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.
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.
Westchester County, which lies directly north of New York City, is well known for its many classic suburban communities where cars line up at train stations at 6 p.m. each day to pick up returning executives and money managers.
Religious organizations reported a 5.5 percent increase in donations last year, a marked contrast from the nationwide 2 percent decline in charitable giving, according to a study by the Giving USA Foundation.
The recession has forced seminaries to undertake cost-cutting measures that affect people, projects and their own best-laid plans for sustainability. “The current economic environment has magnified any weaknesses present in seminaries,” according to Daniel Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools.
Bishops in the United Methodist Church have voted themselves a pay cut after “recognizing the financial challenges facing the church.”
The UMC’s 50 active U.S. bishops voted to give up their planned pay raises for next year and instead reduce their salaries to the 2008 level, dropping their annual pay from $125,650 to $121,000, according to United Methodist News Service.
The annual Family Fest at Bethany Christian Schools in Goshen, Indiana, is usually a joyous event as families auction off handmade quilts, furniture and other goods in the annual school fund-raiser. But this year, double-digit unemployment rates overshadowed the event with a sense of anxiety. The event failed to match last year’s proceeds.
If the economic recession has made people more receptive to spiritual concerns and theological insights, that interest has not translated into sales of religion books (see Marcia Nelson’s report in this issue).