Category : Personal Finance

(Albert Mohler) Would You Trade Eternal Life For A Ferrari? The False Gospel of Prosperity Theology

Edward Luce, the American Editor for the Financial Times, penned [an] article [in the Financial Times in April], which chronicles his visit to Lakewood Church, the most significant temple to the prosperity gospel in America. Luce marshals all his prowess and analytical skill to craft this insightful article—a story that explores the friction between the prosperity gospel of Joel Osteen and the historic, orthodox Christian faith.

Luce’s report not only details what is present in prosperity theology, but what is absent. He attended a men’s support meeting and wrote, “Optimism, hope, destiny, harvest, bounty—these are Lakewood’s buzzwords. Prosperity too.” Then, he reveals the glaring absence of crucial theological terms: “Words that are rarely heard include guilt, shame, sin, penance and hell. Lakewood is not the kind of church that troubles your conscience.” The supervisor of the men’s support group said to Luce, “If you want to feel bad, Lakewood is not the place for you. Most people want to leave church feeling better than when they went in.”

This statement distills the essential message of prosperity theology—a theology not centered on God and his glory, but an anthropocentric psychological message aimed at making individuals merely feel better about themselves.

Indeed, self-promotion undergirds the success of the prosperity gospel. All meaning and significance in the universe revolves around the self. Thus, meaning and identity have shifted away from the self-revealing, self-existing God and towards the self-important, self-worshiping individual whom God loves.

God certainly loves us. Indeed, the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” The prosperity gospel, however, shifts the impetus of that love away from the praise and glory of the Creatortowards the praise and glory of the creature. Luce captures this sentiment in his report, noting that Osteen said, “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If he had a computer, your face would be the screen saver.”

Osteen has reversed the entire theological order of biblical Christianity—an order that begins with the supreme priority, glory, and holiness of God.

Read it all (and please note you need an FT subscription to read the Luce article).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology

(BBC) The prosperity gospel preachers getting rich from poor Americans and the Christians trying to thwart their efforts

Televangelists are not as talked about today as they were in the 1980s and 1990s, when many rose to fame and fortune through mushrooming cable channels.

But they have never gone away. Even after numerous press exposés, the rogue elements have often bounced back. Some have got even richer. Many have taken their appeals on to social media.

A number of those making the most persistent pleas for money tap into something called the prosperity gospel, which hinges on a belief that your health and wealth are controlled by God, and God is willing you to be prosperous. Believers are encouraged to show their faith through payments, which they understand will be repaid – many times over – either in the form of wealth or healing.

For followers, it is a way to make sense of sickness and poverty. It can feel empowering and inspiring amid despair. The hard-up donors are often not oblivious to the preachers’ personal wealth – though they may not know the extent of it – but they take the riches as a sign of a direct connection with God. If seed payments have worked for them, maybe they can work for you too?

And if the seeds never flourish? Some are told their faith is not strong enough, or they have hidden sin. In Larry’s case, he often interpreted small pieces of good fortune – a gift of groceries from a neighbour, or the promise of a few extra hours of work for his wife, Darcy – as evidence of fruition.

He estimates he gave about $20,000 to these operators over the years. A little here, a little there. A few years ago, he started tallying it all up.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Movies & Television, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Theology

(MarketWatch) Former SEC lawyer sounds alarm on ‘the greatest retirement crisis’ in history

He pointed to a “woefully unprepared” U.S. population.

“In the decades to come, we will witness millions of elderly American’s, Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty.” he said in a podcast this week with the Peak Prosperity blog. “‘Too frail to work, too poor to retire’” will become the new normal for many elderly Americans.”

Siedle threw out some startling numbers to show just how much pensions are underfunded, a pervasive problem made worse by their inability to reach performance targets, which is typically set around 7%.

“Warren Buffett BRK.A, +1.41% himself has said that is an unrealistic return,” Siedle said in the interview. “Wall Street’s solution to every investor problem is, and will always be, pay us more fees.”

Investors then pay those higher fees for “ever riskier rolls of the dice,” in an effort to chase returns, which “has resulted, predictably, in worse performance.”

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pensions, Personal Finance, Personal Finance & Investing, Social Security

(Quillette) Joel Kotkin–The End of Aspiration

Since the end of the Second World War, middle- and working-class people across the Western world have sought out—and, more often than not, achieved—their aspirations. These usually included a stable income, a home, a family, and the prospect of a comfortable retirement. However, from Sydney to San Francisco, this aspiration is rapidly fading as a result of a changing economy, soaring land costs, and a regulatory regime, all of which combine to make it increasingly difficult for the new generation to achieve a lifestyle like that enjoyed by their parents. This generational gap between aspiration and disappointment could define our demographic, political, and social future.

In the United States, about 90 percent of children born in 1940 grew up to experience higher incomes than their parents, according to researchers at the Equality of Opportunity Project. That figure dropped to only 50 percent of those born in the 1980s. The US Census bureau estimates that, even when working full-time, people in their late twenties and early thirties earn $2000 less in real dollars than the same age cohort in 1980. More than 20 percent of people aged 18 to 34 live in poverty, up from 14 percent in 1980. Three-quarters of American adults today predict their child will not grow up to be better-off than they are, according to Pew.

These sentiments are even more pronounced in France, Britain, Spain, Italy, and Germany. In Japan, a remarkable three-quarters of those polled said they believe things will be worse for the next generation. Even in China, many young people face a troubling future; in 2017, eight million graduates entered the job market, but most ended up with salaries that could have been attained by going to work in a factory straight out of high school.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance

(Gallup) Americans’ Confidence in Their Finances Keeps Growing

Americans’ optimism about their personal finances has climbed to levels not seen in more than 16 years, with 69% now saying they expect to be financially better off “at this time next year.”

The 69% saying they expect to be better off is only two percentage points below the all-time high of 71%, recorded in March 1998 at a time when the nation’s economic boom was producing strong economic growth combined with the lowest inflation and unemployment rates in decades.

Americans are typically less positive about how their finances have changed over the past year than about where they’re headed, and that remains the case. Fifty percent say they are better off today than they were a year ago. That 50% still represents a post-recession milestone — the first time since 2007 that at least half of the public has said they are financially better off than a year ago….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, Personal Finance, Psychology

(NYT) David Leonhardt on the growing Economic Divide between Generations in America

For Americans under the age of 40, the 21st century has resembled one long recession.

I realize that may sound like an exaggeration, given that the economy has now been growing for almost a decade. But the truth is that younger Americans have not benefited much.

Look at incomes, for starters. People between the ages of 25 and 34 were earning slightly less in 2017 than people in that same age group had been in 2000….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Young Adults

(Gallup) Seven in 10 Maintain Negative View of U.S. Healthcare System

Seventy percent of Americans describe the current U.S. healthcare system as being “in a state of crisis” or having “major problems.” This is consistent with the 65% to 73% range for this figure in all but one poll since Gallup first asked the question in 1994.

In that one poll — conducted right after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 — just 49% of Americans said the U.S. healthcare system had major problems or was in crisis. This was because of Americans’ heightened concerns about terrorism after the attacks, which temporarily altered their views and behaviors on a variety of issues.

The latest data are from Gallup’s annual Healthcare poll, conducted Nov. 1-11.

Read it all.

Posted in --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Sociology, Theology

A Picture is Worth 100 words–“One of the most important charts about the economy this century”

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, History, Personal Finance

(CNBC) 40% of the American middle class face poverty in retirement, study concludes

Nearly half of middle-class Americans face a slide into poverty as they enter their retirement, a recent study by the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School has concluded.

That risk has been driven by depressed earnings, depressed asset values and increased health-care costs — causing 74 percent of Americans planning to work past traditional retirement age. Additionally, both private and public pension plans have been allowed to become seriously underfunded. So what can be done?

Fundamental changes in the structure of the U.S. economy, combined with increased health-care costs and lack of saving, have created a financial trap for millions of American workers heading into retirement.

Roughly 40 percent of Americans who are considered middle class (based on their income levels) will fall into poverty or near poverty by the time they reach age 65, according to the study.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pensions, Personal Finance, Social Security

‘Try Not to Go Into Labor’: Tales From Those in the Path of Hurricane Florence

Charles Cejka, Edenton, N.C.
Unfortunately, my family does not have the resources to put gas in our vehicle. If we did, the gas pumps here in Edenton, N.C., are empty just minutes after being filled it seems. Long lines of cars wait for fuel to arrive.

I, myself, came here to this city to care for my father, who was diagnosed with cancer, with next to nothing to my name.

We have no way out, so we are staying. We live together in a double-wide trailer.

The family and I have spent the last two days determining what takes precedence to pack and store away. We have prepared meals ahead of time. I bagged up paperwork and made many of my meals ready to eat and water filtration materials available for use. We struggled to find water to store with so many store shelves bare, but we managed.

As Hurricane Florence gets closer, our fingernails seem to get shorter. All this family can do is double-check things, lose a bit of sleep and pray.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Economy, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Personal Finance, Weather

(PewR) Income Inequality in the U.S. Is Rising Most Rapidly Among Asians

Income inequality, a measure of the economic gap between the rich and poor, has risen steadily in the United States since the 1970s. More recently, the issue burst into public consciousness with the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 and subsequent calls for a $15 minimum wage. An important part of the story of rising income inequality is that experiences within America’s racial and ethnic communities vary strikingly from one group to the other.

Today, income inequality in the U.S. is greatest among Asians. From 1970 to 2016, the gap in the standard of living between Asians near the top and the bottom of the income ladder nearly doubled, and the distribution of income among Asians transformed from being one of the most equal to being the most unequal among America’s major racial and ethnic groups.

In this process, Asians displaced blacks as the most economically divided racial or ethnic group in the U.S., according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. While Asians overall rank as the highest earning racial and ethnic group in the U.S., it is not a status shared by all Asians: From 1970 to 2016, the gains in income for lower-income Asians trailed well behind the gains for their counterparts in other groups.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, Personal Finance, Sociology

(IFS) Straight Talk About the Success Sequence, Marriage, and Poverty

Some communities in America convey the success sequence’s three rules to their young adults very emphatically. The importance of these norms gets through loud and clear in much of Mormon Utah, many immigrant communities, and in countless upper-middle class homes, neighborhoods, and schools across the nation. A whole host of stories, ideals, expectations, and norms in these communities foster adherence to the success sequence. This adherence, in turn, reduces the odds that their young adults end up poor, even when those young adults hail from poor and working-class families. It’s no accident, for instance, that children raised in lower-income families from Utah have markedly higher rates of economic mobility than children raised in lower-income families in most other states, or that children raised by poor Chinese immigrants from Brooklyn are much more likely than other poor children in New York City to get into the city’s elite public high schools, positioning them to move into the middle class or higher as adults. These young adults have been formed by communities that reinforce their own versions of the sequence—even in the face of social structural obstacles that make following the sequence more difficult.

There’s no reason, however, to limit the success sequence’s message to the offspring of the privileged, particular immigrant groups, or the religious. All young Americans—regardless of their parents’ education, ethnicity, or religious commitments (or lack thereof)—deserve to hear straight talk about the importance of education, work, and marriage. Although this message is not a panacea, and it is not a substitute for taking policy actions to address structural disadvantages —like reforming education, expanding the child tax credit, and increasing wage subsidies—we owe it to our young people to tell them the truth about how the exercise of their own agency in the direction of particular choices rather than others is likely to affect their own financial future. Doing anything less is just one more way in which our country locks in durable inequality for poor, Black, and Hispanic young men and women, and increases the odds that they forge a path into adulthood not towards the American dream, but towards poverty.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance, Poverty, Sociology

(Axios) 40% in U.S. can’t afford middle-class basics

Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Personal Finance

(Forbes) Religious Organizations Rally To Preserve Current Tax Treatment Of Clergy Housing Allowances

The wonderful thing about this litigation is how it brings different faith communities together in their desire to protect their cherished tax benefit. Not yet available is the brief from the following amici – Christian Legal Society, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, National Association of Evangelicals, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, Council of Churches of New York City,  and Queens Federation of Churches.   Last time around there was a brief that included The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Commission (Southern Baptists, the second largest denomination in the United States probably have the most skin in this game) and   The International Society for Krishna Consciousness and The Islamic Center of Boca Raton.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Inter-Faith Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes

(NYT) A $76,000 Monthly Pension: Why States and Cities Are Short on Cash

A public university president in Oregon gives new meaning to the idea of a pensioner.

Joseph Robertson, an eye surgeon who retired as head of the Oregon Health & Science University last fall, receives the state’s largest government pension.

It is $76,111.

Per month.

That is considerably more than the average Oregon family earns in a year.

Oregon — like many other states and cities, including New Jersey, Kentucky and Connecticut — is caught in a fiscal squeeze of its own making. I

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pensions, State Government, Taxes

A Superb PAW profile piece on MicroLender and Activist José Quiñonez

[Isabel] Caudillo’s is a true American immigrant tale. She came to the United States in 2001 from Mexico City with nothing except a love of cooking. At home she would prepare traditional foods such as stews, beans and rice, and her mother’s mole verde that reminded her of home. A San Francisco community group helped her open a small stand in the Noe Valley Farmers Market, but the low profit margins made it impossible for her to grow.

An industrial steamer, which she needed to make her tamales, cost $1,400, far more than Caudillo had saved. Through a friend, she heard about the Mission Asset Fund (MAF), a community nonprofit organization headed by José Quiñonez *98 that administers “lending circles,” small person-to-person savings groups, to help low-income people put aside money and build credit.

Not only was Caudillo able to save enough to buy a steamer, but by reporting her lending-circle payments to credit agencies, the MAF made it possible for her to build a high credit score, which in turn enabled her to obtain a bank loan she used to open her second location.

“Lending circles were our first financial door,” Caudillo says in a testimonial on the organization’s website. “They gave me access to loans to open my own restaurant, which is something I never could have imagined. But more important than that, they helped me learn to manage the financial system to open even more opportunities in the future.”

Quiñonez, a soft-spoken man with a trim salt-and-pepper beard, was brought to the United States illegally when he was a child and grew up poor. Today he has a community organizer’s gift for phrasemaking. He often reasons by antitheses, one of which is this: Being poor is expensive.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Theology

A picture is Worth 100 Words–The Fading Western Dream

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Economy, England / UK, Europe, History, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance

Perspective from the Pages of History–the Revolution of Personal Checking Accounts in 1954

Posted in * Economics, Politics, History, Personal Finance

Andrew Wilson–Inequality, Privilege, and the Upper Middle Class

Inequality is one of the most entrenched, persistent and socially divisive problems in the modern West. Yet most of us misdiagnose the problem. We imagine that the issue lies with those much better off than us—the 1%, the super-rich, or whatever we call them—rather than with people like us. (More than a third of the Occupy demonstrators in 2011 had annual earnings of over $100k.) Richard Reeves sees things differently. In his Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What To Do About It, he argues that the top 20%, rather than the top 1%, is the real problem, and he admits that this puts both him and the vast majority of his readers in the firing line. “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Books, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Theology

(Atlantic) Low-Income Communities Are Struggling to Support Churches

If there is ever a competition for the title of Busiest Minister in America, the smart money will be on Yoan Mora, senior pastor of Primera Iglesia Cristiana, a small but vibrant Spanish-speaking congregation in San Antonio, Texas. The weeks are nuts: worship services, classes, and meetings on Sundays; a radio program on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; prayer service and Bible study on Tuesdays; house church meetings in the southern reaches of the city each Thursday; a job-training program hosted at the church on Saturdays, plus other meetings scattered through the weekend.

Those are just his top-level duties. He still has to find time to write sermons, oversee church-building maintenance, teach small groups, manage budgets, and, most of all, be with people in all the ways pastors need to be with people: births, deaths, sicknesses, celebrations, life events big, medium, and small. Being a pastor is a full-time job, and then some.

But being a pastor is not Mora’s full-time job. Most of Mora’s weekday hours are devoted to his work as an accountant at a health-care clinic in the northeast part of town. He’s also trying to finish a master’s degree in theology.

Mora believes he was placed on this earth to pastor, so that’s what he plans on doing. But for now, he can’t make a living as a pastor because the congregation he serves is in an extremely low-income neighborhood. Pastor salaries are drawn from church budgets, which are drawn from the household budgets of congregants. So in a low-income area, even when a church grows, its budget does not expand so much as stretch. Primera Iglesia Cristiana can’t pay Mora much for all his efforts, so for the foreseeable future, he’ll hustle.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NYT Op-ed) Ann Patchett–My Year of No Shopping

The trick of no shopping isn’t just that you don’t buy things. You don’t shop. That means no trawling the sale section of the J. Crew website in idle moments. It means the catalogs go into the recycle bin unopened on the theory that if I don’t see it, I don’t want it. Halfway through the year I could go to a store with my mother and sister if they asked me. I could tell them if the dress they were trying on looked good without wishing I could try it on myself.

Not shopping saves an astonishing amount of time. In October, I interviewed Tom Hanks about his collection of short stories in front of 1,700 people in a Washington theater. Previously, I would have believed that such an occasion demanded a new dress and lost two days of my life looking for one. In fact, Tom Hanks had never seen any of my dresses, nor had the people in the audience. I went to my closet, picked out something weather appropriate and stuck it in my suitcase. Done.

I did a favor for a friend over the summer and she bought me a pair of tennis shoes. Her simple act of kindness thrilled me. Once I stopped looking for things to buy, I became tremendously grateful for the things I received. Had I been shopping this summer I would have told my friend, “You shouldn’t have,” and I would have meant it.

It doesn’t take so long for a craving to subside, be it for Winstons or gin or cupcakes. Once I got the hang of giving shopping up, it wasn’t much of a trick.

Read it all.

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Personal Finance, Stewardship

(Guardian) Why are America’s farmers killing themselves in record numbers? The suicide rate for farmers is more than double that of veterans

Since 2013, net farm income for US farmers has declined 50%. Median farm income for 2017 is projected to be negative $1,325. And without parity in place (essentially a minimum price floor for farm products), most commodity prices remain below the cost of production.

In an email, Rosmann wrote, “The rate of self-imposed [farmer] death rises and falls in accordance with their economic well-being … Suicide is currently rising because of our current farm recession.”

Inside the sunny lobby of the newly remodeled Onaga community hospital, where Joyce Blaske happens to work in the business department, Dr Nancy Zidek has just finished her rounds. As a family medicine doctor, she sees behavioral health issues frequently among her farmer patients, which she attributes to the stressors inherent in farming.

“If your farm is struggling, you’re certainly going to be depressed and going to be worried about how to put food on the table, how to get your kids to college,” she says.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Suicide

Christina Capecchi–The art of giving, the challenge of Advent

And so goes the drumbeat of commercialism: more, more, more.

All the while we Christians are called to answer Advent’s hushed invitation for less, less, less. To clear out our closets and turn off our phones, to resist the click-and-procure in favor of the wait-and-wonder. What a challenge it is to make space for the other, for the divine. Filling sets off all our bells and whistles; emptying requires discernment and allows for quiet.

Americans prefer the former. We have so much self-storage space, the Self Storage Association once pointed out, it is physically possible that every American could stand at the same time under the canopy of self-storage roofing.

I’ve been reflecting on the art of gift giving — what it can do for us, at its best, and what it neglects to do at its hastiest. The more you put in, the more you get out.

My neighbor recently showed me her favorite Christmas picture book, Holly Hobbie’s 2007 charmer “Toot & Puddle: Let It Snow,” in which a pair of best friends — who happen to be pigs — struggle to determine the perfect gifts for each other. Puddle labors in his attic, painting an image of the twosome in the woods. Toot, meanwhile, spends “every spare minute in his workshop in the basement” building a sled on wheels — one that will work with or without snow.

“He knew that the best present was usually something you made yourself, a one-of-a-kind thingamajig, not just a whatsit anyone could buy in a store,” Hobbie writes.

Indeed, the sweetest gifts require a commodity more precious than treasure: time.

Read it all.

Posted in Advent, Consumer/consumer spending, Personal Finance, Stewardship

(WSJ) What 500 Years of Protestantism Teaches Us About Capitalism’s Future

Five centuries ago this week, Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation by hammering his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

His legacy raises questions that resonate for investors today: Can Communist China become a rich country? And does the political swing towards populism threaten economic growth?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance

(America) Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry–Are Christians really supposed to be communists? A response to David Bentley Hart

Here’s the rub: The fact that I can know that God does not want me to give up all worldly goods because I support a child is precisely why I cannot rest easy. The fact that my vocation is perfectly acceptable to God is why Jesus’ thunderous words still apply to me. Jesus’ dramatic, hyperbolic words are a reminder that even while maintaining my vocation as a petit bourgeois, I can always be more radical in how I love and how I give to my fellow man. “Fearful it is to fall in the hands of the living God,” Kierkegaard reminds us in the same passage I quoted above. And how reassuring it would be for petit bourgeois Christians like myself to tell ourselves that the way Jesus preaches is for the others, for those who go into the desert.

To put it simply: poverty sine glosa is not the only way for the Christian. But that reminder should always be followed up by the always urgent reminder that we could still do with a lot less glosa and a lot more poverty.

Jesus’ hyperbole is there to remind us that we can always do more. “Let the dead bury their dead,” Christ commands us! We cannot take that to mean that all Christians everywhere should fail to pay respect to deceased loved ones. But neither can we—and this attitude is much more common, much more destructive—simply wave a magic wand of “Well, that’s hyperbole” and turn this fiery admonition into some bland platitude about detachment from worldliness. How much of my attachment to my family is a genuine expression of Christian charity, and how much is rote habit, social pressure, mere convenience that draws me away from Christ? The hyperbole is too strong for me to rest easy. How many “good Catholic” parents bemoan the decline in priests until Junior announces that he is going to the seminary and they won’t have grandchildren? Let the dead bury their dead.

Read it all.

Posted in Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Stewardship, Theology: Scripture

(NYT Op-ed) David Bentley Hart–Are Christians Supposed to Be Communists?

After all, the New Testament’s condemnations of personal wealth are fairly unremitting and remarkably stark: Matthew 6:19-20, for instance (“Do not store up treasures for yourself on the earth”), or Luke 6:24-25 (“But alas for you who are rich, for you have your comfort”) or James 5:1-6 (“Come now, you who are rich, weep, howling out at the miseries that are coming for you”). While there are always clergy members and theologians swift to assure us that the New Testament condemns not wealth but its abuse, not a single verse (unless subjected to absurdly forced readings) confirms the claim.

I came to the conclusion that koinonia often refers to a precise set of practices within the early Christian communities, a special social arrangement — the very one described in Acts — that was integral to the new life in Christ. When, for instance, the Letter to the Hebrews instructs believers not to neglect koinonia, or the First Letter to Timothy exhorts them to become koinonikoi, this is no mere recommendation of personal generosity, but an invocation of a very specific form of communal life.

As best we can tell, local churches in the Roman world of the apostolic age were essentially small communes, self-sustaining but also able to share resources with one another when need dictated. This delicate web of communes constituted a kind of counter-empire within the empire, one founded upon charity rather than force — or, better, a kingdom not of this world but present within the world nonetheless, encompassing a radically different understanding of society and property.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Stewardship, Theology: Scripture

Cut stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals to £2, Bishop Smith of St Albans urges Government

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has responded to the Government’s announcement today of The Triennial Review of Stakes and Prizes.

He said: “The Triennial Review of Stakes and Prizes has proposed a range of possible stakes for fixed-odds betting terminals. While a reduction in stakes is welcome, any stake higher than £2 does not go far enough to address the harm these machines cause to families and communities around the UK.

“In our broader response to the consultation, the Church of England will urge the Government to consider the experiences of those affected most by these machines, and to choose to lower the stake to £2.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

A Picture is Worth 1000 words–The baby Boombers are Reaching Retirement

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Budget, Children, Economy, Health & Medicine, History, Marriage & Family, Medicaid, Medicare, Pensions, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Social Security, Taxes, Young Adults

(NYT Upshot) Whites Have Huge Wealth Edge Over Blacks (but Don’t Know It)

“I’m a person who studies inequality, who should really know how inequality looks,” said one of the psychologists, Michael Kraus, who researches the behaviors and beliefs that help perpetuate inequality. “And I look at the black-white gap, and I’m shocked at the magnitude.”

Black families in America earn just $57.30 for every $100 in income earned by white families, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. For every $100 in white family wealth, black families hold just $5.04.

If Mr. [Michael] Kraus, of all people, is taken aback by these numbers, what are the odds that most Americans have a good understanding of them? The answer, he and his colleagues fear, has broad implications for how we understand our society and what we’re willing to do to make it fairer.

Americans, and higher-income whites in particular, vastly overestimate progress toward economic equality between blacks and whites, the psychologists reported Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Americans believe that blacks and whites are more equal today than they truly are on measures of income, wealth, wages and health benefits. And they believe more historical progress has occurred than is the case, suggesting “a profound misperception of and unfounded optimism” regarding racial equality.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Theology

(PA) Britons skipping birthdays over lack of money, Christian charity finds

The Church of England’s social action charity has revealed that one in nine British adults missed out on celebrating a birthday or other special occasion last year because of a lack of money.

The Church Urban Fund said more must be done to help hard-pressed Britons as figures from its food survey suggest almost a million adults used a food bank last year.

The charity’s executive director Paul Hackwood said the results paint a “deeply troubling picture of food insecurity throughout Britain”.

He described the effects of such poverty as wide-reaching, adding: “Those affected don’t just go hungry or poorly nourished – they suffer isolation, are excluded from participating in social activities and experience considerable anxiety.”

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Posted in Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Economy, England / UK, Personal Finance, Sociology