Christian talk on the recession

The current issue of The Christian Century is focused on the recession.

The cover headline reads: “Theological Dividends: Lessons of the economic downturn”

I have an article about how churches in good, old Westchester County have tried to respond to the needs of suburbanites.

My story is not on the Christian Century website, so you can’t read it unless you’re an old-fashioned subscriber. We miss subscribers in the print world.

But you can read the thoughts of the Rev. Michael Lindvall, pastor of the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City, who writes about the different ways people try to come to terms with the financial mess. Some blame others. Some focus on being victimized.

But Lindvall puts the onus on human sin. He writes:

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Calvin saw that human brokenness is no simple matter of doing some things that are wrong while doing others that are altogether right. Rather, even our noblest, wisest and most selfless acts are tinged with the sin that permeates even our virtues. Niebuhr reminded us that sin is not simply a reality within individual persons or a matter of autonomous choices; it is systemic. Sin is built into our finest institutions. It is endemic in our highest culture. It is hidden in our wisest strategic plans and plagues well-intended governments and noble reform movements. Sin confounds complex financial derivatives and the rescue plans designed to clean up their mess. No one, not one, is righteous.

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You can also read the musings of four other Christian scholars. One of them, Deirdre McCloskey, who teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago and has written a theological defense of capitalism, wrote this:

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Innovation has been better than any exercise of the usual Christian charity. Indeed, from the point of view of a theology of creativity, it has been Christian charity. Give what you will to the poor of the world, economic creativity since 1800 has given ten times more. Simple charity is good for your soul. But if you wish actually to help the poor, you should let markets and innovation work, because they are what have transformed the lives of the poor. Look at China or India, freed from Mao’s communism or the License Raj. The world economy has sharply slowed this year. But it will return next year to raising the incomes of the poorest faster than at any time in history.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.