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Transatlantic Blog

What does Amazon’s minimum wage have to do with the Church?

In a recent article for The American Spectator, Rev. Ben Johnson, senior editor at the Acton Institute, addresses some of the problems that arise for the Church as a result of Amazon’s recent wage raises.

According to Johnson, “Amazon recently announced that it is raising the wage of its lowest-paid U.S. workers to $15 an hour, and above the proposed ‘real living wage’ in the UK.” This comes in addition to Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos' “plans to lobby Congress to raise the minimum wage.”

These events follow a disparaging speech made about the company by Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, to the Trades Union Congress, which Johnson describes as “a vicious vicious jeremiad that compared Amazon to cannibals and leeches, called zero-hour contracts 'an ancient evil,' and hailed 'Christian socialism.’” When it was revealed that “the Church of England invests heavily in Amazon and has churches that offer zero-hour contracts – on the advice of Church of England administrators," Welby’s blatant hypocrisy could not be more obvious.

Johnson points to “the most significant problems” in Welby’s speech, which derive “from his plea for the church’s perpetual irrelevance.” Welby declared, “Today I dream that governments, now and in the future, put church-run food banks out of business,” a comment Johnson reads as “an entreaty to outsource acts of Christian philanthropy to the government.”

Welby, Johnson notes, is not the first Anglican bishop to want “social welfare to displace the church,” which reveals a dangerous tendency towards government’s infringement on the Church both in the past and today.

Johnson effectively summarizes the connection between Amazon’s wage raises and Welby’s speech at the end of his piece:

Worse yet is the message the archbishop’s sermon and Amazon’s announcement send to young priests. The Anglican Communion News Service noted the correlation of Welby’s speech and Bezos’ action, implying some level of causation. ... [T]his tells beleaguered priests and ambitious prelates that bashing corporations is the way to impact the broader culture, that political posturing leads to renewed relevance, and that demanding government programs replace church ministries pays off in the short-term. And thus is born a generation of budding, statist Savonarolas.

This particular case presents serious implications for the Church of England, government, and business, affecting not only the Church’s ministry but also wider conversations about the separation of church and state.

Read the full article here.