Friday, February 12, 2010

On religion and values

Between being a Lutheran preacher's son and a K-6 Mennonite education, I had WAY too much religion stuffed up my nose in my youth.  In fact, I spent about 30 years of my adult life reading many big fat history books about religion and the Protestant Reformation trying to make sense of what had happened to me.  What I discovered was that stripped of the mumbo-jumbo, religion is a pretty interesting subject.  (It also makes me armed and ready for any sort of debate with religious nuts.)

What makes it interesting is that before widespread literacy and especially the printing press, religion played a significant role in education and values transmission.  If someone wants to know what a culture thought important for young people to learn, look at their religious teachings.

Elizabeth Warren is one of the few people who understands the NEED for financial regulation.  I included a speech of hers in an earlier post. Turns out, she is a good Methodist who learned a bunch of useful values from her upbringing.
Elizabeth Warren and Goliath
Jim Wallis
Founder of Sojourners; speaker, author, activist 
Posted: February 11, 2010 04:28 PM
I had a most instructive conversation this week with Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard economist who is also the Chair of the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel. Warren has a way of cutting through the jargon and confusion of many economists and of this economic crisis -- right to the moral core of the issues at stake. I knew her for her keen insights, but I didn't know she was from, as she puts it, a "mixed marriage from Oklahoma" -- Baptist and Methodist -- and that she is a former Methodist Sunday school teacher. In the interview I did with her for Sojourners, her moral and even theological comments were as impressive as her economic analysis of our present crisis. She said the battle for financial regulatory reform is like the battle between David and Goliath. (You can read the interview in the April issue of Sojourners magazine, which comes out in early March.)
Warren's narrative of the U.S. economy, and the banking industry in particular, was very clarifying. For most of U.S. history, our country went through repeated periods of boom and bust, with all the consequences of those cycles. But after the Great Depression, a number of new financial regulations -- rules for the road -- were put into place that were designed to protect average Americans in particular from the continued abuses of the big banks and the often terrible results in bad times for ordinary people. Two important examples were the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) to protect people's savings and the Glass Steagall Act of 1933 to prevent banks from speculating with depositors' money. And the new rules worked for several decades, creating both prosperity and security for many American families and an emerging middle class. But starting in 1980, the rules were first watered down and gradually removed, and banks were free again to engage in both the abusive and very risky speculative behavior that helped to bring on the Great Depression, and resulted again in the current Great Recession. more
To read another Theological Reflection on the Economy, see this. (pdf alert)

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