Eugene Cho

america’s financial crisis

I’m sorry America. I was on vacation last week and completely disconnected from news and look what happens.  We’re having a historic meltdown of the country’s financial system as we know it.  It’s all my fault.  I’m sorry.

Seriously, after being disconnected on local, national, and global news, I’m catching up on stuff and still trying to understand what’s going on.  So, I have some questions for you:

  • What is going on?  Why is this happening?
  • What do you think of the bailout?
  • The average person is already impacted by the economics.  Two people at church this past Sunday shared they got laid off…both work in the financial sector.  How is this current Wall St./financial meltdown affecting you? 

Money has a role in all of our lives.  But events such as this remind me again how idolatrous the money machine can be for all of us.  This includes me.  Here are some questions to help us re-focus how we as Christians can engage with money as a tool rather than a “god.”  Like many of you, I struggle and constantly try to check my heart and stewardship.

  1. Is it your money or God’s money?  Are you the owner or steward [manager]?
  2. Do you make decisions based on money or by seeking God’s guidance first?
  3. Do you honestly believe that God can provide for you?  Simply, do you trust God?
  4. Would you be willing to work for less money if you felt that God was leading you to a lower paying job?
  5. Do you constantly worry whether or not you will have enough money?
  6. Do you constantly fight over money with your spouse or family?
  7. Are you constantly envious of wealthier people? 
  8. Do you give joyfully, faithfully, and sacrificially to the work of the Kingdom including your local church? 
  9. Do you spend more than you earn, rely on credit cards or loans, and find yourself drowning in debt but with no plan? 
  10. Are you a slave to the Upward Mobility mindset:  You want more. You need more. You must have more.

As I try to survey the financial crisis that we’re in right now, I’m reminded of human GREED and our desire to engage in Upward Mobility.  In short, we all want MORE. The average person wants more; spends more than they earn and can afford; but still wants more and thus, seeks loans, quick fixes, and credit cards.  The financial institution loves people to be in debt; they make money off people’s debt; they give out loans to people that are often unable to pay back those loans.  Accountability for corporate executives is abysmal and at times nonexistent and their “compensation” is surreal.  And this cycle goes on and on until something snaps…and a perfect financial meltdown storm ensues. 

Despite what Gordon Gekko [played by Michael Douglas] so charismatically says, greed is not good.  Even greed needs accountability.

Filed under: politics, religion

20 Responses

  1. Tyler says:

    It is the first time I’ve felt blessed to be renting instead of owning.

  2. Sue says:

    Let’s not forget that we’re spending anywhere from 10-12 billion dollars every single month on the war in Iraq.

  3. Matt EHH says:

    The chickens are coming home…

    The whistle blowers have been calling out the weaknessess in the system for a while now, but it seems like everyone who could do anything about the inevitable crisis were benefiting from those same weaknessess.

    I think most americans are responsible. the majority of us are driven by the culture of consuming more and more regardless of our means, or our consumption’s effect on our neighbor. But the larger share of the blame, I think is on those who benefited the most from the incredibly bloated, largely unaccountable financial system.

    Sad thing is it is those who are furthest away from causing these problems (and reaping any short-term rewards) are the ones who will be hit the hardest.

    Blessed are the poor… its better to lose the whole world than your soul.

    Jesus was right. I’ve always been on the poor side and have always been blessed. But things are about to get even more difficult for poor people.

  4. Bob says:

    Great post… I have been having people ask me about the whole thing and I think you summed it up well with your questions… I like #3 the best… Is He or isn’t He going to take care of us? I think I know the answer…

  5. Esemare says:

    Great post. Sure money is what makes this world go round, but the current financial situation in America is a reminder that life slows down for nothing.

    On another note, Rachel Maddow had a great segment on her show last night about the whole situation. She explained what is gonig on in terms of halloween candy–oversimplistic, but creative.…44712#26844712

  6. I think the best writeup of the problem and the (problem with the) bailout was done by Paul Krugman at the NYT:

    Christine and I are lucky that the economy hasn’t affected us negatively yet. We’re still living off a bootstrapped startup though so if the venture capital economy totally dries up I might have to look for new work.

    I feel compassion for all the folks who are losing jobs and retirements in this. I also feel anger at the people who made billions of dollars at their expense via deregulation and market manipulation. I’m not sure which feeling is stronger :-/

  7. Tom says:

    Starting up 2 non-profits so I’m sure we’ll see the results soon in reduced funding for the non-profit sector. When people panic one of the first things to go is investment in the social good.

    My family is pretty insulated so we’ll just have to hunkier down some while avoiding the severe dislocation other folks are going through.

    Loved what Brazilian president Lula da Silva said about the whole thing earlier today: “In our current capitalist systems, the profits of big business are privatized while their losses are often socialized.” :^)

  8. eugenecho says:

    @Tom: i hear ya. raising funds for our poverty org has been difficult with the current economic picture. it reminds me much of when we planted quest church 8+ years ago. the market in 2000 crashed and then there was 9/11.

  9. Marianne says:

    Dear Eugene,

    I am at peace about this. While my whole retirement is on the line, I have to keep going forward. I cannot panic or worry. I will trust in God to take care of me, no matter what. I just look forward to what is ahead and above. As Paul said, I have abounded, and I have been abased. I have been blessed, and I have seen worse times. I know that this life is temporary, and I look forward to what comes next. The Holy Spirit comforts me, and I feel his presence over me. I see none of my money as mine. I am a steward. I have always lived as if there were no retirement money anyhow. I can eat beans and rice, and be thankful. I have only one Shepherd, and He loves me and cares about me. He is all I want anyhow. So I am already happy, and need nothing else. If I live in my house, then that is ok. If l live on the street, then that is ok too.


  10. First, the God I believe in isn’t short of cash (thanks Bono). We invented money, God has nothing to do with it, and is probably appalled at how some religions manipulate people into parting with it so they can build fantastic monuments to their wealth (ahummm Crystal Cathedral). The God I believe in is not so insecure that we need to do these things.

    Second, we made this mess, not with our idolatry of money, but the possessions we obtain with it. Look around you at what people drive, the homes they HAD to have, the brand name jeans they must adorn..etc.. Our affection to the materialistic has caused a lot of this.

    Third, the bill must be paid. We can choose to own it, suffer for a while and learn from our mistakes, or simply pass the bill on to our children, and their children. However, history (see the Great Depression) has shown us that we can climb out of any economic hole we dig. The GD is not that different than what we’re experiencing today. Well except that unemployment was over 40%, and over 11,000 banks failed…

    My wife and I drive cars that are paid for, our home (which we have lived in for 17 years) is nearly paid for, and we live a modest, but comfortable lifestyle, proving it can be done, if you learn that happiness comes from within, and all the possessions in the world will not create sustainable happiness.

    Nice introspect…but we’ve got to get busy…and stop lamenting over all of this…work, work , work…which is where I’m going now…


  11. Chris Bean says:

    These are some great questions to keep in mind. And there seems to be a direct correlation between our ability to actually trust in God’s provision and our inability to consume less.

  12. vote for ron paul says:

    Time is running out
    September 24th, 2008 by Ron Paul
    Dear Friends,
    Whenever a Great Bipartisan Consensus is announced, and a compliant media assures everyone that the wondrous actions of our wise leaders are being taken for our own good, you can know with absolute certainty that disaster is about to strike.

    The events of the past week are no exception.

    The bailout package that is about to be rammed down Congress’ throat is not just economically foolish. It is downright sinister. It makes a mockery of our Constitution, which our leaders should never again bother pretending is still in effect. It promises the American people a never-ending nightmare of ever-greater debt liabilities they will have to shoulder. Two weeks ago, financial analyst Jim Rogers said the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac made America more communist than China! “This is welfare for the rich,” he said. “This is socialism for the rich. It’s bailing out the financiers, the banks, the Wall Streeters.”

    That describes the current bailout package to a T. And we’re being told it’s unavoidable.

    The claim that the market caused all this is so staggeringly foolish that only politicians and the media could pretend to believe it. But that has become the conventional wisdom, with the desired result that those responsible for the credit bubble and its predictable consequences – predictable, that is, to those who understand sound, Austrian economics – are being let off the hook. The Federal Reserve System is actually positioning itself as the savior, rather than the culprit, in this mess!

    • The Treasury Secretary is authorized to purchase up to $700 billion in mortgage-related assets at any one time. That means $700 billion is only the very beginning of what will hit us.

    • Financial institutions are “designated as financial agents of the Government.” This is the New Deal to end all New Deals.

    • Then there’s this: “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.“ Translation: the Secretary can buy up whatever junk debt he wants to, burden the American people with it, and be subject to no one in the process.

    There goes your country.

    Even some so-called free-market economists are calling all this “sadly necessary.” Sad, yes. Necessary? Don’t make me laugh.

    Our one-party system is complicit in yet another crime against the American people. The two major party candidates for president themselves initially indicated their strong support for bailouts of this kind – another example of the big choice we’re supposedly presented with this November: yes or yes. Now, with a backlash brewing, they’re not quite sure what their views are. A sad display, really.

    Although the present bailout package is almost certainly not the end of the political atrocities we’ll witness in connection with the crisis, time is short. Congress may vote as soon as tomorrow. With a Rasmussen poll finding support for the bailout at an anemic seven percent, some members of Congress are afraid to vote for it. Call them! Let them hear from you! Tell them you will never vote for anyone who supports this atrocity.

    The issue boils down to this: do we care about freedom? Do we care about responsibility and accountability? Do we care that our government and media have been bought and paid for? Do we care that average Americans are about to be looted in order to subsidize the fattest of cats on Wall Street and in government? Do we care?

    When the chips are down, will we stand up and fight, even if it means standing up against every stripe of fashionable opinion in politics and the media?

    Times like these have a way of telling us what kind of a people we are, and what kind of country we shall be.

    In liberty,

    Ron Paul

  13. Andy says:

    Interesting speech by Bush tonight. My personal opinion is that he is unfortunately correct that we have got to do the “socialistic” bail-out on the backs of the taxpayers. The risks are too high that these toxic loans and opaque derivatives will shock the financial system to depression-like times. In my worldview, this will set things in motion that will hurt the poor more than we can ever imagine and make non-profits like PE’s work even harder. Financial capitalism with all its faults has allowed people to invest in their futures – consider education (college loans), microcredit to entrepreneurs, homes, businesses, savings (hugely important for rainy days and opportunities to give). Without access to credit, we severely impact the ability for the poor to access capital and to better their lives for themselves and their children. We cannot allow this to happen. Likewise, we need more transparency in the markets to allow for decisions to be seen by the public and understood by the public especially as it relates to derivatives so that risks can be easily seen and determined. It’s interesting how transparency seems to keep people on the straight and narrow more often than not. Unfortunately, our government will likely resort to more regulation and paperwork that doesn’t solve the problem. We cannot afford to stand on the sidelines, we need to be the voice for those who will be hurt most by this financial disaster and find ways to make sure our disadvantaged are looked after. Ok – it’s late…

  14. Rick in Texas says:

    Eugene, since you started with “I’m sorry America” I feel compelled to say on behalf of all of us, we forgive you.

  15. […] mutual is gone While folks knew that Washington Mutual was in trouble during this current financial crisis, I am in shock right now that they are no longer.  Washington Mutual is […]

  16. randplaty says:

    What caused it? The housing bubble of course. What caused the housing bubble and the tech bubble? This presumption by our monetary banking system that some inflation is good and necessary. If inflation is good and necessary, it forces businesses and the economy to be ever growing and ever growing on an exponential scale. What can grow forever on an exponential scale? Nothing. Thus the collapse.

    This was an inevitable consequence of our monetary/banking system.

  17. […] How is your church community preparing for this economic crisis? […]

  18. robin says:

    the population of this and other western countries are junkies.
    a junkie forfeits his physical and economical future and that of his kids. he will at all times focus on his kids to make sure everything is okay but he can’t do it as a priority as he has to hustle to make money to get his fix ( food – sweets/coke/pepsi/ – alcohol – cocaine – smoking – sex – tv – dvd – myspace/facebook/youtube/porn sites – play stations / shopping for clothes/shoes/cd’s/ – going to the movies – buying cars – buying homes – making vacations at nice places/beaches = he just has no time to make his kids his priority because his life style is depraving him of time do so. there is a consequence to this self abuse too – it’s called = physical degeneration. by hustling and abusing them self with their addictions they need PHARMACEUTICAL DRUGS which are their to make them feel good again but make them hooked on theses drugs in addition to their junkie life style. in this mindless & irresponsible state they can’t oppose the political process they see unfolding before their eyes in form of voter fraud / disarming the population / corruption / leading the country into a war etc. as they can’t act. they only emotionally act in form of complaining and developing neurosis. the account of militias which are only a kind of weekend fad and neo nazi separatist groups who have jews and homosexuels joining them shows how ineffective even the integrity of these radical groups are which are very often infiltrated by FBI and other government agencies. the top leaders of these radical movements are all addicts. if one talks about efficiency concerning the population one can talk only about shopping and buying junk. to fathom the addiction of the people and the devastation not only of the vitality of their bodies and health consider this / in 2030/35 50% of the US population will have diabetes meaning they will be dependent on government. the rest will have cancer and other diseases which leaves the countries population of at least 3 quarters depending more or less on government. these people will make this country a communal place as somebody has to take care of these fucks, at that time not stalin will rule or hitler. who ever it will be responsibility will mean something else then. signed SOCIALIST UNITED STATES OF AMERICA = the hospital. our for fathers would be proud of us.

  19. […] are going through a painfully historic economic crisis and recession.  It’s repercussions will be felt for years or at least, I suspect that’s the case. […]

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One Day’s Wages

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In our culture, we can be so obsessed with the "spectacular" or "glamorous." The Church often engagws in thia language and paradigm...but what if God has called many of us to small, ordinary things?

Will we still be faithful?
Will we still go about such things with great love and joy?

I recently came across this picture taken by @mattylew, one of our church staff...and I started tearing up: This is my mother; in her 70s; with realities of some disabilities that make it difficult for her to stand up and sit down...but here she is on her knees and prostate in prayer. She doesn't have any social media accounts, barely knows how to use her smartphone, doesn't have a platform, hasn't written a book, doesn't have any titles in our church, isn't listed as a leader or an expert or a consultant or a guru. But she simply seeks to do her best - by God's grace - to be faithful to God. She prays for hours every day inteceding for our family, our church, and the larger world.

Even if we're not noticed or celebrated or elevated...let's be faithful. Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant. And not even successful in the eyes of the world.

Be faithful. Amen. #notetoself (and maybe helpful for someone else)

At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply. May our compassion not just be limited to the West or to those that look like us. Lifting up the people of Iraq, Iran, and Kurdistan in prayer after the 7.3 earthquake - including the many new friends I met on a recent trip to Iraq.

The death toll rises to over 400 and over 7,000 injured in multiple cities and hundreds of villages along the Western border with Iraq.

Lord, in your mercy... We are reminded again and again...that we are Resurrection People living in a Dark Friday world.

It's been a tough, emotional, and painful week - especially as we lament the horrible tragedy of the church shootings at Sutherland Springs. In the midst of this lament, I've been carried by the hope, beauty, and promise of our baptisms last Sunday and the raw and honest testimonies of God's mercy, love, and grace.

Indeed, God is not yet done. May we take heart for Christ has overcome the world. "Without genuine relationships with the poor, we rob them of their dignity and they become mere projects. And God did not intend for anyone to become our projects." Grateful this quote from my book, Overrated, is resonating with so many folks - individuals and  NGOs. / design by @preemptivelove .
May we keep working 
on ourselves 
even as we seek 
to change the world. 
To be about the latter 
without the former 
is the great temptation 
of our times.

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