Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Economic Crash: More than just Money

I don’t understand much about the economy, but I do understand the words of Proverbs:

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

We have been disgraced and degraded by the ongoing mortgage crisis of 2008. However, it was thoroughly avoidable, caused from beginning to end by a little three letter word – “sin!” According to The Jewish Voice and Opinion’s summary of former NYU Professor of Economics Aaron Levine’s thesis,

“The entire chain of actors in the mortgage crisis were guilty: customers who entered into loans knowing – or at least questioning – whether they would be able to fulfill their obligations; predatory brokers for not alerting their working-class borrowers to the fine print and teaching their clients to lie; middlemen who sold mortgage debt to investment banks and failed to warn them about the risks; securitizers who aggregated and then sliced and diced the mortgages into tranches that obscured their risky natures; and then bankers who employed hard-to-fathom financial instruments that left ultimate responsibility for loan repayment a mystery, even to experts.”

“The credit rating agencies gave triple-A ratings to the majority of tranches…despite the fact that the underlying mortgage pools had been made to borrowers with impaired (sub-prime) credit.” (July 2010, 6)

Perhaps we need to wake up and smell the coffee? Perhaps our God-less civil religion of Secularism needs to be reevaluated? Perhaps, as a car requires an engine, morality and material progress require a faith in God? In this regard, Mark Oppenheimer of the New York Times writes about the conversion to Christianity of Peter Hitchens, the brother of Christopher, the radical atheist:

“Having noticed that the secularization of England seems to have coincided with its decline, he becomes alive to serious flaws in the reasoning of atheists, like his brother. He notices that post-Christian societies, like Russia, where he lived for two years as a correspondent, are coarse and brutal.”

We all want to be good, even those who don’t believe in a God. We get psychological kudos from being good! However, when the carrot of a shady deal is dangled in front of our eyes, we tend to forget about the kudos and feed ourselves with many convincing reasons how the carrot will serve up more kudos. One businessman recently remarked that he no longer wants to do business. It’s become too difficult. No one wants to pay their bills, and it’s always a fight to try to obtain the money owed to him.

Righteousness truly exalts a nation. Pollster George Barna (barna.com) found that among those who believed six basic essentials of the Christian faith, there were profound ethical distinctions that set them apart from unbelievers. They were less likely to engage in gambling and substance abuse. Even more profoundly, they were 12 times less likely to have an extramarital affair! This says a lot about honesty. It is also likely that if we are faithful to our spouses, we will also be faithful in our dealings with others.

Our modern flirtation with Secularism may prove our undoing. No matter how many additional of armies of regulators we throw at the economic crisis and its institutions, they are only as reliable as their moral convictions. Some leaky boats can no longer be patched. Instead, they need to be replaced.

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