The Financial Seminary
“The name ‘Zealot’ was first used by Josephus. The name itself is not difficult: it describes one who is filled with zeal or passionate intensity to fight for some threatened institution or ideal...There is nothing wrong with zeal, of course. It is based on biblical teachings and is absolutely essential for Christianity to succeed. Jesus Himself was filled with zeal when he cleansed the Temple. But zeal for the work of the Lord is totally different from the attitudes and actions of the zealots--they were not doing the will of the Lord. In the history of the church there are many examples of such misguided zeal, most notably, the Crusades. And the history of the Church is also stained with individuals who seized political power along with their religious authority...According to Josephus, Judas [the Galilean, though Judas Iscariot also had leanings toward zealotry] called the Jews cowards if they continued paying taxes to Rome or agreed to submit in other ways to any but God. To him, taxation was slavery. In many things they probably agreed with the Pharisees--but they had a passion for liberty”
I wrote an article about influential atheist Ayn Rand for the September issue of Christianity Today (http://www.ChristianityToday.com, Ayn Rand: Goddess of the Great Recession). It first appeared on CT’s online edition, which allows responses to the article. While most were complimentary, some very so, some may have qualified as libel before the Internet age coarsened civility and made love more scarce. Yet there were lessons in the responses from which every Christian leader, particularly stewardship leader, might learn.
For example, one critic wrote, “In a free market, no business can make a profit without serving its customers. It’s impossible.” Clearly, some Christians never read The Wall Street Journal or think about tobacco and gambling companies. Another argued “blaming the recent depression on greed is like blaming airplane crashes on gravity. It’s just stupid and advertises an abysmal ignorance of economics.” Some apparently aren’t aware of the biblical claim about the root of all evil, eye of the needle and so on. Together, they suggest we need far more sermons prepared by ministers who are holding an economic publication in one hand and the Bible in other.
Some got rather personal. One of the printable responses awarded me with a crown in a section of heaven reserved for “nuanced, middle-of-the-road, moderate, wimpy and spineless followers of Jesus.” She didn’t know I’d take most of that as a compliment as my Bible says St. Paul counseled “moderation in all things.” I’ve searched several editions for that footnote exempting politics but have never found it. Romans 13 even continues to insist we show “honor and respect” for even Nero, as government is God’s instrument and no threat to those who do what is right.
A consequence of being politically angry at Washington is often a corresponding economic pessimism that prompts one to financially hoard treasury bills and bonds – the very means by which Washington’s deficit spending is funded while we politic for lower taxes. As Dr. Charles Stanley says in his new book Surviving in An Angry World: “Anger deprives a sage of his wisdom, a prophet of his vision. Anger produces a double mind.” Dr. Stanley also wrote: “Anger hinders the work He has called us to do. It is a road block to experiencing God’s love, faith, hope, joy, and peace in our lives. The witness of a constantly angry person who identifies with Jesus Christ as Savior tends to fall on deaf ears.” And as the title of a new financial seminar from Oppenheimer says: “Blaming the government is not an investment strategy.”
The politically angry might enjoy more fruits of the spirit if they were aware of the September 15th Wall Street Journal article that said: “American households on average receive less of their income from the government than households in other developed countries.” An accompanying chart showed America was by far the lowest at 9.4%. Truly socialist countries were more than three times as high. France was 32.9%, Sweden was 32.7% and Italy was 29.2%. Even Germany, whose economic growth dwarfs ours, was 28.2%, while Canada’s was 13.6%. Another Wall Street Journal recently said federal taxes consume the lowest percentage of our national income than at any time since World War Two, a point Warren Buffett likes to make to pessimists. In addition, The Economist just reported the International Monetary Fund, which is no dove on government debt, has estimated that due to our vast national wealth, America might handle seventy percent more debt to income, even if it might be foolish to do so.
We need to understand that the doom and gloom that motivates so many couch potatoes to vote and sells so many books and tapes for media ministries undermines the finances of our churches and parachurch organizations as fear closes the hand tightly around what one stewards. I have given the identical presentation concerning our country’s financial standing to different religious audiences and received standing ovations from one and heated rejection from the other. As James Davison Hunter pointed out in To Change the World, it seems impossible to have one worldview and worship one God in a bi-polar culture, as even Jesus learned with his zealots. But we must.
Our division today doesn’t seem as much over God as over government. Jesus may have used a horizontal line to divide higher good from lower evil but our neo-zealots--and yes the liberal neo-Platonists who so willingly surrender our responsibilities to government--divide us with a vertical line separating left from right. But if politics is about finding fault with the other party, true religion is still about taking the log from one’s own eye first. So I hope all ministers will finally deal with the prevalent nonsense of labeling anyone who honors and respects government a socialist rather than a Christian. It might be both spiritually and economically to understand that we can’t fully love our country while hating our own elected officials. Even conservatives like myself often question the political and moral judgment of my fellow Christians on the far right. And it surely causes those who know a few economic facts to ignore Christianity when the August 21st issue of The Economist provides this perspective:
“An apology is due to Barack Obama: Americans expect much from their president, but they do not think he should run car companies. Fortunately, Barack Obama agrees. This week the American government moved closer to getting rid of its stake in General Motors when the recently ex-bankrupt company filed to offer its shares once more to the public...Many people thought this bail-out (and a smaller one involving Chrysler, an even sicker firm) unwise. Lovers of free markets (including The Economist) feared that Mr. Obama might use GM as a political tool; perhaps favoring the unions who donate to Democrats or forcing the firm to build smaller, greener cars than consumers want to buy. The label “Government Motors” quickly stuck, evoking images of clunky committee-built cars that burned banknotes instead of petrol--all run by what Sarah Palin might call the socialist-in-chief. Yet doomsayers were wrong...The lesson for American voters is that their president, for all his flaws, has no desire to own the commanding heights of industry. A gambler, yes. An interventionist, yes. A socialist, no.”
The week I am writing this, Peggy Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the tea partiers are not so much angry as fearful. Perhaps. But it’s very easy for a hand clenched from fear to become an angry fist. Scriptures say the sun shouldn’t set on our anger and there’s no fear in love. Much of the economic fear the past twenty years has been created by politicians on the far right. Yet, the financial media this week has been full of stories about the irony that TARP has been political death for anyone who voted for it even though The Financial Times concluded it will likely cost tax payers very little and “would have easily been worth ten times the cost” as it likely prevented a depression and far higher unemployment.
Financially, if we truly want to “take the log out,” we might notice that while the most angry of us were protesting and hoarding treasury bills and gold coins, our government actually imitated Jeremiah buying a field by investing in wealth producing companies when times looked hopeless… an action applauded by more than a few respected economists, like Mark Zandi of Moody’s. And while we all seem angry at political elites, it’s a simple fact our recovering stock market--which has gained more since the bottom than the price of gold and the increase in our federal debt--has prevented many pension plans from going under, devastating millions of elderly.
If I am the only conservative in America to do so, I will give thanks to God, as well as honor and respect to Washington, for those blessings this Thanksgiving, even if I might vote for any Republican who offers positive ideas rather than negative criticisms.
Investment decisions should be based upon an individuals goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance.
Gary Moore is an investment counselor affiliated with NPC Of America, member FINRA/SIPC. The views expressed are his alone.
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