God and the auto bailout

This auto bailout has reached far beyond economics and politics.

As was widely reported, a Detroit church used its service a couple of weekends ago to request God's intervention on the impending automaker bailout.  With SUVs on stage, worship songs of miracles, and consecrated oil anointments, the people of Michigan are seeking a judgment higher than that of the United States Congress. 

A New York Times article stated that one preacher claimed desperately, "We have never seen as midnight an hour."  One church attendee called for prayers, hoping to "see a miracle next week."  And one sermon included a study of the Book of Romans which read, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

But will God choose to be intimately concerned with the rescue of one of the most poorly managed industries in America?  Though we should never assume to know God's intentions, perhaps we can guess what He may be thinking.

Let's look at some of the numbers involved for these victims of the free-market economy.  The salaries of Big Three autoworkers have been debated as of late, but let us make conservative estimates using a common job search engine so we gather a wide spectrum of regions, companies, and related jobs.  By typing in "united auto workers," we see an average salary of $49,000.  "Car/auto sales" is approximately $50,000.  "Car/auto mechanic" comes out at about $38,000.  "Car/auto parts sales" averages about $37,000, and "auto technician" shows $34,000.  However, the UAW website offers an hourly salary of nearly $36 per hour (that includes benefits), which when calculated at a standard eight hours per day, five days a week, and 50 weeks per year, equals an average salary of approximately $72,000 per year.  Nice.

Some of the auto companies seeking government funding also offer at least 14 days of holiday pay, two to five weeks of paid vacation time, and a full company 401k match up to 50% of an employee's total salary.  And even after some workers retire, they are entitled to a pension of over $32,000 per year. Very nice.

Compare these numbers to the median American salary of just over $32,000.  Even the lower job search estimates surpass this more than sufficient average.

So how do the Sunday sermons seem now?  Maybe the "midnight" of American autoworkers is not as dark as they think.  Maybe they are already living that "miracle" they so desperately seek, simply by living in the freest place on the planet and have endless opportunities to find other gainful employment.  And maybe the upper middleclass incomes and amazing benefits packages are not the "sufferings" the impoverished, persecuted, and imprisoned Apostle Paul had in mind.

Obviously churches have the right to seek God however they wish and may use their respective beliefs to both influence and benefit from government action.  But let us also not forget another recent instance in which God's direction was sought in a public political discussion.  When Sarah Palin explained her faith in God's guiding hand for her nomination process, as well as for the safety of our soldiers in a war against evil, she was derided by commentators and comedians.  When members of her home church publicly prayed for God's protection over her, viral videos across the Internet portrayed Palin as if she were a cultist preparing for a sacrifice.  Will we see the same sarcasm and cynicism from the media this time around?  Will some secular journalist or sniping joke teller mock the faith of Detroit's devout? 

For those of us who are believers, seeking the divine amid daily trials is not uncommon.  And to those Americans facing potential job loss or income reduction, God is often the first source for comfort and hope for wisdom.  But when words that end in "$$$illion" are thrown around so casually, comfort and wisdom can get lost in a sea of dollar signs.  And particularly during this special time of year, when we usually focus our prayers for those stricken with illnesses, injured by war, saddened by loneliness, or overwhelmed by poverty, perhaps God has more pressing priorities.

So will God intervene on behalf of the dismayed auto industry?  According to Matthew 19:26, "...with God all things are possible."  But regardless of God's answer, maybe Proverbs 22:16, which has relevance for both the automaker CEOs and our nation's Congress, will be just as telling: "He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich-both come to poverty."