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.”
The events of the last two years have been humbling—even for New Yorkers, a breed not easily humbled. When I first moved to Manhattan, I was often startled when someone offered a complimentary comment about another person, saying that he or she was “really smart.” The pride that went before the particular New York fall was, more than any other human frailty, our peculiar brash pride in putative cleverness, savvy and smarts. Now there is no escaping the embarrassing fact that a lot of very smart people in New York never saw the present economic crisis coming, and that many of those smart people had been participating in the foolish decisions that contributed to it.