Michael Sean Winters sums up the moral significance of the economic crisis as well as anyone:
…The conventional wisdom is not exactly accurate…The economy did not displace moral issues: The economy is a moral issue. Providing for one’s family is a moral obligation, one that is suddenly uncertain. Buying a house and making the mortgage payments is a moral accomplishment, requiring discipline and delayed gratification. Faulty economic theories were part of the reason for the credit crunch, but greed has played its part. The anger felt on Main Street is not mere anti-elitism: The barons of high finance treated people’s hard-earned life savings as mere fodder for risk-taking. An economy that had been characterized by an idolatrous worship of the laws of the market suddenly sees the need for social solidarity in the form of government bailouts.
The economic crisis, in short, is more than an economic crisis. It is a cultural crisis, even a spiritual crisis…(emphasis added)
If this crisis reminds us to invest greater moral energy into our economy and community, if it causes bankers and bus drivers alike to ask the age-old question “Who is my neighbor?,” maybe all the pain, terrible and tragic as it’s been, won’t be in vain.
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The Center For American Progress did a roundup of faith leaders’ statements, blog posts and actions in response to the economic crisis:
The meltdown of global financial markets is more than an economic crisis. It is also a moral crisis that exposes the fatal flaws of unfettered capitalism and rebukes the worship of free-market forces whose excesses are having brutal consequences for everyday Americans.
As politicians and economists offer proposals for what should be done, religious leaders and communities are speaking out as well. They are criticizing the immoral culture of greed and lack of regulation that led to this crisis. They are providing assistance for those in need. And they are offering a prophetic voice for economic justice and the common good, as evidenced by the sampling of responses that follow.
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From the department of provocative headlines: “Maybe We Should Blame God for the Subprime Mess.”
And from the department of serious questions, the article — by Time’s David van Biema — asks what role prosperity theology has in the mortgage crisis.
Prosperity theology’s tenet that “God will ‘make a way’ for poor people to enjoy the better things in life,” and its emphasis on upbeat faith as a key to material bounty seem conducive to a less-than-cautious approach to borrowing, and David quotes prosperity theology expert Professor Jonathan Walton saying “prosperity theology ha[s] developed an additional, dangerous expression during the subprime-lending boom.”
Namely, belief that divine intervention rather than bad banking policy was delivering home loans to borrowers with bad credit scores.
However Walton also thinks the theology can be “empowering to those who’ve seen themselves as financially or even culturally useless,” and that, “in some cases the philosophy has matured with its practitioners, encouraging good financial habits and entrepreneurship.â€
Seems like the system and the culture as a whole, not just the Prosperity Gospel, need to mature.
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Dan and I were just sitting in the office, talking about how the financial mess is affecting churches and religious organizations. With that in mind, I started poking around religion blogs and news sources, expecting to find stories about diminishing funds in church coffers stymieing congregations’ abilities to help those in need, how pledges and stewardship campaigns are shifting as a result, what cuts are being made in religious organizations’ budgets, and the like.
When I found “Wall Street’s Woes come to Church”, I thought my expectations were confirmed.
But the subtitle– “Episcopalians consider new economic landscape, extend help to others”– told a different story.
Mary Frances Schjonberg writes about new and evolving ministries that cater to the needs of those affected by the Wall Street crisis; churches like Trinity Church, (located at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway in lower Manhattan), which is now offering sessions on “Coping with Stressâ€ and “Navigating Career Transitions.â€ Others offer job-seeking classes; all offered pastoral support and care for parishioners suffering from doubt and anxiety.
It’ll be interesting to see how else houses of worship respond. What’s yours done so far?
(Thanks to Jeff Weiss over at the Dallas Morning News religion blog for posting this article!)
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Following is a message from Brian Swarts, National Coordinator of Micah Challenge USA. It is also posted at God’s Politics.
Tonight US presidential candidates will meet to debate foreign policy. Yesterday the United Nations met to discuss our progress towards cutting global poverty in half by 2015.
While most of us in America are focused on our financial mess in Wall Street, there is another major crisis taking place — one of life and death. Right now, the developing world faces a major hunger crisis that threatens to push an additional 70 million into extreme poverty. Just as the US government is taking bold action to stem financial troubles for wealthy banks, people of faith are calling on our leaders to remember their promises to the poor and to take bold actions to stem rising hunger and poverty.
In response to this need for Christians to speak out for the poor, Micah Challenge USA is launching Micah’s Challenge to the Future President, an open letter calling on McCain and Obama to support a foreign policy that renews America’s commitment to the pledge to dramatically reduce poverty, disease and inequality by 2015 (Sign your name to the challenge).
On Monday, I moderated a press conference panel of American and global evangelical leaders in calling on the UN and US presidential candidates to take bold steps to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This conference was in response to a prophetic Letter on poverty, written by senior evangelical Christian leaders in the Global South, representing four continents and hundreds of millions of Christians. The Letter calls on Christians in the United States to protest the lack of progress that has been made toward cutting global poverty. Yesterday, I attended a meeting of more than 70 national religious leaders to discuss how the faith community is going to respond to the global hunger crisis, which threatens to be overshadowed by our own financial challenges.
The clear consensus of both these events was that is the faith community’s role, more than any other group in the country, to remind Americans of our responsibility to those who are suffering most. Just as we need to urge Congress to remember families losing their homes as they bail out banks, we need challenge our political leaders to remember our promises to those living in extreme poverty around the world.
Micah Challenge USA, a coalition of US evangelical denominations and institutions dedicated to fighting global poverty. Visit www.micahchallenge.us to read the “Letter to the Church in the United Statesâ€ and ‘Micah’s Challenge to the Future Presidentâ€
Faith In Public Life
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