This article will appear in the next edition of the CPF's IMPACT magazine
Like many of late, I wake up in the morning and switch on the news and have that queasy feeling as I see how the financial markets are doing. I have to say that economics are not among my favourite subjects, but we all seem to have suddenly developed an interest for very good reasons. Notably, our livelihoods.
At the time of writing this, many are comparing what has happened to the 1929 Wall Street Crash, a financial disaster of epic proportions that few are alive to remember well. I briefly discussed it with one of the oldest people at the church where I worship and she said that whilst she remembered it, she was too young to fully appreciate what was going on! So one wonders how good the comparison is, that said, this is the worst economic situation that many of us have seen in our lifetimes and that is scary. It is also scary to compare this with 1929. That crisis, as we all know, triggered a decade-long economic depression which damaged and destroyed livelihoods and communities and which helped foster the growth of fascism in some countries, notably Germany, and therefore helped lead to the Second World War.
Thats scary, and it certainly puts things into perspective. For too long now many Christians have banged on about abortion, alternative lifestyles, and how much postmodern culture should be embraced! What has been banged on with a far quieter voice, if mentioned at all, was about financial greed and exploitation, and God knows how often that is mentioned in the Bible. More than most other sins in fact, but I suspect that will soon change. What I think will happen in terms of the choices Christians in the US make when they vote for their next President, is not how sound McCain or Obama are on gay rights, or abortion, or in their dealings with non Christians, but rather whether McCain or Obama are good financial stewards and who would be better at healing the US in it's current economic climate and making sure that financial justice and honesty is carried out?
Some of you may know of the Greek myth of Pandora, who had a box that was full of the evils of the World. One day, out of curiosity, Pandora opened it and all the evils escaped. But a virtue was still there, and that was hope.
The question is then, can we see hope in the current situation? I think we can. Politicians are aware that they need to work together and not score party political points and, even though old habits die hard and the occasional barbed comment comes out, there is still the effort being made. Nations are working together to try and stem the flow of financial blood. The days of bonuses for managers who leave their stricken vessels with all hands desperate to escape is all but over, and there seems to be a willingness to face up to the challenges, weather the storms and work together.
There is also the knowledge that the markets operate on events and if there is panic and fear, then that will have an adverse effect, and that knowledge has helped people set to work and push harder for solutions. In the 1930's, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated that the only thing we needed to fear was fear itself, and this was someone who knew what he was talking about, as he helped create a "New Deal" , giving aid to the unemployed, making sure business practices were changed, as well as bringing in relief programs. As a result, Roosevelt not only helped the US prosper, he helped make Americans feel better about themselves. We wait to see whether our Western leaders will make the same achievements. Time will tell.
And yes, we can also take solace from the Bible when Christ stated at the end of John Ch 16: "Here on Earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but take courage, I have overcome the world."
We can overcome this, financial instability does not last forever, nor does ongoing pain, but so long as we hold fast and look ahead and work together to revitalise the economy, even if it means a change in thinking, then we can succeed and succeed well!