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September 29, 2008

The Sky Is Falling

Economy0thb201x300 The well known fable of Chicken Little tells the story of a cowardly fowl who believes that the sky is falling and the world is coming to an end. With the present economic crisis, many in the media and in D.C. have been indulging in similar hysteria, believing that disaster is imminent.

However, Dr. Al Mohler has set forth "A Christian View of the Economic Crisis" that I think all who seek to live with faith in the midst of challenging times should read.

It's so easy to think about the negative in the midst of a crisis. Mohler reminds us that

No economy is perfect, but the American economy remains a marvel. The present crisis is an opportunity to rethink some basic questions and restore trust. There are no easy ways out of a crisis like this, and no painless solutions...This current crisis should also remind Christians that we are not called to be mere economic actors, but stewards. Everything we are, everything we do, and everything we own truly belongs to God and is to be at the disposal of Kingdom purposes. This world is not our home and our treasure is not found here. We are to do all, invest all, own all, purchase all to the glory of God.

So instead of running around like Chicken Little, panic-stricken by the oncoming onslaught of economic crisis, let us take a lesson from the wisdom of Dr. Mohler. He realizes that "there is cause for concern, but no justification for panic."

Rather than hit the panic button, spend that energy thinking about how Christians should glorify God in our economic lives. We should watch the developments and debates in Washington and New York with interest, but we should investigate our own hearts with even greater urgency.

(Image © AlbertMohler.com)

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Mike Perry

This is what infuriates me about so many pastors. They know almost nothing about a topic, and yet they speak as if they were authorities. The result is, as in this article, mere bromides about greed and platitudes about our values being tested.

Dr. Mohler gives no dates for any events later than 1933. It isn't enough to simply state the obvious, that this isn't the Great Depression. What is it? What were the steps on the road that brought us here? Of that he has nothing to say.

Even more strangely, he names no individual alive today and thus no one whose behavior bears on this crisis. He says nothing about organizations or individuals who are either responsible for this problem or who foresaw it and tried to prevent it. What he has written is so generic, it's virtually devoid of any useful content. If I were an economics professor and he turned this in as a student paper on the banking crisis, I'd give him an "F" for writing almost nothing about it.

Dr. Mohler is a decent guy and means well by these remarks. But he simply doesn't understand that this problem has little to do with the collapse of a housing bubble, the closest he comes to commenting on the present crisis. That's a symptom and not the cause. Even more important, blaming an impersonal housing bubble shifts the blame away from those who did cause it--people with names, people who did deeds to which dates can be assigned.

The real cause dates back to the Carter administration and to government policies established then that attempted to make homeowners out of people who didn't have the income or credit rating to buy a home. The added demand that created helped drive the much-faster-than-inflation rise in home prices that made homeownership by the poor even harder and eventually became the bubble that collapsed. In the end, this program has made homeownership even more difficult for those with low incomes. It is driven up to cost of homes enormously and left banks so weak they will be unable to make loans to people who might otherwise qualify.

In the Clinton administration, the federal government went still further. It got nasty, fining banks who didn't make loans to people who didn't qualify for them and in neighborhoods where home values were as likely to fall as to rise. The initial driving force wasn't greed, it was a foolish sort of doing good at someone else's expense that's the trademark of liberals. No law, for instance, kept people as wealthy as Kerry and Kennedy from funding these high risk loans with their own money. But they weren't risking their own money. They were risking what may be as much as one trillion dollars of the taxpayer's money.

It was only at that point when greed intervened in a big way. Some in banking realized that they could make quick profits on loans that should never been made and pass the risks along to the federal government. With that gravy train established, they in turn rewarded those in Congress who kept the foul system running, a virtually who's who of liberal Democrats.

And yes, there were thus who saw this train wreck coming and tried to advert it. The Bush administration tried in 2003 and several Republicans (including McCain) tried in 2005. They were blocked both times by the Democrats. By one accounting, the four senators who received the most from Freddie Mae and Fannie Mae were, in order: Chris Dodd, John Kerry, Barrack Obama, and Hillary Clinton.

That's why, with the exception of FOX, the press is doing little to explain this disaster and why many in Congress want to rush though legislation giving the impression of a fix. The liberal press is depending on their steady drum beat about greedy Republicans over the years to cause voters to blame Bush, McCain and the Republicans.

Dr. Mohler's virtually contentless remarks not only do nothing to counter that deception, they give his less perceptive readers the feeling that they now know the cause, keeping them from reading someone better informed. His repeated stress on greed will simply connect in his readers mind to countless news stories about greedy Republicans and greedy corporations. He should have noted the greedy members of Congress by name and their friends, also by name, in the corporate world. In a very real sense it is slander to condemn all in general terms for the sins that only a few have committed. Name names or say nothing.

Like pastors in general, Dr. Mohler is trapped in the world in which he lives. Experts in communication have pointed out that the widespread use of Powerpoint distorts communication inside organizations, reducing complex issues to simple bullet points. Evangelicalism has a different sort of communication problem. An inordinate amount of communication among believers is unidirectional, meaning from preacher to pew, that has as its objective telling them what they have done wrong and what they should do about it. Since they're often not remotely responsible for many of our problems, the result is preaching that's worse than useless. People who might have done good get pushed by their pastor into needless soul searching.

Here, Dr. Mohler, instead of focusing on understanding what actually happened and actively demanding action from our political leaders, action that includes punishing those responsible for this problem, tells us this bit of pastoral nonsense:

"Rather than hit the panic button, spend that energy thinking about how Christians should glorify God in our economic lives. We should watch the developments and debates in Washington and New York with interest, but we should investigate our own hearts with even greater urgency."

No, no, no. God is glorified when wrongdoers are punished not when believers sit on their rumps watching TV networks distort and lie. And there's little need for 99.999% of his readers to "investigate their own hearts with even greater urgency." They bear no direct responsibility for this crisis. Instead, we should be asking ourself why we were so ill-informed and so irresponsible to our country and to our children, who'll bear the burden of paying this off, that we weren't informed and acting earlier. And we should be asking ourselves what we can do to remove these wrongdoers from public office. Twice, Jesus took a whip to crooked moneychangers. We need to do something similar.

One final note. Christians bear some of the blame for this when they expect their pastor to have answers to every question that arises. They'd be better served if they read more and tried to be better informed themselves, in this case, seeking out believers who actually know politics and economics. Pastors shouldn't be pushed into commenting on topics they don't understand and don't have the time to learn.

Again I stress that Dr. Mohler isn't a bad man. He'd simply unqualified to respond to this crisis properly precisely because, as a pastor, he's too specialized and narrowly focused. Economics and politics are no more his speciality than is brain surgery. He should leave well enough alone or, even better, share his platform someone who does know, perhaps by linking to websites with good commentary.

--Michael W. Perry, Seattle


Without trying to address most of what you wrote (because I'm in medicine and therefore unqualified to judge the matter), I have a question about your citation of Jesus and the moneylenders in the Temple: Was our Lord's purpose in doing so to punish these men for their financial wrongdoings?


Mike Perry wrote: "Experts in communication have pointed out that the widespread use of Powerpoint distorts communication inside organizations, reducing complex issues to simple bullet points."

Indeed. http://norvig.com/Gettysburg/

Gina Dalfonzo



I am glad you took the time to help explain some of the issues but your opinion of Dr. Mohler is just that, Your opinion and you are welcome to it. In some respects I agree with you but to say that he is unqualified simply because he is a pastor is totally off. As a Pastor he should hopefully have enough people in his circle of friends, co-laborers, and yes congregation that can help him become well informed about the issue(s).
In this case I would like to think that he was attempting to settle people down who are listening to the mainstream media who have pushed the "panic button" hook, line, and sinker.
For more information on this subject please see the following links:
A very fast paced clip that shows the history of the mess:

More information about this mess and how it fits into the overall attack on America from within.


Regarding the breakpoint article of 10/01/08 I am of the opinion that as an alternative to the notion that the people are operating from the point of view of "What's in it for me", I would say hopefully they as American citizens are familiar enough with our Government to know that a Government fix to a Government caused problem is a case where the fix will probably be worse then the sickness. This Congress in a hurry produces nothing good.
In my opinion what needs to happen is the Community Re-investment Act (C.R.A.) needs to be repealed and the leaders of Freddie mac and Fannie Mae held accountable for the personal profiteering they engaged in. The Democrats who ran interferance for them need to be investigated and held accountable. And Lastly we need to make it a prosecutable offense for misuse of government funds for any Government entity to Lobby at all.


9 yrs ago we were plied with cheap mortgages in Canada via the internet and I wonder if Mike Perry has not got a point.
Living within our means is not a palatable sermon topic in this day and age of credit. It reminds me of a sage saying from a wise Chief from Mikes area who was quoted as saying "We did not inherit the earth from our forefathers, we are borrowing it from our children". Advertising and envy has created an appetite in the West which has become insatiable. We have so much stuff we are choked with it and I am bewildered by my own possessional addictions. Perhaps a revolution in downsizing is needed? An outpouring of benevolent disownership. I can hear a still small voice saying "Dont you have enough?"


harvey wrote: "[...] and I wonder if Mike Perry has not got a point."

One might as well wonder if the sun rose this morning; Mike *always* has a point. (And usually he even manages to express it with gentleness and respect.)

However, I'm not quite ready to board Chief Seattle's (possibly apocryphal) bandwagon. One of the side effects of our form of greed is a generalized improvement in everyone's standard of living. c.f. Diane's posting here for countries where greed has truly and unequivocally been at the expense of the poor: http://thepoint.breakpoint.org/2008/09/an-american-hou.html

That said, I truly believe that Christians should be stronger stewards than anyone else. But I'm not willing to save the planet, or even to slow the engines of commerce and the consumerism that fuels them, in exchange for, say, a cure for malaria or AIDS.

So *my* point is that economics is a tricky business, and we should not rush headlong one way or another without much reflection and preferably much prayer. Ultimately I agree (perhaps to her astonishment) with Angelise.

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