Serving Mammon in a Recession

Serving Mammon in a Recession

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Has the economic crisis given you pause about how you steward time and money? Has it given you a new appreciation for what you have that has (to your surprise) replaced the desire for more? Russell D. Moore hopes so. Because love of money is what he believes is "one of the roots of the familial crisis all around us."

In his Touchstone article "Love, Sex & Mammon," Dr. Moore hopes the economic crisis will cause the church to reconsider her priorities. He writes,

Too many of our churches, too many of us, have made peace with the sexual revolution and the familial chaos left in its wake precisely because we made peace, long before, with the love of money. We wish to live with the same standard of living as the culture around us (there is no sin in that), but we are willing to get there by any means necessary.

And one of the means he mentions is the undue delay marriage.

Why do Christian parents, contra St. Paul's clear admonition in 1 Corinthians 7, encourage their young adult children to delay marriage, sometimes for years past the time it would take to discern whether this union would be of the Lord? Why do we smilingly tell them to wait until they "afford" it? It is because, to our shame, we deem fornication a less awful reality than financial hardship.

Other "means" include Christians driving their teenage daughters to the nearest city to get an abortion so they can have a "normal" life, pastors preaching against the sin of homosexuality but ignoring divorce for fear of losing members and their tithes, and the way we blather on about marital communication but never consider whether day care is good for children. Regarding this last means, Dr. Moore concludes,

It's because pastors know that couples would reply that they could never afford to live on the provision of the husband alone. And they're almost always right -- if living means living in neighborhoods in which they now live with the technologies they now have. Why do we never ask whether it might be better to live in a one-bedroom apartment or a trailer park than to outsource the rearing of one's children? It's because the American way of life seems so normal to us that such things do not even seem to be options at all.

Nobody knows what's going to happen with the economy. And I don't know of anyone who hopes we'll go into a depression so the church will "turn away from momentary satisfaction." But economic adjustments can be healthy when combined with a dose of self-examination. It has certainly changed my perspective. Has it affected yours?

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  • Comment by  Owen:

    Great point.  I've pretty much heard from all my friends that "you can't live today on one income alone."  Well, my family did for a long time growing up.  We didn't have the biggest house, or new cars (or sometimes even two cars) but I still had fun and the love of my parents.  

    It's pretty clear that we should not live in debt (www.christianpf.com/money-in-the-bible), but too many Christians got caught up in the idea that we can borrow our way to prosperity.

    Hopefully this crisis, along with the realization that all the goods we've acquired haven't made us happy, will help recenter our lives on God and our relationships with friends, family, and neighbors.

  • Comment by  lore:

    Can the whole of this article be found online? I'm curious about the full context. Thanks!

  • Comment by  MotteBrown:

    Lore:

    Try Touchstonemag.com in a couple of weeks. They do publish some of their featured articles but not all.

  • Comment by  Michaela:

    Thanks for bringing this up!  I am amazed at how the hardships in the economy are being talked about as if Americans are suddenly living in desolation.  It is definitely easy to get caught up in the ways of the culture and want to keep up with the Jones', but now I feel that it is more important than ever that I be generous with what little I have so that the church can embrace those who are in despair at this point.

  • Comment by  Kevin:

    "Why do we smilingly tell them to wait until they "afford" it? It is because, to our shame, we deem fornication a less awful reality than financial hardship."

    Isn't this the same blog that was arguing how Palin's daughter's comment of abstinence being 'unrealistic' was wrong? Yet this quote asserts that the only alternative to early marriage is fornication. It's practically endorsing the statement that abstinence is unrealistic if parents don't marry off their kids early.

  • Comment by  Celebrindal:

    Kevin (#4),

    I don't think that Boundless is arguing that abstinence is unrealistic.  I think the point of that comment is that asking two people to wait for sexual intimacy for a long period of time rather than fulfilling their natural desires through marriage is setting up a situation in which fornication is much more likely.  As in all cases of temptation, it is possible and advisable to set up guidelines and to avoid sinning.  However, it is natural and even good for a man and woman who love each other to desire sexual intimacy with each other.  Delaying marriage unnecessarily only prolongs temptation and builds frustration.  In some cases, this does lead to fornication.  The aspostle Paul advised that these scenarios be avoided by letting them marry when they feel the burning of passion.

  • Comment by  obewan:

    Moore Asks:

    ">>Why do we smilingly tell them to wait until they "afford" it? It is because, to our shame, we deem fornication a less awful reality than financial hardship?<<"

    ------------------------------------

    Gee. He sure does not have faith in or give credit to the millions of celibate Christian singles.  I am one of them, and despite the raging hormones of my youth, I was able to remain pure.  His comment insults the integrity of all the Christian singles I have known. What does he suggest as an alternative to celibacy?  Getting married for sex?  If that is the only reason, for sure it is not a good one.  With financial hardship being a factor in too many divorces, I lean toward siding with those who see the wisdom in waiting.  There was a time when a large house only cost $3000 and people paid cash.  Nowadays with $1200 rents and $250K+ houses, it takes awhile to get setup to raise a family.

  • Comment by  BrianP:

    The largest fallacy in the argument to "wait to get married until you can afford it" is that it's CHEAPER TO BE MARRIED!  A married couple will have lower insurance (car, health), lower rent (as opposed to living separately), lower taxes (adding a dependent plus a larger standard deduction), even lower miscellaneous expenses (cell phones, internet, a single computer, etc.).   I can't honestly think of a single thing that would be cheaper when two people are single and not living together.

    Now..  waiting to have kids?  We can debate that, but it probably doesn't lead to sexual sin (depending on your choice of birth control)  

  • Comment by  Owen:

    I don't think that the intent of the writer was to claim that putting off marriage means premarital sex.  It has to be taken in the context of the current culture, and the current state of American Christianity, that we often turn a blind eye to, or play down sexual sin because our culture says abstinence is "not realistic" for people in their 20's and up.  I also disagree that he would claim sex should be the only reason for marriage, but it is certainly a powerful and important one, without which many men might never be moved towards marriage.

  • Comment by  HannahC:

    Kevin (#4):

    Sarah Palin's daughter was a teenager, not a 26-year-old who'd been dating her boyfriend for five years. I'm sue there are some people in that hypothetical situation who have remained pure, but I'm sure the large majority haven't. I'm not sure I could do it.

    obewan (#7):

    There are also $75k houses and $600 rents (or $800 mortgages and insurance combined). Unless you're living in the Bay Area or another similarly pricy area, a $250k house is waaaaaaay more house than you need, especially starting out.

    Brian P (#8):

    My boyfriend looked up insurance for him as a single guy, then insurance for him and me as a married couple. (We're both under 21.) The amount for both of us was slightly more than half what his insurance alone would be if he wasn't married!

    Also, if two college students get married, they can be better off FAFSA wise depending on how much their parents make.

  • Comment by  BDB:

    Brian P (#8) wrote:

    >>I can't honestly think of a single thing that would be cheaper when two people are single and not living together.<<

    Well, Bachelors likely have much lower decorating expenses.  Sheets and towels last 20 years, don't they?

  • Comment by  BDB:

    Difficulties do reveal character.  Statisically, this is the worst economy in 20-30 years.  Whole industries are being reorganized, and the most difficult career change is moving from one industry to another.

    When you speak to people who've been successfully married for 20+ years, they invariably have a story about how their spouse was a valuable support during a difficult time.  I know men who greatly value their wives because of how supportive they were during times of financial difficulty.

    On the other hand, I also know divorced people who are extremely critical of their ex-spouse's failure to find a job.  Yet I'm not aware of any evidence that being disrespectful motivates men.  It seems that the opposite is the case.

    Of course, dating isn't really designed to reveal if someone will be respectful and supportive during financial difficulty.  How many women do you know who are interested in dating an unemployed dude?  (With the possible exception of "musicians," "artists," and "writers.")

    Yet in both Japanese and Chinese, the character for "crisis" includes the characters for "danger" and "opportunity."  I suspect that a woman who is not married, and wants to be, may have the opportunity to be supportive and encouraging to the unemployed men she knows through church or otherwise.  That type of kindness can make someone stand out from the crowd.

  • Comment by  BDB:

    On car insurance, in Southern California AAA doesn't discriminate on marital status.

    The last at-fault accident I was in was literally 18 years ago. No tickets that haven't been expunged by traffic school, either. On paper, I should be a really good risk.

    But when I last re-bid my auto insurance, the major companies came back with rates $1000 a year higher than AAA. I laughed out loud - I thought they were joking.

    When you mix in homeowners and auto insurance, USAA had rates comparable to AAA. But the big names you see advertised on TV? For some reason, they don't seem to want my business...

    I wonder if it's the life-insurance piece. I'll bet that's where they try to make their money. Single people with no dependents really don't need a lot of life insurance. So they create artificially lower auto insurance rates for married people in order to build up their lead list for life-insurance sales. That's actually an understandable business model.

  • Comment by  Kelly:

    Regarding the suggestion of living in a trailer park...

    Theoretically, that sounds fine.

    Realistically, it's a question of safety and community.

    We live in a world where the employed people are told they all live in Suburb X, and so they do.  

    Those caught in cycles of poverty, depression or despair can't afford Suburb X, so they end up in a trailer park.  Poverty breeds poverty, it's a cycle where people are trapped.

    Now, I know that the vast majority of people living in a poor area will be good, decent people.  But you also have a much higher number of "dangerous" people living there - people whose motivations are fuelled by drugs or alcohol, the end result being they have no money and covet it.

    Do you want to raise your kids in that kind of environment?  

    ---

    My experience in this area is this: one of my best friends worked part time to put herself through college.  She certainly couldn't afford to live anywhere nice, so she chose a poor area.  Her car got stolen, and her house got broken into *three times* before she finally moved.  Not to mention that she never felt safe going home and locked the windows tightly every night.

    There were fights in the streets on a regular basis, families screaming at each other, rubbish in the streets, and, well, it was just not a nice place.  But it was affordable.

    ---

    So... does God call us to live in these places to witness to people?  Or is that putting your family in danger?

  • Comment by  Pedro:

    here is the article:

    www.touchstonemag.com/.../article.php

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