Jim Wallis — Challenging the Financial Gods of Wall Street

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Here's one Christian I can get on board with. Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street — A Moral Compass for the New Economy, and editor in chief of Sojourners magazine.

Here's an excerpt from his recent column in the Washington Post.
Find it at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/31/AR2009123101156.html


One cold morning the week before Christmas, I found myself huddled with a group of homeowners and religious leaders on Pennsylvania Avenue, in the shadow of the White House and the Treasury building. The homeowners, who had all worked hard to buy their first homes, and most of whom had put enough money down to qualify for fixed-rate mortgages only to be persuaded into more exotic mortgages, were facing imminent foreclosure. We had come to stand with them....

I keep coming back to the concept of grace. When the government tried to save the economy from meltdown, real grace was extended to the big banks — but now the banks seem unwilling to extend grace to anyone else, including homeowners struggling to make mortgage payments. I am reminded of one of the parables of Jesus, wherein a master forgives the debt of one of his servants out of pity for his circumstances, but then that servant refuses to forgive the debt of another servant who owes him a little money. The master gets angry and throws the unforgiving debtor into prison. The money-changers in the temples of Wall Street would do well to take note.

Clearly, the financial crisis is a structural meltdown that calls for increased government regulation of banks and other financial players. Members of faith communities, such as those who joined me in front of the Treasury building, are helping to push for this sort of reform.

But at its core, this is also a spiritual crisis. More and more people are coming to understand that underlying the economic crisis is a values crisis, and that any economic recovery must be accompanied by a moral recovery. We have been asking the wrong question: When will the financial crisis end? The right question is: How will it change us? This could be a moment to reexamine the ways we measure success, do business and live our lives; a time to renew spiritual values and practices such as simplicity, patience, modesty, family, friendship, rest and Sabbath....

The banks say they are "too big to fail." So let's make them smaller. We might finally get Wall Street's attention.

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