Colson on Wall Street blues

Chuck Colson has an, um, “interesting” perspective on the recent financial turmoil. He begins by conceding that there may be legitimate cause for concern.

Most of us have been badly shaken by the tumultuous events of the last 48 hours in Wall Street. If you have an IRA or some kind of retirement plan, no doubt you’re licking your wounds. You may even be fearful. I understand. I’ve experienced those apprehensions myself.

As an influential Christian leader, however, Colson has to remain focused on the really important issues, like “How can I use this crisis to persuade even more people to trust Christianity?”…

But as I told a worried young man on our team today, we need to remember that fear is always the enemy of faith. A few months ago, in the midst of fervent prayer during my devotions, I had an especially strong realization that my life was completely in God’s hands. To live is Christ, to die is gain. I’ve known that intellectually, but for the first time in my life, it is now engraved in my soul. Now, when things go wrong, I turn to God, pray, trust Him, and feel an amazing peace. I’m His.

Don’t think of it as a major economic crisis brought about through greed, gullibility, and failure of government oversight. Think of it as a clever technique God uses to help us grow more trusting and to be less concerned with real-world consequences. After all, if we worried too much about preventing such crises, we might deprive God of valuable opportunities to lead us into disasters that will force us to cry, “God help us all, because sure as hell nobody else can!”

Colson seems to realize, at least, Who is ultimately responsible for the current mess.

And you know what else? The financial markets are His. The world is His. I don’t know why it took me 35 years to get this, but I finally have.

Ok, sure, to those of us who aren’t in on God’s wonderful and mysterious plan, it looks like God’s management of His financial markets has led to wealth for a few greedy individuals and major financial hardships (to say nothing of financial ruin) for many others. At least He means well, right?

But wait, even though the markets are supposedly in God’s control, their current state is not really God’s fault after all:

What’s more, there’s a great opportunity for you to explain the importance of a biblical worldview to your friends. Because these financial troubles are the direct result of our nation turning its back on God.

No, Chuck, these financial troubles are the result of a lot of people gullibly believing whatever men tell them, just like you want them to merely take your word for it that God is in control and is making everything good no matter how bad the real world evidence shows it to be. And of course this crisis is also the result of government policies that emphasize promoting the profits of big business even at the cost of important consumer safeguards. That’s something our born-again conservative Christian president is real big on, isn’t it?

Colson ignores the financial and legal factors that led to this crisis in favor of blaming one of his favorite scapegoats: “moral relativism.”

Simply put, the rise of relativism in postmodern Western life has led to the collapse of a moral consensus. With everyone making up his own rules when it comes to right and wrong, is it any wonder our economic system is under stress?

The problem isn’t that everyone is making up their own rules, it’s that too many people (and people in high places no less) are making up their own facts, so-called, and are using the power of talking points to push an alternative “worldview” that doesn’t match reality. Any time this happens, there are going to be consequences. You can stretch the truth only so far before it snaps back into place. And woe betide those who get caught in the backlash.

Colson’s “solution” to the financial crisis is to work even harder to reinforce the same absence of skepticism, the same focus on spiritual (i.e. subjective) values, and the same “God is in control” fatalism that gave business the green light to inflate their own profits at the expense of consumer safety. For all that Colson complains about an alleged loss of “moral concensus,” he only treats greed as “immoral” when it leads to (yet another) major crisis. And this moral ambivalence about greed is also a contributing factor in the current financial mess, and not a solution to it.

My wife and I were talking about finances a few years ago, and she was telling me about what great deals all her friends were getting (some as low as only $200/month payments on a 4-bedroom single-family home). It sounded too good to be true, and my Skept-a-larm was clanging like crazy. “There’s no way the banks can be making a profit at those rates,” I said, and we decided not to refinance. Because of that, our home is still on a fixed-rate, low-interest mortgage, and our payments are fairly constant (plus or minus property taxes and what-not). The same skepticism that makes me suspicious of Colson’s bland don’t-worry-be-happy faith in Jesus also made me suspicious of these too-good financial promises.

So to all you faithful, financially-troubled Christians out there, who followed your born-again administration’s policies into financial ruin, I have a small word of hope: it’s not too late to begin to exercise a little less gullibility and a little more healthy skepticism. Really, it’s in your own best interests to take a grain of salt when men start making unsubstantiated promises that offer too much while showing too little. And that’s true whether we’re talking mammon or God.

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Posted in Current Events. 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “Colson on Wall Street blues”

  1. Modusoperandi Says:

    “…we need to remember that fear is always the enemy of faith.” ~ Chuck Colson
    *Pbbt!* He’s wrong. Everybody knows that “Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration…”. Chuck would make a terrible nerd.

  2. MediaGuy Says:

    I think you are being far to critical! Colson isn’t trying to give a explanation of the financial markets – he is giving the spiritual perspective which is what he does. I find no fault in his encouraging people to pray and trust God when these systems corrupted by greed, stupidity and self-interest come tumbling down. I think there would be a lot of Biblical references that would support that perspective. It is from a place of confidence in God and His guidance one can find ways to mitigate the impact this crisis will have on the American people. This is a time for leadership with creative solutions birthed in God’s heart. Criticism doesn’t get any of us any where. My suggestion is to lighten up and offer us all something tangible in the way of solutions.

  3. Deacon Duncan Says:

    I think perhaps you missed my point: Colson’s “spiritual” perspective is a part of the problem. God does not show up in real life, and waiting for His help is as futile as seeking His guidance. What is worse, in the absence of any actual participation by God, men substitute their own feelings and impulses, calling them “God’s leading” and “what God is showing me,” and proceed with great confidence and unshakable faith to do things that are supposedly God’s divine wisdom, and in reality are just somebody’s hunch. That’s a bad thing, and if put into general practice, can cause problems like those we see today under the present “faith-based” administration. Financial problems are only the tip of the iceberg; we’re also facing educational compromises, significant erosion of our civil and constitutional rights, and outright human rights violations, all prayerfully and faithfully initiated by our devout and godly leaders. If anything, I’m being far too lenient on Colson and others who urge us to simply trust and obey.

  4. MediaGuy Says:

    Dear Duncan, I appreciate your concerns about the seriousness of the situation however, I could not disagree with you more about what God will or will not do. The stories in the Bible are not just stories, they are the living breathing life experiences of ordinary people who were in trouble had a relationship with God and he came through for them. Personally, I have had God come through for me many of times (hundreds upon Hundreds). The times He hasn’t I look back on now and realize I wasn’t listening or was listening and not willing to trust. I believe there are literally millions of people who have had the personal experiences that are described in the Bible. That is why it means so much to them. I would be one of them. So you have lived just one life. One out of 6 Billion and there is a chance He (God) may be outside your personal experience therefore you don’t have the conviction that He is a lover of mankind and He does have the answers, if we will listen. Not trying to preach to you. Just trying to get you to understand some thing that is outside your experience.

  5. jim Says:

    MediaGuy: The question is, do your experiences reflect any sort of reality, other than the one inside your own head? Your sort of personal testimony for God’s existence is echoed within many of the world’s religions. Does that make them true, as well? Where is the evidence that makes your religion different, and more valid, than the faiths of others?

    The thread running through most of Duncan’s writings, as I interpret it, is that if your kind of God, as described in your holy books, really existed, none of this discussion would even be necessary. His existence would be as obvious to all as the existence of the sky, and when was the last time you got into an argument about the sky’s existence? All the evidence ever offered for God’s existence is the re-telling of ancient stories, some muddled philosophical reasoning, and tales of the imagination.

    Perhaps God IS outside my personal experience; however, it’s just as likely (moreso, IMO), that a sober take on reality is outside of yours. If your God is indeed a ‘lover of mankind’, he’s certainly doing a lousy job of showing it. Seems more like a deadbeat dad, to me.

  6. Deacon Duncan Says:


    One of the reasons I refer specifically to God’s failure to show up in real life is precisely because people do have subjective experiences which they attribute to God even though none of them require any actual existence on God’s part. People pray that something will happen, and it’s inevitable that something will indeed happen. If they like how it turned out, they say, “God granted my prayer,” and if it’s not what they wanted they say, “Oh, this one doesn’t count for some reason”—they were asking from wrong motives, or it wasn’t God’s will, or God had something better. It’s a heads-I-win/tails-you-lose game. You’re guaranteed to get an “answer” you can attribute to God (or Zeus, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or whoever). But there is a strict and absolute limit to what kind of answer God can give: He can never give any answer that would be demonstrably different from what an imaginary friend could do for you. He can be given credit for the normal course of ordinary events, but He cannot do things like show up in real life and say “Hi.”

    If God’s existence is outside of my experience, that’s His fault not mine. If He is unwilling or unable to show up in the real world, there’s just not a whole lot I can do about it (except possibly deceive myself, which would not be a good thing). Unless and until He does show up in real life, I have no opportunity to put my faith in Him. The closest I could come to faith in God would be if I decided to believe you—which would be faith in men, not faith in God, since I’m just taking your word for it that God is real when the evidence says otherwise. But believing what men say when the evidence says otherwise is gullibility, not faith, so even if I do believe you I’m still not having genuine faith.

    Alethea is a much better God than the Christian deity. She shows up in real life, she exists in all places and at all times, all power, wisdom, and knowledge reside within her, etc. She is greater than any other God, since no God can be greater than Reality, and any God equal to reality is Alethea. So all other Gods must be lesser. And, unlike other gods, Alethea has the genuine power to show up, even for unbelievers.

    So while I respect the sincerity of your convictions, I cannot express any confidence that they are actually true. Your God is a deity who only shows up in the stories and feelings and imaginations of men, in ways that are self-contradictory and inconsistent with the real-world evidence. Truth is consistent with itself, and therefore consistency with real-world truth is the ultimate and infallible standard by which we ought to judge the stories and feelings of men. Until God actually shows up in real life, it is mere gullibility to just take human words and feelings for it.