What do you think is the biggest social issue that churches struggle with today? Many people believe that gay marriage tops the list. But Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Bible Church in Beltsville, Maryland, struggles more with teaching his congregants about greed and the need to be frugal in today’s economic climate, the “Great Recession.”
CNN Belief Blog writer Jeff Blake spoke with Jackson about how to approach economic issues from the pulpit. “I’ve got to watch it,” Jackson said. “I could get into some big teaching on greed, but the reality is that a lot of that teaching may wind up creating anti-economic-growth and anti-capitalism concepts (in people’s minds)… I always talk about personal responsibility so we don’t get into the blame game.”
Many American religious leaders see their influence as crucial to congregants’ financial attitudes and behaviors, and most of them try to steer clear of giving explicit messages about how people should use their money.
Rev. Robin Meyers considers money to be the “last taboo” in the church. “It’s much easier to talk about sex than money,” he says. But, when the US economy has been recessed for so long, it seems that talking about money is exactly what leaders, religious or not, need to do.
The Christmas season was especially tough for ministers as they considered how to address the economy from the pulpit. They understand that “joblessness and insecurity is a part of life for many now,” according to the Wausau Daily Herald. Rev. David Klutterman chose to focus on the presence of God and the story of Jesus’s birth during his Christmas Eve service, rather than dwelling on earthly problems. While it is important for Christians to remember the traditional teachings during the holiday season, to me this seems like a “head in the sand” approach, and not particularly respectful to those who are struggling economically.
Across the pond, the Archbishop of Canterbury aggressively addressed Britain’s problems over the past year, claiming that “bonds have been broken, trust abused and lost.” The leader of the Anglican Church stated that British society has become based on selfishness and fear, that the youth are degenerate and irresponsible, and that the future looks bleak for Britons.
“Whether it is an urban rioter mindlessly burning down a small shop that serves his community or a speculator turning his back on the question of who bears the ultimate cost for his acquisitive adventures in the virtual reality of today’s financial world, the picture is of atoms spinning apart in the dark,” he said, as quoted in the Mirror.
The Archbishop’s unconventional, hard-hitting sermon caught the attention of many in Great Britain. Will his harsh words be the catalyst for change, or sink English morale even further?
Religious leaders across the world struggled with how to address the economy this Christmas. Whether they largely avoided the issue or faced it straight on, one sentiment remains the same worldwide: hope for a better year in 2012.
Photo credit: aronki