September 29, 2020

Fifteen Random Thoughts About the Economic Crisis

Rather random. Incomplete. Just things I keep thinking.

1. I’m convinced that some of the news media (***cough*** Fox ***cough***) are using the financial situation to create a “panic” audience. That is, they are putting on every extreme, doomsday voice they can, they are ignoring larger context, they are keeping their audiences convinced this is the end of the world, and then they are hauling in the advertisers. I’m surprised that so many Christians are failing to notice the agenda of much of the news media in this situation.

2. I’m not discounting the seriousness of the situation when I make the observation in statement #1. I’m not saying the doomsday team isn’t right. I’m not in any position to say what is going on, but I am concerned that the news and opinion on some venues is being selected with a good deal of bias. The information picture is large and complex. Throwing the worst case scenarios out there hour after hour seems to be a specific tactic with a specific (political) goal in mind.

3. I listen to a good bit of BBC and CBC. It’s not panic headlines 24-7. There seems to be more context. It’s the same crisis, and there are a lot of very unflattering things said about the U.S., the stimulus, the bailouts, businesses, government, etc. But I don’t hear these media outlets playing the situation for panic, profit or politics.

4. There are economic “laws of gravity.” Simple, fundamental laws of “what goes up, must come down.” It seems to me that we’ve been ignoring these laws for decades. We don’t save money. We don’t spend carefully. We don’t have sufficient income. We don’t pay for what we purchase. Millions of us have no plans to honestly earn a living and live within what we earn. We ignore all these laws of gravity, and we build a system– almost a financial amusement park– that allows us to avoid this reality and rewards our greed. What’s happened? Nothing we shouldn’t have expected eventually. What were we thinking?

5. The detachment of our economic life from reality has caused us to develop an unrestricted consumer mentality. If this economic crisis is going to do us any favors, it will convince us that we have to come back to earth in earning, saving and spending. It will reattachment our consumerism to what we can earn, save and spend.

6. I have to admit that I’m quite happy that this ridiculous consumeristic spiral is going to have to slow down. I’m not one of these liberals who prays for disaster so we can all live with a goat and never use another gallon of gas, but the quality of human life made possible by INSANE credit practices and INSANE materialistic appetites needed some brakes before all relation to reality left the planet.

7. It’s interesting to watch people think the thought, “This could go on for years. I may have to (insert something related to work, modest retirement, smaller accommodations, etc.)” In it’s way, this is the disempowerment of our destiny that a person feels when they hear a serious medical diagnosis and they realize they have lost control. They cannot MAKE reality bend to their will. They have lost the power to guarantee outcomes. They must depend on a higher power who isn’t cooperating; who isn’t letting them determine what “all things for good” means.

This is the tragedy of the bailouts. For the most part, they reward with survival what the economic system has deemed unworthy of survival.

8. In a way, this is “welcome to Kingdom of God practice.” The values are upside down. We aren’t living out of our abundance, but out of God’s faithful provision. The last may be first, literally. The first are discovering what it’s like to be last. The values of the Kingdom of God can’t just be a dressed up version of our own values. We’re going to get a chance to ask, “Do I really believe this? Will I really live this?”

9. My dad was born in 1911; my mom in 1921. Both were born to poor, rural families in different parts of the country. My mom experienced the Great Depression as a child and teenager. My dad experienced it as a young adult. For both of them, it was clearly the defining experience of their lives. My dad buried money in the back yard as long as I knew him. I thought he was crazy. (Now I’m scouting out good holes.) Both of them had adopted values about personal spending and saving that were totally at variance with my own values.

10. For example, my mother never spent money on herself. I never saw her buy a new item of clothing other than undergarments. She always– always– bought from yard sales and thrift stores. She bought all our clothes there as well. My parents might buy a pair of shoes at a shoe store, but that was a major event.

When I started working for a local grocery store, I took my first check and bought two new shirts. My dad completely freaked out. I never saw such a reaction. He wanted me to save ALL of my check, and all of my future checks. Church, gas, insurance, and some help for the family were appropriate expenditures, but new clothes, gadgets, toys, music all were not. It was a war for me to get the right to buy an occasional record. All of this grew out of the influence of the Great Depression on my parents. They simply had an entirely different relationship with money than I’ve ever had.

11. One of the moments of my life that is most prominent in my memory is my dad taking me to the local Savings and Loan to open up a savings account. Not a checking account or a line of credit. No, a savings account. I was expected to put as much of my money as possible into that savings account so I could buy a car or pay for college. I would assume that ritual today has been replaced with getting your first credit card or cell phone.

12. It’s become apparent that 9-11 was not a defining experience for our generation or our children. Will this financial experience become a great, shared, defining experience? Will the experience of losing a house, losing a job, kids getting part time jobs, etc., moving in with other family, etc., all become a defining experience for this generation? We are going to come face to face with our expectations of what we can do with money, and I’m convinced that we are going to come away from this with a changed perspective about money. I’m not hoping or praying for any kind of return to the previous system. I’d prefer a return to saving, to sanity and to modest expectations of what credit means and does.

13. Denise and I have very little of anything. In a way, this has made us worry less and made whatever adjustments we are contemplating seem like less of an issue. Still, just having entered our fifties and looking at the future, the thought I keep having is that nothing is more valuable than our faith and trust in God. I see people, good people, losing their grip on their faith and going into panic. I see a lot of anger and manipulation happening, and I think, “Where would we be without God’s promises?” I know that one day this will be a sentence or two in some history book, I’ll be dust and all will proceed on with not even a nod at my net worth. My treasure has to be in heaven or else the moth, rust, rot and ruin will drive me to despair.

14. Thanks God for “Holy poverty,” and I don’t just mean as some rhetoric in an article about the saints. I mean the people I know who embrace poverty and the life of poverty; people who don’t need more than a few things to be who they are on any given day, and have enormous, ever-increasing gratitude for the small things that are provided. I’ve lived a lifetime in a culture that says I must have a warehouse of possessions to be happy, but I know from watching my grandmother, my mother, the poor Christians in Appalachia and in the inner city and some of my fellow servants/ministers that this is not necessary. Simplicity, poverty, holiness, good gifts and positive pleasures: they are all part of this life.

15. Strange way to end this, I know: Thank God a hundred thousand times for DAVE RAMSAY, who led us to get out of debt almost ten years ago. I don’t have “piles and piles of cash,” but Ramsay has been an incredible mentor in being debt free and happy about it.

Comments

  1. Ky boy but not now says

    Shayne
    “Most points, I don’t agree with – either, the context or degree – the point which is the saddest, is point 6.
    Many, many, hundreds of millions will suffer. …”

    Agreed. But the US in particular and Western “powers” in general have been on a 50 year economic bender. Spending more than we produce. And the longer we take (took maybe) to stop it the worse the pain will be. It had to stop or the pain would get totally out of hand.

    I liken it to diabetics who avoid seeing the doctor over foot infections due to poor circulation and wind up loosing their foot, leg, or life eventually.

  2. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Fox, MSNBC, CNN — they’re all to a point where avoiding them is probably a good thing. Panic and controversy sells, be it a market crash or an escaped monkey. — Justin V

    If you want capital-P PANIC, try Art Bell (or whoever’s hosting his show these days) sometime… I can’t tell the difference these days between Art Bell, Hal Lindsay, or South Park.

    K. W. — Your comments about the church people saying, “I’ll pray for you” and yet do nothing, brings back memories. — Anna A

    Same here. “I’ll Pray For You (TM)” is just a Christianese excuse for doing nothing and sounding oh-so-pious about doing nothing.

    These days, whenever somebody uses the “I’ll Pray for You” line on me, I come back with a line from Babylon-5: “We too have a saying. PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS.”

    Well, I work with a lot of conservative Christians and they talk about Fox endlessly. … The whole idea of building a loyal audience through apocalyptic reporting just doesn’t seem to be on the map. — IMonk

    Well, “building a loyal audience through apocalyptic reporting” WORKS. And it really works with Evangelical Christians. Just check a lot of Christian “Rapture Ready” media for a non-MSM example.

    Too many Christians are “living just this side of Left Behind and find it all Very Exciting.” Christ got thrown under the Grinning Apocalyptic bus (and the YEC bus, and the Culture War bus) a long time ago.

  3. it could be the doormat to an awakening.

  4. Re: BBC… What we see of the BBC on US television and hear syndicated on the radio is rather different than what the typical Brit sees and hears on BBC domestic news. While the presentation is almost always a bit more linguistically polished and tends to go more in depth, there is a clear disdain for things conservative and in particular, things conservative and American. Whether this stems from neo-class-consciousness or just a sneering superiority complex vis-a-vis the “colonials,” the end result is that much of the British populace views Americans (save for the American leftists who they have a fuzzy love for) as a mass of uneducated rednecks clinging to their guns and God. BBC is hardly the scion of objectivity that those of us who grew up with World Service on shortwave radio and Alistair Cook were enamored with. We’re all the poorer for it.

    Zoomie (who lived in the UK from 2003-2008)

  5. Its pretty obvious God is knocking over Americas golden calf the way Moses did the Israelites calf in the desert.We are no different than the Israelites were because fallen human nature hasnt changed a bit and there is nothing new under the sun.
    “They honor Him with our lips but their hearts are far from me”

    http://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=A0oGkii2LqRJ.UoAMnNXNyoA?ei=UTF-8&p=wall%20street%20bull&fr2=tab-web&fr=yfp-t-501

  6. Sorry “they honor Me” not Him

  7. Im still not quite awake….Correction…
    “They honor Me with their lips but their hearts are far from me”