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Greed Can Be Found on Wall Street, Behind Pulpits

Can I take a second and vent about something that is bothering me?

 

It is hard to have a consistent ethic when you look at the economic mess that we are in. Some might be tempted to read politics into what I am about to say, but that is not my intent.

 

I struggled when President Bush proposed a buyout package last fall. It smacked of socialism to me. And yet, it seemed to be what people were asking for.

 

I struggled when President Obama proposed a stimulus package. Ditto on the socialism thing, but we felt that something needed to be done.

 

I hated the fact that AIG guys got bonuses of millions of dollars with our taxpayer money. I just don’t like the principle of rewarding bad performance. I would have taxed them 101 percent, but when we thumped our chests and promised retribution, the market dropped in fear that others would avoid buyouts from similar concerns. When President Obama backed off a little from that stance a few days later, it seemed to help the market a little – or a lot.

 

It seemed for a while that every time the economic guys spoke for Obama, the market dropped – until recently. More details and the kinds of details the market was looking for seemed to bring about a rally. Who knows how long it will last, but a little good news was just that – good news.

 

Am I an unfaithful conservative for wanting Obama to succeed? Is it OK to want the economy to turn around now and not have to wait four years?

 

There are still questions I have. Will inflation follow a recession and will we be any better off? Will we learn from the lessons of greed and impatience or will we look for a new Ponzi scheme? Is it possible to have a consistent ethic in times like these? (Capitalism corrects itself. Hard work and patience outlive greed and impatience. Pigs get fed, but hogs get slaughtered. Bad performance should not get rewarded.) Or are we in uncharted waters? Does the immediacy and severity of the present crisis cause us to abandon old ideas or should we take a deep breath and remember who we are and were and hopefully will be as an American people?

 

I have no answers – only questions. Inevitably I will get more responses to a blog like this than any others I do. These responses will especially come from those who feel I have eased over into their areas of expertise and spoken in ignorance. I know those are coming, but I have a feeling. I think that there a lot of other people who are as frustrated and confused as I am.

 

There is a blog that is floating about in cyber space. It seems that a preacher has been preaching about tithing for months now. Recently he compared non-tithers to Bernie Madoff. He said that those who came to church in cars but did not tithe had bought those cars with God’s money. It made them no better than thieves.

 

It seems that Wall Street is not the only place struggling with a consistent ethic. Such sermons are despicable and manipulative. As the story goes, a little girl asked dad if they could go to another church. She was tired of hearing about money. She wanted to hear about Jesus.

 

Our giving has improved of late. We are cutting back where we need to and being carefully optimistic, but God is meeting our needs. We are not where we need to be, but we are a lot better off than we were in January. I am an optimist. I think that things are turning.

 

Five of my senior adults told me that my sermons on the cross are the best I have ever preached. I give credit to the cross and Jesus and the power of the Bible and not my ability.

 

Isn’t that funny? We haven’t preached about money, but giving is better. One Sunday night in February our congregation got together, had beans and cornbread and talked about the reality of where we were as a church, and they have responded.

 

I’ve made them a promise. I will not let the crisis of the moment change who our church is. I will try no gimmicks. I will definitely not manipulate them or compare them to criminals. No matter how bad it gets, that is just wrong. My promise to them is this: I will continue to preach Christ and Him crucified.

 

Would you consider me naive if I told you that I believe everything is going to be all right?

 

Ed Hogan is pastor of Jersey Village Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.