Other Effects of the Great Recession

Yesterday I was searching for a personal finance blog to pick on when I came to Saving to Invest, which started the day’s entry thusly:

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.

Soup Kitchen Crop Nothing gets my attention like the phrase “controversial guest post.”  (Note to self: must google phrase regularly.)  And the title promised good material to follow: Church, Religion and Questionable Financial Advice.

It seems that Parker’s  family dragged him to church the other day.  He hadn’t been in a while, so was surprised by how many people were there.  Apparently, The Great Recession has been good for the church biz.  I guess that old saying about there being no atheists in foxholes can be extended to economic hard times.  (Although, having been there recently, I can assure you that there are atheists at the unemployment office.)

Now I’m more temple-on-Saturday than church-on-Sunday, so this is kind of alien territory for me.  (Grandpa changed the name from Curmudgstein.) But according to Parker, his pastor blamed the “current financial crisis on those not following the path chosen by god.”  Personally, I think that’s as good a hypothesis as any, but with the Great Recession affecting so many people who took so many different paths, it’s not immediately clear what went wrong.

I thought I had a great clue in a survey that Parker cited, which said that 40% of church congregations had lost their jobs.  A quick mental calculation determined that this must account for just about all our nation’s unemployed.  The Almighty couldn’t have meant that as a coincidence.

But when I clicked on the link to the survey at USA Today I found that Parker had ever so slightly misstated the findings.  It turns out that 40% of Protestant pastors surveyed reported having some church members out of work.  That’s very different.  Apparently, 60% of Protestant churches are fully employed.  If that’s not a signal from above, I don’t know what is.

Alternatively, perhaps 60% of Protestant pastors are clueless.  Or have very very small congregations.

Of course, churches (and synagogues and mosques) provide important support networks for those suffering from hard times.  That’s a wonderful thing, but what about those many secular humanists who don’t belong?  For them, the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration has recently posted on its website a Guide to Getting Through Tough Economic Times.

Touted in a press release out today, the guide focuses on the mental health impact of our economic problems.  My mental health is improved just knowing that the government considers this a priority.

The guide itself is not much longer than the press release, but does contain some important tips.  It turns out that unemployment can cause depression and anxiety.  Who knew?  And it lists some important warning signs that “you or someone you care about could be at risk for suicide.”

Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself

Looking for ways to kill oneself

Thinking or fantasying about suicide

Of course, these are just warning signs, but if your husband says something like “I’ve been thinking a lot about killing myself lately.  Got any suggestions on how?”  he might not be just making conversation.  Good to know.


  • By ObliviousInvestor, March 31, 2009 @ 12:20 pm

    Ah, statistics and surveys. No better way to (mis)prove a point. :)

  • By Rita Bradley, March 31, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

    Hi Frank, you sound a little troubled today. I agree somewhat with what the pastor said regarding blaming the “current financial crisis on those not following the path chosen by God.” I’m not in any way saying that everyone that goes to a Christian church is wonderful or even Christian but it seems to me that there were some basic Christian principles in play a few years ago in the US that aren’t in play now, much of the time. Even something as simple as the Golden Rule…I feel like greed took over a lot of people from the top down. People didn’t care who they hurt as long as they made X amount of $$ per year and it wreaked havoc!

    Anyway, hope I didn’t completely miss the point of your post but I thought this aspect of your post was worth commenting on.

  • By Rita Bradley, March 31, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

    It’s important to note that many of the greedy havoc creators ARE church goers. That doesn’t mean they’re Christian though. Jesus would not condone such things.

  • By abdpbt personal finance, March 31, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

    Really all I can say here is oy vey. Maybe the 10% off the top, pre-tax, is what led to the downfall?

  • By drleonesse, March 31, 2009 @ 3:43 pm

    “Alternatively, perhaps 60% of Protestant pastors are clueless. Or have very very small congregations.”

    Or didn’t participate in the survey.

  • By Frank Curmudgeon, March 31, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

    Rita: I’m always a little troubled. I didn’t mean to imply that I thought there wasn’t too much unethical behavior out there. But I think it is very easy to allow our emotions to get the best of us and blame all our troubles on bad and greedy people. In my experience, fiascos like this one are 1% evil and 99% stupidity.

    drleonesse: 60% of the survey respondents apparently said no, but I’m suspecting the question was not exactly what USA Today represented it to be. If this post had a point, and I’m not saying it did, it was that sloppy use of survey data can get you into trouble quickly.

  • By My Journey, March 31, 2009 @ 8:45 pm

    Stuff like this pisses me off about religion. I am Christian (Greek Orthodox to be exact), but that is the same sort of assinine logic that some people used to blame America for 9/11.

    Take a look at GodhatesAmerica and GodHatesFags

  • By GPR, April 1, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

    -14% of church goers are just there for business purposes. (78% of those are real estate or insurance agents.)

    - 24% are looking for potential mates.
    - 72% just want their mothers to quit bugging them about it already.

  • By Holly, April 2, 2009 @ 12:46 pm

    I fall into the 72% category!
    Curmudgeon ’til Kingdom Come! haha

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