November 17, 2009

Did Christianity Cause the Crash?

Posted: 03:19 PM ET

by Hanna Rosin via The Atlantic

The Vatican says more Anglicans have expressed an interest in joining the Catholic Church.America’s mainstream religious denominations used to teach the faithful that they would be rewarded in the afterlife. But over the past generation, a different strain of Christian faith has proliferated—one that promises to make believers rich in the here and now. Known as the prosperity gospel, and claiming tens of millions of adherents, it fosters risk-taking and intense material optimism. It pumped air into the housing bubble. And one year into the worst downturn since the Depression, it’s still going strong.

America’s churches always reflect shifts in the broader culture, and Casa del Padre is no exception. The message that Jesus blesses believers with riches first showed up in the postwar years, at a time when Americans began to believe that greater comfort could be accessible to everyone, not just the landed class. But it really took off during the boom years of the 1990s, and has continued to spread ever since. This stitched-together, homegrown theology, known as the prosperity gospel, is not a clearly defined denomination, but a strain of belief that runs through the Pentecostal Church and a surprising number of mainstream evangelical churches, with varying degrees of intensity. In Garay’s church, God is the “Owner of All the Silver and Gold,” and with enough faith, any believer can access the inheritance. Money is not the dull stuff of hourly wages and bank-account statements, but a magical substance that comes as a gift from above. Even in these hard times, it is discouraged, in such churches, to fall into despair about the things you cannot afford. “Instead of saying ‘I’m poor,’ say ‘I’m rich,’” Garay’s wife, Hazael, told me one day. “The word of God will manifest itself in reality.”

Many explanations have been offered for the housing bubble and subsequent crash: interest rates were too low; regulation failed; rising real-estate prices induced a sort of temporary insanity in America’s middle class. But there is one explanation that speaks to a lasting and fundamental shift in American culture—a shift in the American conception of divine Providence and its relationship to wealth.

In his book Something for Nothing, Jackson Lears describes two starkly different manifestations of the American dream, each intertwined with religious faith. The traditional Protestant hero is a self-made man. He is disciplined and hardworking, and believes that his “success comes through careful cultivation of (implicitly Protestant) virtues in cooperation with a Providential plan.” The hero of the second American narrative is a kind of gambling man—a “speculative confidence man,” Lears calls him, who prefers “risky ventures in real estate,” and a more “fluid, mobile democracy.” The self-made man imagines a coherent universe where earthly rewards match merits. The confidence man lives in a culture of chance, with “grace as a kind of spiritual luck, a free gift from God.” The Gilded Age launched the myth of the self-made man, as the Rockefellers and other powerful men in the pews connected their wealth to their own virtue. In these boom-and-crash years, the more reckless alter ego dominates. In his book, Lears quotes a reverend named Jeffrey Black, who sounds remarkably like Garay: “The whole hope of a human being is that somehow, in spite of the things I’ve done wrong, there will be an episode when grace and fate shower down on me and an unearned blessing will come to me—that I’ll be the one.”

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A. Smith, Oregon   November 17th, 2009 5:37 pm ET

Greetings Larry, I love your show.

A small handful of individuals around the world KNEW the horrific economic crash was coming. And like sharks in a empty tank, reached out to anyone that listened to invest their money in any number of get rich quick schemes. To pump money into IRA's, and various so-called safe investments knowing full well those funds would soon be theirs.

As per this theme and topic, a large number of the popular and often seen Christian Broadcasters were right at the top of the list of 'barkers' that implored their faithful followers to put all of their hard earned money into various get rich quick schemes.

Jesus would vomit into the nearest waste basket after watching those that purport to follow him imploring their followers to place their money into their 'Christian Approved' investment schemes.

Of course the sad end came last year when it was exposed that 6 Trillion dollars suddenly disappeared world-wide from all of the IRA's, hedge funds etc.

MaryRM   November 17th, 2009 7:26 pm ET

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.…
….for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21

Ethan Winter   November 17th, 2009 10:14 pm ET

I don't think that christian religion by itself caused the current crisis we are in. We already no what got us into the crisis, sub-prime mortgages. Religion though I feel destroys peace. Look at the Pogroms in Russia, The Holocaust in Europe, The slaughter of Armenian christians in Armenia, and Jihad.

William D   November 17th, 2009 10:40 pm ET

I believe the collapse was caused by a fundamental shift away from Christian values.

3 John 1:2 "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest PROSPER AND BE IN HEALTH, even as thy soul prospereth"

An example of this prosperity is Solomon, who has never been matched in wealth throughout history. However, God never said the prosperity was free. There are two basic principles that God has Jesus Christ share.

Luke 14:8 "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and COUNTETH THE COST, whether he have [sufficient] to finish [it]?"

Romans 13:8 "OWE NO MAN ANYTHING, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law"

Failure to adhere to these two biblical principles left America open to adjustable rate interest and banks without limitations on monthly contract changes mailed with bill statements and the common clause, "By continuing to use your credit card, you agree to the terms above."

Before you know it, you have debt beyond your means, one late payment, stacked with an over-limit payment, and max interest.

All because America made debt a profitable and ludicrously uncontrolled business.

Mike   November 17th, 2009 10:43 pm ET

The Christian and Muslim religion are not suppose to practice usury according to Bible and Koran. The Jew's are responsible for the crises because they allowed the practice of usury in all the banking and financial sectors of the World. The reality is no real fearing Jew, Christian or Muslim should practice usury as so written in all the Holy Books of God.

Marvin Thompson   November 17th, 2009 10:48 pm ET

Larry's question: Do you pray, "Yes I pray".

Lee Griffith   November 18th, 2009 1:53 am ET

Men of God, such as Abraham, Joseph, David, and Solomon according to history; were some of the wealthiest in the world. How else could they have accomplished what they did such as feeding themselves and their neighbors during famine and building Solomon's temple.

How can the poor, as much of the world expects Christians to be (I guess it proves they are pious) feed the hungry? How can those in debt and lack assist or even found groups like Feed the Children, CBN, and the 700 Club; who assist the poor, needy, and destitute of our world.

To paraphrase the Bible, the Lord's blessing makes rich and adds no sorrow with it. The prosperity of the wicked is laid up for the righteous.

Why? To spread the Gospel and help the poor and hungry people. Prosperity is given by God so that we might do good unto others and not for personal pleasure! True Christians tithe and give offerings to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. TBN is broadcasting the Word to the world through thousands of sattelites. Almost every inch of the world is covered by these beneficial programs.

How can you blame people like this with causing the crash? That's like blaming Mother Teresa with causing drought or famine!

Sara   November 18th, 2009 4:58 am ET

To blame the crash on Christianity is absurd. It started a long time ago with the "get it now" philosophy. Not waiting to get it when you can afford it. Young couples feel that they HAVE to start life out with what took their parents years to acquire. Every business – aided by the credit card companies issuing credit to unqualified people (even unemployed college students and teenagers) – promoted this philosophy. The media is full of secular people advertising their brand of get rich quick schemes – from real estate deals to business opportunities. TRUE Christianity follows Biblical teachings which do not promote health, wealth, and prosperity for everyone – except in Heaven. The sad thing is that people don't read the Bible for themselves to see if what the scam artist preachers are telling them is really true or not.

Jay   November 18th, 2009 5:12 am ET

YES!!! christianity caused the crash. Everyone forgot, when George Bush became President he took the surplus from the Clinton administrstion and gave to THE CHURCH, and told them to go sell christianity to the world. That money is buying converts and turning them into christian terrorists in India and other parts of the world.

Remember, it was THE CHURCH that made George Bush President. Giving the money to THE CHURCH was a payback.

Before pointing fingers at Islamic Jihadists, whom I despised, christians need to examine their own actions. Christian Missionary works in the world,as Gandhi said, is poisoning the foundation of Truth.

Jesus said : The Kingdon of Heaven is not of this world. And in Revelation is this verse: Lucifer Shall Deceive and Dominate the World. Christianity and Islam are the cause of all the bloodshed in the world.They also staged all the political upheaval, starvation, and poverty in the world, in order to make Jesus the Savior.

Joe G. (Illinois)   November 18th, 2009 3:19 pm ET

If people were to open their eyes and listen they would be able to see and hear what’s right in front of them “At the least.” Not to mention if they read the word of God in the Bible. God is fair.. No matter what book.. Questions.. Or insinuations

Candy°°   November 18th, 2009 5:08 pm ET

Not the "Christian religion" is to blaim; no offence meant, but to me it seems that it all has to do with America ... where anyone can wake up one morning and decide to open up a church, as they were to open up a bakery. And they can hide under the "Christian" curtain to preach whatever they feel like. To much wrongly understood freedom and people much to much ready to believe everything and anyone without questioning anything and not bothering to open up – at least a bit – their eyes.

A. Smith, Oregon   November 19th, 2009 3:45 pm ET

True riches only come from the Absolute Manifested Faith of the Creator.

All of the Gold, Diamonds, Treasures found on Earth and thru out the physical Universe came from the energy body of the Creator. If you covet those, or anything in Creation, then you are not coveting the spirit of the Creator which sacrificed them.

There is absolutely nothing which would cause the Creator to be jealous of what he has given and sacrificed. Sadness, YES when his ungrateful children thank others and omit thanking the Creator.

If Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni had created the Mona Lisa solely by creating the painted pigments from the fluids and tissues of his own body, then laypersons could better grasp the relationship of the Creator with Creation.

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