Engaging Culture

The Place of Religion in the Financial Meltdown

In his column in a recent Wall Street Journal, writer Daniel Henninger, wrote about the religious void on Wall Street.  His article, titled, “Mad Max and the Meltdown:  How We Went from Christmas to Crisis” said that:

The answer echoing through the marble hallways of Congress and Europe’s ministries is: regulation failed. In short, throw plaster at cracked walls. Trusting the public sector to protect us from financial catastrophe is a bad idea. When the Social Security and Medicare meltdowns arrive, as precisely foretold by their trustees, will we ask again: What were they thinking?

What really went missing through the subprime mortgage years were the three Rs: responsibility, restraint and remorse. They are the ballast that stabilizes two better-known Rs from the world of free markets: risk and reward.

Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of “Merry Christmas.”

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines. We are erasing the chalk lines.

Feel free: Banish Merry Christmas.  Get ready for Mad Max.

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  1. I remember Dallas Willard commenting on the earlier Arthur Andersen/ Enron debacle.

    "If only the Christian staff at Arthur Andersen had simply used normal discipleship values the crisis would never have happened."

    Now we can keep pressing, "repeat" I guess…

  2. Ok – this is something that will never go away. In my experience, if an employee (or politician) is TOTALLY honest ALL the time, and treats everyone the way they would like to be treated then they will never influence most companies / governments at a senior level.

    They simply will not get promoted (or elected).

    Watch where someone gets paid (follow the money) and thats where their alliegance lies. 99.9% of people will not sacrifice money for a principle (Truth).

    So I think we can expect these crises to continue into the future. Oh sure, things will change a little bit. But 15 years from now everyone would have forgotten what a recession feels like, the world will be awash with credit again, assets will be overvalued and all the expects will say "this time its different".

    We will not change.



  3. I recently heard commentator (and now author) Glenn Beck comment that on his book tour throughout numerous states, he found marked differences in attitudes in the North and South. In the North, he said, people were worried, angry, bitter, nearly hysterical about the current crises we face. In the South, folks were concerned, but they did not present as though the entire world was going over the edge. They seemed ready to face whatever comes. "I think it's because there's something in the Bible Belt," he commented. "They just have a faith that says, 'We'll be alright.'" Commentator Dennis Prager notes that the extreme liberal element wants us to become like Europe: completely secularized, void of any mention of personal faith. This is their utopian ideal. "Imagine" by John Lennon vs "I Can Only Imagine." There are times I would like to move to Wyoming and become a hermit, but then the world loses the light God has placed in me. We can't hide under a bushel. Where darkness abounds, grace abounds much more!

  4. Well, here we are.  Scratching our heads about why this happened and how we're going to fix it. How does faith and finance work together? It can if we understand why we have faith. What faith is calling us to. And is it a call to go beyond just being ethical in business?

    We simply won't admit that comfortable is a very lazy spiritual teacher. Is faith about being "Alright"? We are killing each other in a Walmart over stuff we probably don't need anyway. And then (God have mercy on us) complaining when asked to leave.  This isn't about Christian or secular worldviews. This is about all of us being completely consumed in self. I'm sitting in front of a warm fire with my lap top while 800 people in my city sleep in the cold tonight because we can't seem to find the money, or place for them to go. Every night all year long. So, we all know where I'm at. Guilty.

    Thank God for uncertainty! Allow it to help us redefine what IS important and what it is we can be certain in. WWJD? Shop? 

    For me, it is a growing awareness that I've missed the point somewhere and I need to go find it again. The point being I'm not here to be comfortable. I'm here to care beyond myself, beyond my comfort, beyond the Walmart doors. Beyond where I thought I  could go. To where Jesus is. Shop until we drop…I think we've done just that. Nero may have fiddled…we shop.    

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