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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Daring to tread in controversy

Certain topics fraught with risks

These are perilous times for religious publications, given declining circulation and advertising. Controversial topics are often avoided, but sometimes editors just can’t help themselves. We have two such cases in this issue.

Income and wealth distribution in the U.S. has bubbled up as a concern in recent years, culminating strikingly in the 2013 “Wealth Inequality in America” video that has drawn more than 15.5 million views. Most jarring: the top 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, with the bottom 80 percent owning 7 percent.

Then came an Associated Press report (May 27) that the typical CEO of a top 500 U.S. company saw his/her annual income rise 9 percent last year to $10.46 million while workers’ wages rose 1.3 percent. “That CEO now earns 257 times the national average, up from a multiple of 181 in 2009,” the AP analysis said.

The figures haven’t been widely challenged. Instead, the debate has centered around whether wealth inequality is unfair. And what does it mean for a society to be unfair? So we asked three ELCA scholars to tackle the subject (page 16). The answers might come as a surprise as they don’t fall within certain politically popular narratives.

The choice of cover art prompts conversation as well. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man is found only in Luke (16:19-31). For centuries most read the story literally, a cautionary tale of selfishness and consequences. Martin Luther saw it as a parable of the conscience, while others saw it as a tale about the Pharisees, etc. Spend time with different Bible commentaries to dissect this well-known text.


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December issue

DECEMBER issue:

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