I’m a bit surprised that you would give such prominence in your newsletter to The Atlantic magazine article “Did Christianity Cause the Crash?”
Written by Hanna Rosin, the article is simply a misleading, agenda-driven and poorly reported piece of anti-Christian dreck. Maybe you were just looking to provoke a reaction. If so, you succeeded.
It’s of course no secret that Christianity is increasingly under attack. (After all, the “holiday” season and “holiday” shopping are almost upon us, and before long we will be singing “holiday” songs around the “holiday” tree.) But to even suggest that Christianity has anything to do with the mortgage meltdown and the financial crisis is frankly as bizarre as it gets. There are so many problems with Ms. Ronin’s article, but let me highlight some of the most egregious ones.
- That there are a small number of high profile so-called Christian preachers who able to contort and distort Jesus’ teachings to suggest faith is a ticket to financial well being is not exactly new news. Jesus himself warns us about false prophets several times, as in Matthew 7:15-23, when he says, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”
- Ms. Rosin writes “the prosperity gospel (is) a strain of belief that runs through the Pentecostal Church and a surprising number of mainstream evangelical churches, with varying degrees of intensity.” How vague can you get? A “strain of belief” … “a surprising number”? How’s that for hard facts. Then there’s this totally unsubstantiated whopper: “Among mainstream, nondenominational megachurches, where much of American religious life takes place, [the]‘prosperity [gospel] is proliferating’ rapidly.” There are exactly no facts or figures to back up these dubious contentions. But why provide facts when they would blow a hole in your nutty theory. According to the most recent American Religious Identification Survey, there are approximately 173 million Christians in America. Of this total, about 8 million, or less than 5%, identify themselves as nondenominational. Five percent is representative of “where much of American religious life takes place”?
- Ms. Rosin, no doubt unwittingly, let’s her bias slip when she writes: “I wanted to try to piece together the connection between the gospel and today’s economic reality.” In other words, she is starting with a premise (i.e., there is a connection between the Christianity and the economic downturn) that I suppose she expects the reader to accept simply because she says it’s so. Why do I suppose this? Because she provides nothing but purely anecdotal evidence that such a connection exists.
- Of course, most of her anecdotal evidence involves Pastor Fernando Garay. Suffice to say that Mercedes-driving, Hawaiian-shirt wearing Pastor Garay is something other than your typical Christian cleric. Rosin calls Garay’s church “a compelling case study” [because] from 2001 to 2007, while he was building his church, Garay was also a loan officer at two different mortgage companies.” Rosin chooses the word “compelling.” I would think any of the following descriptives would have been more accurate: “atypical,” “oddball,” “ridiculous.” In other words, Rosin chooses one of the weirdest Christian pastors in America as her primary example of the exemplifying link between Christianity and the economic downturn.
- Rosin’s shoddy reporting continues when she writes: “Demographically, the growth of the prosperity gospel tracks fairly closely to the pattern of foreclosure hot spots … Kate Bowler found that most new prosperity-gospel churches were built along the Sun Belt, particularly in California, Florida, and Arizona — all areas that were hard-hit by the mortgage crisis.” Once again, no hard figures are given, but even if such a correlation does exists, it proves absolutely nothing. Ms. Bowler is identified as a “doctoral candidate,” but I assume her Ph.D. will not be in statistics or logic, as she is apparently unaware that “correlation does not imply causation.” Here’s another example, Ms. Rosin writes for The Atlantic; therefore all Atlantic reporters are hacks.
- Of course, no article attacking Christians would be complete without its requisite doses of political correctness, gratuitous Conservative bashing and fanciful Liberal glorification.
- First the political correctness – Ronin quotes a Tony Tian-Ren Lin, “a researcher at the University of Virginia”(now there’s an authority!), who suggests that so-called prosperity churches take advantage of poor, immigrant Latinos who are sucked in by the notion that faith will lead to financial rewards, making them easy prey for those big bad predatory mortgage lenders. Lest we miss who’s really at fault, Ronin adds that “Tony Lin is careful — and of course correct — to say that neither immigrants nor Latinos caused the crash.” (Emphasis added)
- Next the gratuitous Conservative bashing – Ronin writes, “Few of Sarah Palin’s religious compatriots were shocked by her messy family life, because they’ve grown used to the paradoxes; some of the most socially conservative evangelical churches also have extremely high rates of teenage pregnancies, out-of-wedlock births, and divorce.” As my Dad used to say, “What the hell does that have to do with the price of tea in China?” Memo to Ronin – Christians and social conservative are also human and imperfect. The real paradox is how this article could have been published in a major magazine when it wouldn’t pass muster with the editor of my son’s high school newspaper.
- Finally, the fanciful Liberal glorification – Ronin writes, “There is the kind of hope that President Obama talks about, and that Clinton did before him — steady, uplifting, assured.” So there you have it, Democratic presidents are steady, uplifting and assured. Christianity? Not so much.
Let me conclude by stating it is truly scary how far the profession of journalism has fallen. I’m not talking about biased reporting, which has existed since the headline “Dog Bites Man” betrayed the headline writer’s hatred of canines, but rather bald-faced agenda-driven journalism that is rooted totally in ideology. “Did Christianity Cause the Crash?” was written for only one purpose: to disparage Christianity. Jesus asked that his crucifiers be forgiven “for the know not what they do.” He will have to find another rationale for forgiving Hanna Rosin.