitalism and Wage

DSC02073One of the biggest arguments concerning homosexual marriage is that the government cannot allow such an immoral action to occur. Now, I have made my views known (that the government ought not be involved in marriage to begin with), but there are those who believe homosexuality ought to be banned because it is immoral. Likewise, they want to ban abortions due to their immorality, which is something I support. Yet, when confronted with the idea of instituting a just wage for unskilled workers, we’re told that it’s a bad idea. When we point to a multitude of Scriptures that speak of standing up for the rights of the impoverished, we’re told that it’s not our job to push our morality on businesses.

What I’m curious about is why we’re so quick to push morality on some issues, but not on others. After all, study after study after study has shown that low-wages lead to (1) higher unemployment, (2) more government aid in terms of welfare, food stamps, etc., (3) a weaker economy, and (4) the eradication of the middle class. In other words, this is a moral issue that has empirical negative effects; the low wage of the worker down the street does ultimately impact me (unlike homosexual marriage).

Proverbs 29:7 states that the righteous understand the rights of the poor, but the wicked have no such knowledge (the Septuagint goes further and says, “For [the wicked] has no understanding heart for the poor man”). What is interesting is that verse 14 says that a king who faithfully judges the poor will have his kingdom established forever. In other words, the Biblical command for aiding the poor doesn’t stop at private charity (as many conservative Christians claim), but is extended to the government. It is not only extended to Israel, God’s representation on earth, but to all governments. Numerous times in the Old Testament prophecies do we see pagan nations condemned in part for their treatment of the poor; in fact, based on Israel’s multitude of condemnations, it seems that with paganism an apathetic view of the poor often developed.

Now, I’m not advocating that we go out tomorrow and support the government increasing minimum wage to $16 an hour. Good people who care about the poor can differ on the practical applications of such concern. The problem, however, is that many Christians have fallen into the conservative myth about the poor; that the poor and unskilled laborers are in such a position because they are lazy, stupid, and unambitious. If they would only work harder they would earn more. We even point to anecdotal examples where someone we know (or ourselves) started in a minimum wage job and worked our way up. Not coincidentally, such people are typically white and come from a lower to middle class background. That is to say, such people often didn’t suffer under years – generations – of oppression where a fatalistic attitude took hold. We also ignore that upward mobility is declining in America so that even hard workers who earn raises typically stay within reaching distance of the poverty rate for decades.

What I am advocating is that we recognize the issue of hourly wages, or more broadly the widening gap between rich and middle class, as a moral issue and not an economic issue. The Bible also condemns those who gain their money via oppression of others. The Bible never does condemn wealth in itself and even says that God blesses some with material gains. Thus, no one is arguing that we all earn equally, merely that we earn fairly. When you look at places like Walmart where the CEO bring in over $17 million in total compensation (mostly from stock options) while the average employee brings in $22,000, how can a Christian think such a system is just? It becomes even worse when you realize that the stock options and bonuses come from boosting profit gains, but cutting labor costs is the easiest way to boost profit; thus, the CEO’s total compensation reflects the low wage of his employees. Such a thing is immoral.

From the Christian perspective, while there’s nothing wrong with having wealth, there’s everything wrong with having wealth at the expense of others. When CEOs make so much money that they earn at a ratio of 796:1 (in the case of Walmart), we are faced not only with a blatant immorality, but something that is dangerous for a society. 44 million Americans live in poverty. That’s 14% of our nation that lives below the poverty line. That doesn’t seem so drastic until we consider that 80% of Americans face near-poverty. This isn’t the result of economic fluctuations or a boom vs. bust economic model, this is the result of a country facing moral bankruptcy.  Continue reading