Back in April, we spotted a holy ghost in the coverage of a Seattle CEO.
As you may recall, Gravity Payments founder Dan Price cut his own $1 million salary to pay all his employees at least $70,000 a year:
That post asked:
Could Price's weirdness have something to do with his Christian faith, if, as I am assuming, he is a Christian? A blurb on Seattle Pacific's website says one of the books that influenced him was"Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger."
My quick Googling didn't turn up any news reports that mention Price's religion. Nonetheless, I can't help but think a holy ghost might be haunting this story.
Three-plus months later, a GetReligion reader points us to an update from the New York Times:
Thank you for the tip, Christopher!
I must agree: This in-depth piece does a nice job of solving the faith mystery:
Alas, as the lede makes clear, this is first and foremost a business/finance story:
There are times when Dan Price feels as if he stumbled into the middle of the street with a flag and found himself at the head of a parade.
Three months ago, Mr. Price, 31, announced he was setting a new minimum salary of $70,000 at his Seattle credit card processing firm,Gravity Payments, and slashing his own million-dollar pay package to do it. He wasn’t thinking about the current political clamor over low wages or the growing gap between rich and poor, he said. He was just thinking of the 120 people who worked for him and, let’s be honest, a bit of free publicity. The idea struck him when a friend shared her worries about paying both her rent and student loans on a $40,000 salary. He realized a lot of his own employees earned that or less.
Yet almost overnight, a decision by one small-business man in the northwestern corner of the country became a swashbuckling blow against income inequality.
The move drew attention from around the world — including from some outspoken skeptics and conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, who smelled a socialist agenda — but most were enthusiastic. Talk show hosts lined up to interview Mr. Price. Job seekers by the thousands sent in résumés. He was called a “thought leader.” Harvard business professors flew out to conduct a case study. Third graders wrote him thank-you notes. Single women wanted to date him.
But keep reading, and the Times busts the ghosts that haunted its earlier coverage.
Just a chunk of the religion-related content:
Like his siblings, Dan was fiercely competitive, said his father, Ron Price, and hard on himself if he didn’t come in first at Bible memorization contests, backyard football or board games like Life and Monopoly. “Dan has always been a deal maker,” said his father, who is now a management consultant.
The isolation did not prepare Mr. Price for the complex social interactions of junior high school. He was awkward, out of place. He remembered joining in when a group of children started laughing, only to later realize that he had been the target of their ridicule.
His experiences did reinforce an independent, contrarian streak even as he made a place for himself in the teenagers’ terrain. He formed a rock band and got a girlfriend. After their first hug at 17, her conservative Christian father demanded to know his intentions. The two were engaged, and they married four years later. (They divorced amicably in 2011.)
His parents instilled a sense of purpose. “We had a family mission” to glorify God, he said. The household was run as a “family business” with jobs and responsibilities carefully set out in charts and diagrams. “All my siblings hated it, but I thought it was cool,” Mr. Price said with a laugh.
Mr. Price is no longer so religious, but the values and faith he grew up on are “in my DNA,” he said. “It’s just something that’s part of me.”
The story even puts Price's business decision into the context of a biblical parable (no, really):
When Mr. Price chose $70,000 as the eventual salary floor, he was influenced by research showing that this annual income could make an enormous difference in someone’s emotional well-being by easing nagging financial stress.
He might have also considered the parable of the workers in the vineyard from the Gospel of St. Matthew, where the laborers hired at sunup were upset that their pay was the same as those who showed up right before quitting time. Early adopters and latecomers may be equally welcomed in the Kingdom of Heaven, but not necessarily in the earthly realm, where rewards are generally bestowed in paycheck form.
I could nitpick and say the Matthew reference drifts into editorializing.
But given the overall quality of this story, I believe I'll grant the Times a one-time mulligan.