In a piece for The Atlantic, Hanna Rosin asks, “Did Christianity Cause the Crash?”
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.
Phil Ferguson, writing for a new site called Skeptic Money, explains some of the problems with the “prosperity gospel”:
This brings two terrible realities. The first is that people get into financial trouble by not investing wisely. They get expensive houses and expensive cars and they don’t save because God will take care of you. Then something bad happens, you lose your job or they just cut your pay a little or your hours. Now you can’t make the payments and the housing market falls 10 -20% (or more) and everything is lost. Years of work with no money saved, no investments and no house!…
It’s irresponsible to think a god will provide at all and it’s even worse if you don’t do anything on your end because you think everything will just magically turn out alright.
Any pastor who asks a parishioner to give up some of their salary — when there isn’t much of it to begin with — is offering just the worst type of legal advice:
I asked [pastor Fernando] Garay why his parishioner Billy Gonzales, who earns barely $25,000 and has no money to fix his car, should donate 10 percent of his income. “Because it gives him a new mentality. It teaches him that money can breed more money, that you can have money in your pocket on Saturday morning even though you got paid Friday night. People who support the church week after week have a dedication. Those who just give $5 or $10 here and there, you’ll hear them have the same problems week after week.”
Ugh. It makes me sick to even think about it.