Church, Religion and Questionable Financial Advice

This article was last updated on August 3

This is a somewhat controversial guest post by Tony Parker. I was debating whether to publish it given religion and finance are a dangerous mix. However, I think he does make some valid points and it would be interesting to see what others think.

I am always amazed at the power of religion in times of hardship. Many say that religion was “invented” to provide relief for people during the dark ages and over time that has proven to be true to some extent. Of course over the centuries as organized religion has spread all over the world, it has grown as a source of power and influence. Both for good and evil.

I recently went to church with my family after a long time. I am an irregular church-goer at best and tend to only go a few times a year. However, my wife was pretty insistent the whole family go on the weekend following our 15th wedding anniversary. When we got there, I was amazed at how much the congregation had grown. I thought this was just organic growth – our Pastor is very active in community outreach – but soon realized that it was a direct result of more people coming to church to get some respite from the financial hardships they were facing. This trend is also evident across the nation, with a recent survey showing that 62% of congregations have had more requests for financial assistance and 40% of members have lost their jobs.

I also noticed that sermons (at my church at least) have become much more money-centric and are sending the message that by following the right “path” we can get out of financial hardship. This is where I start having problems with “religion” and those who preach it. I do believe that churches and other places of worship should help their communities and that charitable donations should be encouraged to support those less fortunate. But, when my pastor starts giving broad financial advise and talks about the evils of the stock market and investing, I start getting very uncomfortable. To blame the current financial crisis on those not following the path chosen by god, is just a cheap way of scoring points (our politicians use a similar mechanism). It took a lot of people from many different religions to get us into the current mess, and to say that if they had followed the “bible’s teachings” we would not be in this mess – is to grossly oversimplify the situation. People were just as religious a few years ago as they are today, so why would should we expect that scripture will solve the nation’s financial problems?

Religion can be your moral compass and faith has a lot of power, but it will not be your financial salvation. I don’t see any religious texts mentioning the evils of financial derivatives, hedge fund managers or credit default swaps. To effectively deal with financial hardship, see a qualified professional or contact one of many state assistance agencies. Just don’t expect a miracle to suddenly solve all your financial problems.

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