The recession continued to affect how much Americans gave to charity last year, and the triple whammy of Superstorm Sandy, a national election and the looming fiscal cliff may cut how much we donate in the crucial final month of 2012, experts say.
In our corner of the economy, excellent pastors got fired and many took wage and benefit cuts. In some cases, the congregations didn’t realize that their decrease in membership was a national trend that had a lot to do with shifting demographics.
The glory of American politics is that voters get to "throw the rascals
out"—whether or not they understand who the rascals are or the nature
of the crisis the nation is in. Very little could have done by any
government during this worldwide economic slowdown to address the high
unemployment, except more government stimulus, which is what voters say
they don't want.
The notion that enrollments at theological schools rise in tough economic times did not hold true for Protestant and Catholic seminaries in North America this academic year. In fact, over the past three years, the total student population slipped about 6 percent—down to 75,500 from a three-year plateau in mid-decade when more than 80,000 students were studying theology.
Ever since the Great Recession began in the fall of 2008, Christians and other faith leaders have criticized the speculative excess and greed that led to the crisis. A consensus on what to do about it, however, has yet to emerge.
A nationwide poll of 1,100 Protestant church leaders in the last quarter of 2009 found that 57 percent said the economy affected their congregation negatively over the past year, but only 8 percent called the effect “very negative.”
How should Christians understand—and what should they learn from—the worst economic downturn since the Depression? Does the crisis raise fundamental moral or theological questions about our economic system? Four scholars offer their reflections in this issue of the Century: Dennis P. McCann, Jon P. Gunnemann, Deirdre McCloskey and D. Stephen Long.