Written by Cathasaigh : November 28, 2008

My dad passed away in 2005 at the age of 84. He belonged to the so-called “Greatest Generation”, those who came of age during the Second World War and the Depression. Both events influenced father, and although my dad was deeply affected by his military service during the war, it was the Great Depression that had a more enduring impact on his life. My dad became a pharmacist, a career his father encouraged him to pursue, because, you see, pharmacists had work during the Great Depression.

Now and again my dad and I would talk about the Crash of 1929 and the economic catastrophe that followed. He always believed that the fundamental element of economic behavior that led to the Depression had not changed: greed. Even in the 1980s and 90s he argued there would be another “day of reckoning”, a correction to balance the gross excesses of Wall Street. The recent stock sell off, collapse of the housing market, tanking of retirement accounts, unemployment spike and demise of banking institutions like Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, and Bear Sterns are indications that the “day of reckoning” may be at hand. Indeed, Wall Street’s market sorcery of collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps and other forms of witchcraft seem to have placed a curse the economy that the handsome prince from Illinois may not be able to reverse.

As I write this, Citibank has announced the layoff of 50,000 plus employees, and the CEOs of the Big Three automakers have flown to Washington in their private jets, hat in hand, begging for taxpayer billions to keep their Lincoln Navigator and Chevy Suburban assembly lines running. The government’s total bailout money (taxed, printed and ripped off from future generations) is now trillions of dollars and counting. This largess is added, of course, to the already obese, but vastly under calculated, national debt of 10 trillion dollars.

While many of the experts who helped get us into this mess are busy explaining their mistakes and lack of foresight, others have been warning us and continue to warn us that the present economic situation is bad and could get a whole lot worse. In a recent appearance in Singapore former Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Paul Volcker made the following admission: “I have been around for a while. I have seen a lot of crises but I have never seen anything quite like this one.” He added, “This crisis is an exception. I don’t think we can escape damage to the real economy.” Noted economist Nouriel Roubini has cautioned that we’re entering into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and respected trend watcher Gerald Celente is predicting that America will be a much different and poorer place in 2012. (To view his sobering interview with FOX Business click here).

“The world ain’t going to be saved by nobody’s scheme. It’s fellows with schemes that got us into this mess. Plans get you into things, but you got to work your way out.” Will Rogers

America is at a precipice. The question now is not whether there will be a severe recession, but whether the experts hatching schemes and overheating the printing presses in Washington will be able to prevent a full scale economic depression that rivals the collapse of the 1930s. I’m an optimistic person by nature, but I’m not optimistic that our leaders will be able to guide us out of this mess without real hardship. For those of us who proclaim our allegiance to the Kingdom of God this means we have our work cut out for us.

In light of all this, here are some ideas for faithful action…

For the Church:

1. It’s time to get utterly serious about intentional Christian community. We are going to need each other more than ever in the next few years. Get with brothers and sisters of faith now and pray for wisdom. There are many models for Christian community; new monasticism is just one. Pray, pick one and act.

2. Get ready to take care of the homeless. You or your neighbors may be counted among them.

3. Don’t forget the poor in other countries, this recession is global. Whatever economic disaster hits here will be much, much worse overseas.

4. The Church must remain a testimony of hope among the hopeless. Throw a ceili dance, invite neighbors, share your joy in Christ.

For individuals:

1. Learn practical skills. People who can fix things, build stuff, facilitate healing, teach, grow food, hunt and fish will be in demand. Liberal arts majors take note!

2. Entertain yourselves without technology. Learn a musical instrument. Write poetry. Learn to draw. Start a weekly Scrabble game. Go for a walk.

3. Get out of debt. Get out of debt. Get out of debt.

4. Pray.

The prophets of economic doom and gloom may be wrong. I am certainly willing to eat crow if my concerns prove false (provided the crow is cooked in a savory Thai curry and I can put it on my VISA). Nevertheless, if the present economic trajectory continues unabated, 2012 may produce a much starker and harsher America. My gut tells me that our luxurious, American-built-SUV-of consumption-excess is going to turn into a pumpkin at Midnight and the clock just struck 11:55.

Author Bio:: Cathasaigh is a member of Missio Dei, along with his wife and two boys.

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Viewing 5 Comments

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    On the get out-of-debt thing:

    One idea I have had is that the Christian community pays off the debt of it's members. This serves two purposes - the capital that WOULD have gone toward interest is now kept, and the type of things that get paid off (or don't) are determined by the community, leading toward more accountability toward one's splurges.

    After all, if you're openly discussing financing your second mortgage versus another parishioner's medical expenses, it'll put some perspective on what is important.

    And no, I do not currently do this. But I'm willing to move in that direction, and we're working activity on destroying the debt we yet have.
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    Thank you for real ideas for real action for these oh too real concerns.

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    This article is so right on! Thanks for posting it!

    The get out of debt thing is HUGE with my wife and I. We have been preaching and teaching on it for a while with a lot of resistance. Most people I know want to argue the semantics of good debt vs. bad debt, blah blah blah.. I know that if the crap hits the fan, it will all be bad debt.

    My wife and I have a modest mortgage and student loans, so we're paying about $1500 a month to banks. I know I would much rather be able to bless others rather than pay that money to financial institutions and banks.

    Just like your father, I am a pharmacist, which is a great job for bad economic times. I pray that God can allow me to be a blessing to others in hard times and that He'll grant me the ability to pay down all of our loans before any kind of crisis hit.
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    Your "get serious about community" hits the bullseye. People who have made it through hard times, through collapses of societies like Russia, all say that belonging to a firm local network of relationships is foundational survival in exceedingly gloomy times. To say nothing of somehow even emotionally and spiritually THRIVING in said times.

    Many of us have, not least myself, have probably been occasionally accused of being kinda Chicken Little about this stuff ( in the past, and indeed now it's been sobering to see it all coming so fast and so soon and so hard. Thank you for starting this conversation here.

    What of the heaving population dislocations that this is all going to cause? Of the millions of unemployed moving out of Michigan, of the debt-addled folks in Cali heading to greener pastures elsewhere, of a water-hungry Arizona seeing its population relocate to stabler states. What this will do to the church's ability to accomodate major immigrations to their towns and neighborhoods should prove interesting. For all the voices calling for the discipline of Hospitality, this may soon be your moment. :)

    I was away ranching and farming in New Zealand for September and October, when so much of this was happening; when I got back to the 'States, a coworker with whom I have talked about this Peak-Oil-OMG catastrof*ck eco-apocalypticism stuff with said, "Brandon, why did you come back?"

    I didn't have to pause to find my answer. "There are people here that I love." That, in the face of all this hardship, is what drives me to stay the storm, to weather the long emergency that it feels like this fast-dissolving empire is dive-bombing into.
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    My feeling was right all along. The Mayans were right about 2012!


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