Markets, Crashes, Economies–Could It Be?

By now we’ve been told about the stock market, the possibility of a double-dip recession, runaway deficits, etc. Not only in the U. S., but in western Europe as well, as the lists of nations with financial crises continues to grow. We have heard expert after expert tell us about fundamentals, underlying pressures, systemic budgeting flaws, and a host of other terms most of us understand about as well as we can decipher airline pricing strategies.

I’m neither an economist nor a prophet. So I don’t know what’s ahead, though like most people my age I admit to a certain uneasiness about the prospects for retirement at a “normal” age. My limited knowledge of how financial markets operate and of how consumption-oriented we have become does not give me great optimism. We have an economy that only thrives when people buy a lot of stuff, far beyond what they need. And the last thing most of us really need is more stuff. On the prophetic side, I have had no angelic visitations with words from on high giving direct insight into what is happening, where we ought to go, who is going to pay what price, or what specific violation of God’s will has been transgressed.

But I do wonder. I wonder whether it is possible that God is tapping us on the shoulder, or perhaps smacking our fingers to get our attention. Such talk is dangerous, perhaps even subversive in some people’s’ minds. We all remember with a wince how Jerry Falwell came out with his ad hoc reasons for God’s allowing of the terrorist attacks of a decade ago; we also endured the self-appointed after-the-fact prophets of doom and judgment declaring the tsunami devastation as divine judgment. Not before the event, which might have made such claims somewhat credible, but after it was all over and the relief work motivated by God’s love had already begun.

Yes, I do wonder. Though I’m not a fan of the ever-present prophecy movement, which reads signs and tea leaves in light of yesterday’s news and tomorrow’s speculations without confronting its own mistaken and unfulfilled earlier pronouncements, is it really out of the reach of Christian imagination to believe that Christ actually WILL come again? Would that return be likely to include warnings, such as natural disasters, international turmoil, and internal collapse caused by people who will not acknowledge any legitimate authority, all doing what is right in their own eyes?

I don’t expect a prophet; there’s a good biblical reason not to look for one, related to God’s own declared plan for speaking to the inhabitants of this planet. See Hebrews 1:1-3, which tells us that prophets were God’s instruments of choice in “former times;” He now speaks through the Son. His word to us through that Son is life, hope. If I hear that correctly, God’s message to us in disasters is not the disaster itself, not the devastation; it is in the hope to be found in the midst of the tragedy. There are times when God’s judgment is the playing out of consequences of unwise, sinfully motivated choices–and perhaps the economic woes of the present are just that. We should be attentive. And we, as the Body of Christ, should be beacons of hope within whatever suffering may yet come about–by living together with a different set of priorities, a communal sense of true love for one another, a different set of lenses for evaluating the worth, prospects, and gifts of people. Come to think of it, that just might be prophetic after all.

What prevents us from being communities of hope in our churches? What kinds of messages should we send about a better way, and how should we send them? Or are we too caught up in playing the same blame game that political parties are playing? Share your thoughts, please.

5 thoughts on “Markets, Crashes, Economies–Could It Be?

    • Thanks. It is sad that the main point of Augustine’s treatise has been missed so frequently–not so much by the secularists as by the Christians, who wanted everything to fit into a spiritual paradigm.

  1. I am a economist, though I don’t admit that very often, who learned a little theology from a former banker who is addicted to chasing a little white ball all over a big green yard.

    Times are grim and we have stolen our children’s inheritance for many generations to come as we move ever closer to ‘bread and circuses’ and have replaced the God of Creation with the god of materialism. In OT times God sent prophets and then armies to get Israels attention. That failing carried them into captivity and later returned a remnant to carry on.

    Today we are in the early stages of collapse, because we keep attempting to fill that “God shaped hole in us” (Pascal) with stuff rather than God. Our love of money, and the stuff it can buy to fill that hole, has led to to the brink. We can use this brink to wake up and be filled and fulfilled with God or we can wallow in our economic morass.

    Regardless of the choice, the next few years will be economically difficult and there will be many in dire economic circumstances. Will the church step up and care or will it be content to demand the ‘god of government’ provide the relief until we are all in poverty.

    • You really know where to hit a guy, don’t you?

      I don’t think we have the political capital or will to resolve things well. The rhetoric always wins, almost always in the form of shouting. I suspect that the loss of a firm commitment to truth has something to do with that. I’m also not at all clear on what the church stepping up would look like, though it must include above all a good bit of re-education regarding things financial. Unfortunately, the very idea that such the required thinking is actually a response of faith in the good news is still inconceivable to too many poeple. Just look at London in the past few days; the have-have not lines are already being drawn there as I fear they will be here if we do not act wisely.

  2. What prevents us from being communities of hope in our churches? What kinds of messages should we send about a better way, and how should we send them? Or are we too caught up in playing the same blame game that political parties are playing?

    These are the right questions to be asking….The last being perhaps most valuable to realize within The Church. For – if we are not preaching a message of Hope in Christ, what is the point? There is no sense in The Church offering to the community the same humdrum rhetoric that we hear on any news (regardless of affiliation) or talk show.

    The Kingdom of God is not effected by world economy, it has no bearing on our retirement funds. There is nothing in The Kingdom of God that warrants concern over who will pay my medical insurance or bills. There is no reason, according to His promises, that I should worry about how much my IRA might be worth or not worth.

    My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

    Our God rules an unshakable Kingdom, and since we are part of His kingdom, that cannot be shaken, we must always be thankful, and worship God with holy fear and awe. Our God is a consuming fire….and the things that can be shaken will be shaken. Just like He did 2000 years ago when He destroyed the separation of man from Himself…He will do it again by destroying all those things that separate us from Him (and that includes our dependence on money)….

    These are exciting times to live in – to be able to see God work in so many amazing ways….

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