David Waters: Church Silence on the Economy

Posted by Kendall Harmon

So why aren't the leaders of our major Christians denominations saying anything about the economy? They've had plenty to say during the past week about other pressing moral issues. Catholic bishops remain focused on abortion. Southern Baptist leaders continue to condemn abortion and defend Sarah Palin, and National Baptist Convention leaders fretting about aging congregations and applauded Michelle Obama. Presbyterian leaders expressed concern about gun violence, Assemblies of God about hurricane victims, Lutherans about poverty, United Church of Christ leaders about peace. None of them said anything about Wall Street.

Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did express some concern about how the economic crisis might be affecting the welfare of others, but only to remind LDS about the church's own welfare program "based on the principle of self-reliance."

Read it all. Well, the blog has not been silent, and I took the first chunk of adult Sunday School last Sunday in the parish in which I serve to address the issue. If you have an example of a response from your parish or diocese, I would like to see it--KSH

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomy

Posted September 30, 2008 at 5:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:

mainly cos we are not economists and dont fully understand the causes or implications i reckon. Whilst I susect much fault lies with greed and selfish hoarding of wealth- and whilst i am not suprised that a scoiety consuming more than it produces is in trouble- i feel out of my depth to comment publically

September 30, 5:47 pm | [comment link]
2. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:

i should add that a fair comparison might be to ask the outgoing bankers for their eschatological theology and to back up answers with reference to the early church fathers

September 30, 5:48 pm | [comment link]
3. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

Perhaps the church should simply be silent on the economy.

I do not hold forth on astro-physics ... because I don’t really know what I’m talking about. That said, and based on what I’ve seen, I know far more about astro-physics than the average church type knows about the economy.

Their observations, interjections, and interventions are based in ignorance, having, therefore, nothing to contribute to any reasonable discussion of the matter.

In fact, I’d give pretty good odds that your garden-variety options trader in some ordinary brokerage ... could give a much better explanation of basic theology than your typical church mucky-mucky could say anything intelligent about macro-economics.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool ...

September 30, 5:54 pm | [comment link]
4. Clueless wrote:

#3 Better to remain silent and be thought a fool…

Ditto.  Please see my comment under Roman Catholic bishops weighing in.

September 30, 6:14 pm | [comment link]
5. The_Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

I am amused that my boss (the rector) came into the office today to write out his annual fund raising letter for the year’s pledge drive for the church’s capital campaign. In Episcopal Churches, this is usually done in the fall so the budget can be worked on and finalized for the next year.

Nothing like writing a fund raising letter on the day after the stock market had the single biggest one day drop (770+ points) in modern history.

Yeah, good times…

September 30, 6:27 pm | [comment link]
6. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Oh, Christopher Johnson is on top of this big time at the MCJ.  Here’s a lovely article he’s posted:

As I observed there, this is just another example of the “diversity” of thought in the CoE and Anglican Communion, wot?

September 30, 6:32 pm | [comment link]
7. Clueless wrote:

#5.  Yeh, I know.  That job has been mine in my RC parish for the past 3 years.  We actually are on budget and giving has increased every year, but it is getting harder and I’m not looking forward to this fall’s campaign, particularly since my pastor makes a point of bating the masses during the Masses…(He is as pro illegal immigration as Schori is on GLBT).

September 30, 6:48 pm | [comment link]
8. Phillip wrote:

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a very thoughtful statement. It demonstrates that they have structures to address such issues, a knowledge of positions taken in the past which are relevant, and a sufficient grasp of moral theology, to say something intelligent. One can only wonder why our own church has nothing to say. I am confident that individual clergy have engaged this issue to the best of their ability, but the House of Bishops seems either to be unprepared or unwilling to say how this financial crisis might best be understood by the members of our church.
Phillip Cato

September 30, 8:53 pm | [comment link]
9. hippocamper wrote:

It’s a good time to point out that we are to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven!  (Mt 6:20)

September 30, 11:06 pm | [comment link]
10. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

I would point out that in times gone by the suggestion that clergy should avoid commenting on matters of economics which they do not understand was frequently adopted by wealthier members of certain Episcopal congregations for self-interested reasons. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t clergy (and laity) who don’t know what they are talking about, but there’s a big difference between a disagreement over diagnosis and pure ignorance.

Candidly, I still don’t get all the ramifications of what is taking place, but then I’ve never pretended to be an economic historian.

October 1, 12:02 am | [comment link]
11. physician without health wrote:

We prayed for wisdom for our leaders as they confront the economic issues which are before us.  Also, Pastor made a rather urgent appeal for contributions for the church food bank.  The sermon though was focused on the Gospel reading for the day.

October 1, 12:21 am | [comment link]
12. Franz wrote:

A sermon at the church I attended this week, building on the lesson from Exodus, talked about dealing with uncertainty and anxiety, and trusting in God, during uncertain economic times.

The writers above beat me to the punch with the observations that many (most) clerics are not equipped to render any meaningful opinions on finance or economics.  An example:

Many years ago, I attended a morning service at a congregational church (UCC) where my granparents had been members for over 70 years (my grandmother’s memorial service was that afternoon).  It was shortly after Microsoft had reached a settlement on a major anti-trust issue with the federal government.  Microsoft had been stockpiling cash against an adverse result, and, with the anti-trust issue resolved, had made an enormous cash dividend to its shareholders.  The preacher (an assistant pastor at this congregation) railed about the “windfall” that Microsoft shareholders had received, and expounded on what Bill Gates should do with this “windfall.”  If she had known anything about the story other than the headlines, she would have known that in fact Mr. Gates and his wife had forwarded the cash to their foundation.  If she had known anything about economics, finance or accounting, she would have known that a transfer of cash from a corporation to its shareholders will be accompanied by a matching drop in its assets.  It may be many things (including a taxable event as far as the IRS is concerned), but it certainly is not a “windfall.”

I’m sure that there are clerics who understand economics, politics, astrophysics, oncology, and many other things.  I just haven’t met many.

October 1, 8:59 am | [comment link]
13. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “One can only wonder why our own church has nothing to say.”

Please let us be thankful for all small mercies.

October 1, 9:19 am | [comment link]
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