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The Vending Machine God and the Housing Bubble
November 13, 2009 4:16 PM   Subscribe

Was the housing bubble caused by very low long-term fixed-rate mortgages? Or was is due to a national, get-rich-quick obsession? Or Did Christianity Cause the Crash?

The Prosperity Gospel teaches that God desires the material, spiritual, and physical prosperity of his people. It fosters risk-taking and intense material optimism, and the author argues that it helped inflate the housing bubble.
posted by jaimev (106 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can say, without hesitation or qualification that Prosperity Gospel is one of the most vile corruptions of Christianity since 13th century kings told everyone Jesus was a wealthy prince and that's why you should toil for us endlessly.
posted by The Whelk at 4:19 PM on November 13, 2009 [60 favorites]


This from the Church that saw lending and usury as mortal sins?
posted by Archibald Edmund Binns at 4:20 PM on November 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Nah, that's just a symptom. If you fill the forest with underbrush, by fighting fires with fertilizer-laced water, you will get opportunistic species that populate that vegetation. They're not the blame for the later, greater fires.

I agree with The Whelk that Prosperity Gospel is a terrible idea, but it's most likely caused by the housing bubble, rather than the other way around. Everyone was 'getting rich', and churches needed an excuse to make that okay.
posted by Malor at 4:22 PM on November 13, 2009 [10 favorites]


This from the Church that saw lending and usury as mortal sins?

No, it's from the Baptists.
posted by pompomtom at 4:23 PM on November 13, 2009 [17 favorites]


I agree with The Whelk that Prosperity Gospel is a terrible idea, but it's most likely caused by the housing bubble, rather than the other way around. Everyone was 'getting rich',

Prosperty Gospel has its roots in televangelism and was, at the time, considered a sign of the excessive greed of the 80s, so it goes back by a few bubbles.
posted by The Whelk at 4:27 PM on November 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


I agree with The Whelk that Prosperity Gospel is a terrible idea, but it's most likely caused by the housing bubble, rather than the other way around. Everyone was 'getting rich', and churches needed an excuse to make that okay.

I wonder about that. It really rings true. But on the other hand, I come to this line in the story...

"God will take care of you. God will not let you be without a house!"

...and it strikes me that when my parents were my age, that might have been a pretty mainstream thing for a pastor to say. As the bar moves for what people can expect to have in life, the bar that defines prosperity theology moves too.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:27 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think it's more that there was already a culture of prosperity, and when people really want to buy something they use whatever excuse fits in their life. For people that were already religious it became that God wanted them to have it, and everyone else picked things like "it's a good investment," or "everyone else has these nice things and I don't want my kids to be without" or "I deserve/need it" or what-have-you.

Prosperity gospel is completely foolish, but blaming the housing bubble on it is sensationalist at best.
posted by Nattie at 4:33 PM on November 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


"God will take care of you."

...so the Republican Party doesn't have to.

God will not let you be without a house!"

...so the Republican Party will.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:34 PM on November 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Matthew 21:13
posted by wcfields at 4:34 PM on November 13, 2009 [19 favorites]


I'm sorry guys, I think I might have caused it. I'm a little new at this whole "banking" thing, and this is my first debit card. About two years ago, I thought I had money in my account and I bought a book as a Christmas gift. Then, I got an email from the bank that was really mean-sounding, and it said I did something that's called NSF. They demanded I pay them $30, and I did that about a day later. A few months later, the bank got bought out because they were too broke to function.

If there's anything I can do to help fix the mess I've made, let me know. :(
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:41 PM on November 13, 2009 [29 favorites]


I find the prosperity gospel ridiculous and quite agree with The Whelk. In general, any church where the pastors drive expensive cars and their wives shop at Louis Vuitton, is doing it wrong. One of the major tenets of Christianity is that prosperity/happiness awaits in Heaven, and it isn't gained on earth. You don't follow the path of Christ to get a new Mercedes. That just ain't how it works.
posted by Atreides at 4:42 PM on November 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


After several wind-tunnel tests I have determined that the housing bubble crash was caused because the bubble generated insufficient lift.
posted by GuyZero at 4:43 PM on November 13, 2009 [12 favorites]


And unless a high percentage of folks being foreclosed upon are believes in Prosperity, I think it's a bunk hypothesis. The author points out that the Sun Belt is where a lot of the mortgage problems are, but it could also be a result of poverty or lower wages earned (people who don't have a lot of money and were told they could own a home).
posted by Atreides at 4:47 PM on November 13, 2009


There are many things which I like to blame Christianity for, but even after looking over the tenets of the prosperity gospel (which I agree is unfortunate), I don't really think that the housing bubble is one of them. Maybe it was a small contributing factor, but I'm pretty sure the primary factor was a lack of regulation and too many banks taking too large of risks in the pursuit of profits.
posted by Caduceus at 4:55 PM on November 13, 2009


Atreides, it's an impossible thing to really figure out. The fact is that it took two people to make a bad mortgage: The mortgage lender who isn't required to look into a person's income and assets, and a person willing to get a mortgage they may not be able to pay off.

I'm not playing the whole "blame the victim" card. I think most of the people who got a mortgage they couldn't pay off sincerely thought they could make it work, and that many of the people who knowingly went into a bad mortgage were desperate for a better home (ie living in a dangerous neighborhood). However, if you're in a "Prosperity" church, your faith says that God will provide for you financially. Thus, it's okay to go into a mortgage you can't afford. After all, God wants you to be as happy as possible, and he'll gladly raise your income if you can't make a payment. As people of all economic strata go to those churches, this means that people who make barely any money can get hoodwinked into doing that kind of behavior.

Aside from getting the bible wrong, I feel like these churches are being irresponsible on every level. By encouraging people to take on risky debts and all that, they put the individuals in danger of ruining their credit and having no savings for an emergency, but they also help create a nation with a ton of hyper-leveraged finances. That's just not stable.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:58 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Atreides, it's an impossible thing to really figure out. The fact is that it took two people to make a bad mortgage: The mortgage lender who isn't required to look into a person's income and assets, and a person willing to get a mortgage they may not be able to pay off.

True. It's a hypothesizing party with fresh drinks of speculation for all.
posted by Atreides at 5:04 PM on November 13, 2009


I agree with The Whelk that Prosperity Gospel is a terrible idea, but it's most likely caused by the housing bubble, rather than the other way around.

No, they're both branches from the same tree, a tree called Greed. Saying the Prosperity Gospel caused the housing bubble is akin to saying whiskey causes people to drink gin.

The Prosperity Gospel is just like The Secret or the Laws Of Attraction or any of those other name-it-and-claim-it sort of philosophies, many of which predate not only the 80s bubble but even the Great Depression. It's just a framework by which people can embrace their greed in the name of something better and teachers of the framework can line their pockets with money from their adherents.

I know I've said this before, but I stopped subscribing to the Atlantic because they're all about the "Can Bad Thing Be Good For You? (And Here's The Junk Science To Prove It)" and "Did Completely Unrelated Thing Cause Horrible Event (And We'll Back It Up With Incredibly Strained Conjectures)" articles nowadays. It's like they're Freakonomics Illustrated.
posted by dw at 5:09 PM on November 13, 2009 [10 favorites]


If only people had listened to Dr. Gene Scott instead of Reverend Ike, none of this would have ever happened. Dr. Scott was pretty clear about where theoney was going: hootchie dancers and fine cigars. Reverend Ike wanted to sell you a prayer cloth. Feh.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:15 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Theony=the money

Goddamn iPhone keypad.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:17 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Theony = God's money.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:24 PM on November 13, 2009 [15 favorites]


Clearly it was the gubmint's fault. I thought everyone knew that.
posted by col_pogo at 5:28 PM on November 13, 2009


When you claim to have a God who said things like sell your possessions and give to the poor if you want to be perfect, and that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God and says "blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. " And when your like-same holy book is the one where a guy says "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

And then you drive around like this? You had better hope He Is Risen, because if He Isn't He is spinning in His grave.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:43 PM on November 13, 2009 [18 favorites]


…That said, blaming those idiots for destroying the global economy is about as farsical as calling them Christians, in my book.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:45 PM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Back in Mexico, Gonzales’s pastor talked only about “Jesus and heaven and being good.” But Garay talks about jobs and houses and making good money, which eventually came to make sense to Gonzales: money is “really important,” and besides, “we love the money in Jesus Christ’s name! Jesus loved money too!”

Uh huh.

One other thing makes Garay’s church a compelling case study. From 2001 to 2007, while he was building his church, Garay was also a loan officer at two different mortgage companies. He was hired explicitly to reach out to the city’s growing Latino community, and Latinos, as it happened, were disproportionately likely to take out the sort of risky loans that later led to so many foreclosures. To many of his parishioners, Garay was not just a spiritual adviser, but a financial one as well.

No comment.
posted by jokeefe at 5:48 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Atreides: "You don't follow the path of Christ to get a new Mercedes. That just ain't how it works."

Yeah, exactly, nobody drives Mercedes anymore anyway. I'm pretty sure Jesus drives Audi.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:48 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of co-workers listens to a Calvary Chapel radio station. It's both interesting and frightening. One of my favorite sermons was one that explained away the parable of the rich man selling his goods and giving the money to the poor. The pastor explained that this directive was only for that particular person, because he over-valued his possessions, to the point where they were more important to him than God. Because the pastor himself didn't over-value his possessions, placing them below God, there was no need for him to sell them off and give the money to the poor. Now send us some money so we can continue our good work.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:49 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


One of the Bank Street or Wall Street made-the-market-crash CEO douchebags is traipsing about Europe right now, preaching the Prosperity Doctrine in support of the things he did and the outrageous income he received.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:03 PM on November 13, 2009


What about the Zionist entity?
posted by Postroad at 6:10 PM on November 13, 2009


The Prosperity Gospel was emerging while I was still high on Jesus, which would have been the first half of the 80s.

If the housing bubble goes back that far, then maybe they are related. I suspect they are not. If I remember, at the time, Propserity preachers were considered apostate by the sort of evangelicals I was hanging out with. That they gained enough traction and followers to become mainstreamed speaks to the level of true devotion within Xianity today. (That being, very little. Red words in Bible = "sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and follow me" != believing that God will make you rich.)
posted by hippybear at 6:16 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


The article actually makes a pretty good case for the 'propserity gospel' contributing to the bubble within certain communities. (The problem with this being that there are too many people out there already who would like to blame poor/black/Latino American for the crash, without this level of analysis and understanding.)
posted by jokeefe at 6:27 PM on November 13, 2009


I. Everything is part of God's plan.

II. The Housing Bubble is contained within the set of everything.

III. The Housing Bubble is part of God's plan - in fact, he wanted it to happen.

So, Christianity didn't cause the Housing Bubble, but Christians everywhere should enthusiastically embrace their lost houses as part of the bigger plan God has for them.

This plan also includes death of pets and children.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:38 PM on November 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


One of my favorite sermons was one that explained away the parable of the rich man selling his goods and giving the money to the poor.

Explaining that one away has a long history in Christianity. It's tempting to say that Jesus doesn't really expect that sort of thing, rather than admit that he probably does but we aren't going to do it. A good question to ask pastors like that is "Well, have you ever known anybody at all that Jesus wants to sell all their possessions and give the money to the poor? If the answer is "yes," then "What was the result when you, as a pastor, advised them to do so?" If no, then "So why is this parable in the Bible if it does apply to anyone except the original hearer. (Three times, no less!)"

Most people who spend much time at all around church learn the most popular way to dismiss
it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven." People will say that there was a gate into Jerusalem nicknamed "the eye of the needle" because it was so short and narrow. A camel could get through, but only by bowing down low. So rich people can be saved, but only through prayer and humility.

That bit of creative exegesis goes back to the 12th century and has no textual or archeological support whatsoever. In fact, the disciples' response to that line is "But that's impossible!" Still, it's a popular evasion, 900 years later, making it one of the oldest and most pervasive interpretations of a particular passage.

This is one of those cases where the Bible isn't hard to understand, people just wish it was.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:44 PM on November 13, 2009 [42 favorites]


Oops, my infant deleted some words. You get the point, though.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:45 PM on November 13, 2009


Catholic school upbringing just makes me wrinkle my nose at these people. God don't want you to be rich! God makes priests take vows of poverty. Yeah, okay, the Pope lives in a giant house made of gold. That's different. Why is it different? I don't know; why don't you go ask the Pope, since he speaks for God and all. Rank and file, though? Poverty. I find that respectable. If you have God, you shouldn't need a Rolex. You have God. What's better than God? By definition, pretty much absolutely fucking nothing. I question the commitment to Sparkle Motion of these guys who think what God really wants is for them to have a whole bunch of overpriced shit bought on credit. God should be better than junk; the point is not to become bigger and better consumers, but to rise above such bullshit considerations. Generally, I think either their priorities are seriously distorted, or they're con artists. So in that sense, while I think it's ridiculous to blame them for the housing disaster, I think it's pretty safe to blame people who are a great deal like them.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:49 PM on November 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


Yeah, exactly, nobody drives Mercedes anymore anyway. I'm pretty sure Jesus drives Audi.


Well, Jesus' parents drove a Dodge, since the Gospel of Luke says they were "thinking that (Jesus) was in the Caravan", and according to Acts, the disciples were "all together in one Accord" on the day of Pentecost.
posted by dubold at 7:00 PM on November 13, 2009 [27 favorites]


Yeah, okay, the Pope lives in a giant house made of gold. That's different. Why is it different? I don't know; why don't you go ask the Pope, since he speaks for God and all.

Sell The Vatican, Feed The World!
posted by hippybear at 7:01 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I imagine the Prosperity Gospel would have some part to play, though I suspect that a lot of the bubble would have been pharmaceutically caused. All it would take is for some participants to be using antidepressants, making them more optimistic than they otherwise would be, others using cocaine, making them overconfident, and others picking up on and parroting the mood of irrational confidence, as people are wont to do. Granted, some players being high on Jesus telling them that he wants them to get filthy rich (and donate to the Republican Party, natch) could have also fed into it.

Perhaps Marx missed a trick; religion's not so much the opium of the masses as the cocaine and/or Prozac of the bourgeoisie.
posted by acb at 7:01 PM on November 13, 2009


Metafilter: it's pretty safe to blame people who are a great deal like them.
posted by dubold at 7:01 PM on November 13, 2009


A very low interest long-term fixed-rate mortgage was what allowed us to pay off our house. Did we do it wrong?
posted by zinfandel at 7:22 PM on November 13, 2009


Did we do it wrong?

No, but the system did, by providing massive quantities of money at rates that are far too low. Good for you for taking advantage and getting out of debt, but as you can see, it's not good for the overall economy.

It feels great, though. For awhile.
posted by Malor at 7:33 PM on November 13, 2009


Yeah, okay, the Pope lives in a giant house made of gold.

And the pope likes to live well. Never mind the Devil. The Pope wears Prada. Prada shoes, designer sunglasses, the best tailors, sparing no expense. Yep, Prada shoes - a far cry from Jesus' sandals or the barefoot poor who contribute whatever pennies they have, so that Prada Benedict can walk in style.
posted by VikingSword at 7:45 PM on November 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Those who think that the gospel of prosperity somehow mostly pertains to folks looking for an excuse to live high - hardly. The gospel of prosperity is, as always, a scam in which the religious leader and his cronies grow rich off of poor people by making empty promises. Do you know where this prosperity gospel has grown the fastest? Africa. That's right - dirt poor people being taken in by scam artists - the same as it ever was. These are not people looking to justify living high off the hog. They have next to nothing, but they make the religious scammers rich. From the link:

"The crowd is thrilled. Omobude promises that women will find husbands, audience members will buy new cars, and the barren will birth twins.
To open themselves to this blessing, Omobude encourages the crowd to give N25,000 (about $200). Local schoolteachers earn only $150 per month, so the amount is significant. Yet more than 300 people swarm Omobude, who rubs oil from a bowl on their palms. Within minutes, the church nets a tax-free $60,000.
Similar scenes unfold every day in countless venues throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where prosperity-tinged Pentecostalism is growing faster not just than other strands of Christianity, but than all religious groups, including Islam. Of Africa's 890 million people, 147 million are now "renewalists" (a term that includes both Pentecostals and charismatics), according to a 2006 Pew Forum on Religion and Public life study. They make up more than a fourth of Nigeria's population, more than a third of South Africa's, and a whopping 56 percent of Kenya's."


"Pastor Michael Okonkwo rises from his gold-coated throne before 4,000 onlookers in Lagos, Nigeria. "Hallelujah!" bellows the self-proclaimed "father of fathers, pastor of pastors," wearing a glittery green gown. The crowd stands and roars.
A 62-year-old former banker and graduate of the Morris Cerullo School of Ministry in San Diego, California, Okonkwo touts a seminar called "Financial Intelligence"; if you've missed it, he encourages you to buy the tapes. Okonkwo describes the "intelligence" he preaches in his book Controlling Wealth God's Way: "[M]any are ignorant of the fact that God has already made provision for his children to be wealthy here on earth. When I say wealthy, I mean very, very rich. … Break loose! It is not a sin to desire to be wealthy."
Bishop of the Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) since 1988, Okonkwo presides over the annual Kingdom Life World Conference of 150 prosperity-oriented churches. But tonight he yields the podium to the Rev. Felix Omobude, who urges the crowd to dream big. "There are so many dream killers around," he says. "Don't let them kill your dream."

posted by VikingSword at 7:54 PM on November 13, 2009 [10 favorites]


On the one hand, I find The Prosperity Gospel to be crass, disgusting, and entirely antithetical to my concept of Christianity.

On the other, I've never been poor.
posted by xthlc at 7:55 PM on November 13, 2009


"God makes priests take vows of poverty."

Err, actually no. Catholic religious (monks, nuns, friars, canons, etc.) take vows of poverty (as well as chastity and obedience). Priests make promises of celibacy (generally, there are Eastern rite and some convert exceptions) and obedience. While priest's promises have the force of vows, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, they don't actually make vows. Priests (and Deacons and Bishops) who are not members of religious institutes can own property, inherit property invest and make money within certain limits, and with permission (as is commonly given for married permanent Deacons) practice a trade or profession and keep their income.
posted by Jahaza at 8:00 PM on November 13, 2009


"a far cry from Jesus' sandals"

I don't think Jesus' sandals were a particular mark of poverty in his culture. The association of sandals with poverty, comes, I think from European discalced friars of the middle ages once shoes had become common.

Furthermore, you might recall a) the gifts of the three kings and b) the anointing of Jesus with the precious oil.

The Deutsche Welle article says the opposite of what you suggest. It suggests the Pope switching from the top-name ecclesiastical tailor in Rome, Gammarelli, to a lesser known competitor.

Finally, the WSJ article has a question mark for a reason. You've taken a question and repurposed it as a statement (a question that was answered "No" officially by the Vatican by the way).
posted by Jahaza at 8:08 PM on November 13, 2009


Dude, no way Jesus was rich. The bible says he and his disciples were all in one Accord.

he must've been tiny, too
posted by chimaera at 8:13 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


a question that was answered "No" officially by the Vatican by the way.

Always an impeccable source of truth.
posted by VikingSword at 8:16 PM on November 13, 2009


This is one of those cases where the Bible isn't hard to understand, people just wish it was.

THIS. We just covered this ground in one of my ethics classes. The late James Rachels has a great brief essay intended for a lay audience called "Ethics and the Bible" [PDF], wherein he observes that arguably the two most incontrovertible ethical teachings of the Gospels are (A) a rigorous and apparently demanding pacifism and (B) a rigorous and apparently demanding willingness to embrace poverty in directly promoting the well-being of those clinging to the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.

Liberation theology manages the impressive feat of directly contradicting the entire substance of the latter while promoting (or, most charitably, refusing to even remotely challenge) the former. It's the very mirror image of the core ethical teachings of the Gospels in a perversely brilliant way. Fuck the cynics who proffer it and pity to the victims who don't know any better.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:36 PM on November 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, Jesus' parents drove a Dodge, since the Gospel of Luke says they were "thinking that (Jesus) was in the Caravan", and according to Acts, the disciples were "all together in one Accord" on the day of Pentecost.

Moses, on the otherhand, preferred two wheels - the roar of his Triumph is heard in the hills.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 8:49 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


"a far cry from Jesus' sandals"

IT'S A SHOE!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:59 PM on November 13, 2009


VikingSword pretty much beat me to the punch. It's not rich people that are getting taken by the prosperity gospel bullshit — there are already (and always have been) lots of ways for well-off people to assuage their guilt within the confines of traditional churches, should they wish to do so. They don't need to go out to fringe organizations.

People who are successful, who have money and basically feel like they've got the system worked out or at least have found something that works for them, are going to see the prosperity gospel for the sham that it is. They're not the intended target.

The people more likely to be taken by pay-to-play get rich schemes — both prosperity gospel churches and more traditional secular scams — are those who don't feel successful, for whatever reason. Prosperity gospels provide a simple explanation for past failures and hold out an all-too-easy hope of future success, just by following a set of rules. (Most get-rich-quick schemes make similar promises; a secret "formula" or set of steps that you just need to follow to succeed — if you fail, clearly you just didn't follow them closely enough!)

In the same way that bogus cure-all medicines or faith healing appeal most to those who are already sick, the prosperity gospels appeal most to those who are barely above water economically.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:07 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Man, this thread makes me pine for Supply Side Jesus. "If you are prosperous on Earth, that means God is rewarding your rugged individualism! If you are poor, it is a sign that god frowns on your reliance on handouts!"
posted by crapmatic at 9:11 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Daddy Rich as portrayed by Richard Pryor:
DADDY RICH: My God's doin' all right by me.

CROWD: He sure is!
CROWD: He's doin' all right by me too!

DADDY RICH: Why don't you climb on board, brother, and believe in me. And for a small fee I'll set you free, nearer thy God to thee.

DADDY RICH: 'Cause it's better to have money and not to need it than to need it and not to have it.

CROWD: Amen!

DADDY RICH: There's a good place in this world for money. And I know where it is... right here in my pocket.
posted by majick at 9:27 PM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Holy crap, majick, I just watched that very bit.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:29 PM on November 13, 2009


There's a profound message in this story, and I think the message is this:

It is easier for poor parishioners to give up a tenth of their income than it was for their pastor to switch from selling cocaine to king-sized bags of heroin.

But I bet he'd still stick you if you threaten his revenues.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:32 PM on November 13, 2009


Dude, no way Jesus was rich. The bible says he and his disciples were all in one Accord.

Yeah, but old money doesn't have to show it.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:43 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't know a heck of a lot about judeo-christian theology, but I do know one thing: Richard Pryor was the funniest man ever to live.
posted by majick at 9:45 PM on November 13, 2009


im pretty sure the housing bubble was caused by people who drink and post to the internet too much..
posted by 3mendo at 9:45 PM on November 13, 2009


a question that was answered "No" officially by the Vatican by the way.

Always an impeccable source of truth.


As opposed to the truth found when you just make things up?
posted by Snyder at 10:04 PM on November 13, 2009


This makes me think of some strain of Buddhism I heard about where people chant repeatedly in order to obtain a new car and suchlike. I can't remember what it was called though.
posted by marble at 10:22 PM on November 13, 2009


Sometimes I miss the old days, when they burnt heretics at the stake.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:30 PM on November 13, 2009


You thinking of cargo cults, marble?

They're all cargo cults in the end...
posted by five fresh fish at 11:01 PM on November 13, 2009


I want a Better Business Bureau for religion. I want a telephone number and the name of the monitoring authority responsible for priests, missionaries, preachers and clergy.

If there does indeed turn out to be an afterlife that punishes sinners, I want every one of these sycophantic, money-grubbing, self-serving predatory "holy men" (and women) to have to staff that call center for eternity. In case that mythology isn't true, I'll take a pre-requisite that every person employed by the church work that phone line six days per week.
posted by Graygorey at 11:07 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Deutsche Welle article says the opposite of what you suggest. It suggests the Pope switching from the top-name ecclesiastical tailor in Rome, Gammarelli, to a lesser known competitor.

Huh? So what that the competitor is lesser known - is the competitor of any lesser quality? I only said "best tailors" - in which group the new competitor would belong. Fame is not the only measure of "best" - and apparently the pope picked the new guys because he was dissatisfied not with cost, but with the comfort of the offerings from the more famous tailors.

Finally, the WSJ article has a question mark for a reason. You've taken a question and repurposed it as a statement (a question that was answered "No" officially by the Vatican by the way).

Here are the key excerpts from the article:

"Since his election last year, the pope has been spotted wearing Serengeti-branded sunglasses and brown walking shoes donated by Geox. He owns a specially engraved white Apple iPod, and he recently stirred much publicity with a pair of stylish red loafers that may or may not be from Prada.


The raft of designer labels floating around the new pontiff is one of the odder consequences of last year's long-awaited papal transition."
[...]

"The senior Vatican official says the loafers were actually made by the pope's personal cobbler. But Prada has refused to confirm or deny the reports, allowing the press speculation to continue. A spokesman for Prada said the fashion house lacked "the necessary elements" to make an accurate determination.


Nowhere is it established conclusively that he does not wear Prada shoes - there are other sources which claim that, and anyone is welcome to make their own conclusion (I specified mine), and judgement as to whether this is a distortion of a key assertion: that the pope is given to wearing branded expensive high fashion accessories.

Snyder: "As opposed to the truth found when you just make things up?"

Only I'm not making anything up. There are many reports of the Prada shoes with no contradiction - I could have linked to those. However, in the interest of fairness, I picked an article that gives the Vatican response. A response I don't find credible, but I present their side.
posted by VikingSword at 11:10 PM on November 13, 2009


graygorey: I want a Better Business Bureau for religion.

There are actually organizations like this one that investigate and report church abuse and financial malfeasance. Now getting anyone to listen to them...
posted by nangua at 1:33 AM on November 14, 2009


I actually find it far, far weirder that that the Pope has a personal cobbler. So he doesn't even buy his shoes. Instead he employs someone whose entire role in life is to make him footwear. That's weird. The only thing that would make it weirder would be to find out that the papal cobbler is actually a hereditary position dating back hundreds of years.
posted by Ritchie at 2:41 AM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Viking Sword, you wrote: "The Pope wears Prada."

Now you claim: "Only I'm not making anything up. There are many reports of the Prada shoes with no contradiction - I could have linked to those. However, in the interest of fairness, I picked an article that gives the Vatican response. A response I don't find credible, but I present their side."

But you didn't "present their side". You could have written "The Pope may wear Prada." But you didn't. You distorted the article. Further official denials were, by the way, published 2 years after the WSJ article came out.
posted by Jahaza at 2:53 AM on November 14, 2009


Ayn Rand caused the entire collapse, not God.

The prosperity doctrine may have fanned the flames, but those adjustable rate mortgages would never have happened without Mr. Greenspan's faith in a free market, the greed is good tubthumping behind the scenes and the ability of man to make selfish choices to rule over his lesser, all of which we can thank Rand for popularizing in the 20th century.
posted by phylum sinter at 3:49 AM on November 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


>
So we've been blaming the wrong religion...
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:00 AM on November 14, 2009


The man who knows that enough is enough
Will always have enough.-Lao Tsu
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:24 AM on November 14, 2009


Do I comment often enough to do this? Does it matter?

The man who knows that enough is enough
Will always have enough.-Lao Tsu
posted by Enron Hubbard at 8:24 AM on 11/14

Eponysterical@?
posted by Arquimedez Pozo at 6:56 AM on November 14, 2009


Some of the fundamentalists I know are of Prosperity Bible type beliefs, in that they've found clever ways to make it "acceptable" to gain and hold wealth. Just watching the mental gymnastics they go through to justify it is enough to pull a muscle.
posted by rokusan at 7:04 AM on November 14, 2009


Related: What would Jesus Fly?
posted by adamvasco at 7:10 AM on November 14, 2009


I don't defend the Catholic Church often, but the "OMG Pope wears Prada" argument is silly. Prada is a Milanese leather goods maker. It's an appropriate political choice, the same way an American politician would be expected to use American products, or the Queen would be expected to buy English goods.

It doesn't signal "excess" any more than if a German CEO (or a German Pope!) were to choose a Mercedes automobile. Prada is a good Italian brand, that's all.

If you want to signal Papal excess, focus on the treasure vaults full of secreted-away imperial loot, not the damn shoes.
posted by rokusan at 7:12 AM on November 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Per the authority of Jim White, If Jesus Drove a Motor Home, it'd be a tricked-out Winnebago with tie-dyed drapes.
posted by rokusan at 7:16 AM on November 14, 2009


Further official denials were, by the way, published 2 years after the WSJ article came out.

Times of London, 26 June 2008: "[L'Osservatore Romano writer Juan Manuel] De Prada said that the image of the German-born Pope as concerned with 'frivolity' was at odds with the truth, which was that he was a 'simple and sober' man. Suggestions to the contrary were 'stupid and banal.' On the day of Benedict's election as pontiff 'the whole world' had seen the sleeves of a 'modest black sweater' peeping out from beneath the cuffs of his papal robes, De Prada said. It was true that Pope Benedict paid a great deal of attention to his clothing, but only because of its liturgical significance. 'The Pope is not dressed by Prada but by Christ,' he said ....

"Vatican watchers nonetheless noted that these hats and outfits have not been used since the days of Pope John XXIII, who died in 1963. Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, was usually seen in the same pair of well-worn brown shoes, and invariably wore simple outfits such as a basic white cassock and white gold-trimmed sash, although in winter he tended to don a crimson wool cloak trimmed with gold braid."
posted by blucevalo at 7:18 AM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


WHOA.

Just realized I said "liberation theology" upthread where I obviously meant "prosperity theology." That sucks.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:40 AM on November 14, 2009


In my area, there's an "economic development" group driven by a (newly) local real estate guy. He's all about happy talk, and ignoring the negative, and everyone surrounding him has adopted the same mind set. Dude wears a rodeo-style belt buckle the size of a dessert plate, with a giant crucifix on it.

He got many of the business leaders to go along with him, chamber of commerce and tourism promoters. Most of them go to the same church. Supposedly they were going to double the population of the area, and everyone was going to become rich catering to these city folks. They were holding revival style "rallies" designed to build public support for the plans. The whole thing felt kind of like the "Monorail" episode on The Simpsons.

Some of us raised questions about his motivations, especially since the entire thrust of their efforts seemed to be attracting well off equity immigrants to the area and making house prices go up. His response was always "How could you possibly doubt me; I'm such a nice guy and a good Christian to boot...", followed by a flurry of happy talk. Anyone who criticized, no matter how carefully, was shunned or simply ignored.

Since the entire premise of the thing was based on people in California being able to sell out there and come here, it has fallen flat. No one's buying any more.

Since they couldn't exactly declare the group's efforts a failure (giving into the negative thinking!), they declared it a total success a few months ago, and disbanded it. Many of us are hoping the guy leaves town soon, selling out at a loss.
posted by cybrcamper at 8:05 AM on November 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Lyle Lanley: Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
Like a genuine,
Bona fide,
Electrified,
6000 Pew
Megachurch!
What'd I say?
Ned Flanders: Megachurch!
Lyle Lanley: What's it called?
Patty+Selma: Megachurch!
Lyle Lanley: That's right! Megachurch!
[crowd chants `Megachurch' softly and rhythmically]
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:54 AM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I actually find it far, far weirder that that the Pope has a personal cobbler.

There are endless numbers of manufacturers/producers who are official suppliers to HRH The Queen. That doesn't mean they supply only The Queen, just that they're her preference and will put her needs before others. Which, when you're selling bottles of mustard, just isn't that big a deal. There's enough for everyone.

I imagine the Pope's arrangement is much the same. When he needs new shoes, "his" cobbler drops everything to make him a pair. When the Pope doesn't need new shoes, "his" cobbler is gainfully employed making others' shoes.

"Mark's Work Wearhouse: Officlal Clothier of Five Fresh Fish."
posted by five fresh fish at 9:37 AM on November 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


. “If you have financial pressure on you, and you don’t know where the next payment is coming from, don’t pay any attention to that!” she continued. “Don’t get discouraged! Jesus is the answer.”

My father believes this. I have heard these words exit his mouth more than once.

He's unemployed and not sure how he's going to make the payments on his house that he couldn't really afford to buy in the first place, but insists that none of this is a problem because Jesus has a plan.

Trying to have a conversation with him in which I do not lose my shit is exhausting.

“If you can’t afford a house, you shouldn’t buy it,” Hazael said, when I asked whether the prosperity gospel might push people to take irresponsible risks. “But if the Lord is telling you to ‘take that first step and I will provide,’ then you have to believe.”

Yeah, it's that second part that causes problems. When G-d calls you on the phone and tells you to buy a new house... it may not have been difficult to get a bank to go along with this pre-crash, but it's still difficult to explain to your family members who live in a reality based universe how the statements "I can't afford this house" and "G-d told me he'd pay for the house" can reasonably co-exist.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:37 AM on November 14, 2009


'The Pope is not dressed by Prada but by Christ...'


Huh. I didn't know JC had his own label.
posted by darkstar at 10:20 AM on November 14, 2009


Most of the parables of Jesus use money as a central theme. The religion evolved from an Egyptian cereal bounty sacrament, featuring the rebirth/resurrection of the grain gods involved (which now has a personal meaning). The bounty was then transformed by the common use of money, to become an idolatry, enshrining the act of giving and getting back more as a way to endure one's poverty.
posted by Brian B. at 10:43 AM on November 14, 2009


But you didn't "present their side". You could have written "The Pope may wear Prada." But you didn't. You distorted the article. Further official denials were, by the way, published 2 years after the WSJ article came out.

1)There are articles out there which state flatly that the pope wears Prada. I did not cite those. Instead, I cited one where the Vatican denies it - which includes their side of the story. Unlike the articles that I did not cite. Therefore I referenced an article which presents their side.

2)Why would I write "The Pope may wear Prada"? Is the only reason that the Vatican denies it? Should I also have written some time ago "The pope MAY have been a member of Hitler Youth"? Because the Vatican also denied that he was - until they were forced to backtrack by irrefutable proof. I put no stock whatsoever in statements by proven liars. The Vatican spokesmen are liars - they have provably lied about this pope for PR purposes. Do you imagine for one milisecond that a denial by the Vatican means automatically I should write "MAY" about any bad PR claim? Should we say "O.J. MAY have blood on his hands"?

This should of course not distract from the basic premise which is undeniably true: the pope likes to wear expensive high-fashion gear. I don't see him in modest attire or off-the-rack stuff which billions of not super wealthy (and some very wealthy) people manage to wear with no difficulty. But then again, we're talking about the RCC - where hypocrisy is the norm.
posted by VikingSword at 11:01 AM on November 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


VikingSword, as stated earlier you're completely misrepresenting that WSJ article. The article is about the Church and marketing celebrity brands, not the Pope runnign around in Prada shoes.

And as pointed out in the article, these items were donated to the Pope. You're tone and wording insinuate the Church is purchasing designer clothing for the pontiff over the needs of it's poor parishioners.
posted by herda05 at 11:09 AM on November 14, 2009


Regardless, the RCC church is immensely wealthy beyond all belief and doesn't share it particularly well.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:24 AM on November 14, 2009


VikingSword, as stated earlier you're completely misrepresenting that WSJ article. The article is about the Church and marketing celebrity brands, not the Pope runnign around in Prada shoes.

That's not the point. The point is that the Pope IS running around in designer wear. At all. Instead of off-the-rack stuff. Like his more image aware predecessor who - (from the article):

"Benedict XVI's media-savvy predecessor, John Paul II, was one of the world's most photographed public figures, but he also was a conspicuous ascetic. His preferred footwear was a pair of worn brown shoes."

And as pointed out in the article, these items were donated to the Pope. You're tone and wording insinuate the Church is purchasing designer clothing for the pontiff over the needs of it's poor parishioners.

No. Again, it's not an issue of paying or donating. It's what you choose to accept and wear. As some are fond of saying "WWJD". The pope is the representative on earth - would Jesus wear Serengetti glasses whether donated by wealthy manufacturers or purchased? Accessories which the vast majority of poor people the world over cannot afford? How would Gandhi look tooling around in a Rolls Royce - donated or not? You are a representative of not mere people (Gandhi and India), but of God himself. Do you not have a clue? Are you so deep into a warped hypocrisy that you cannot see the blindingly obvious? Again, his predecessor seemed to at least get that.
posted by VikingSword at 11:30 AM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


the RCC church is immensely wealthy beyond all belief and doesn't share it particularly well.

True dat.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:32 AM on November 14, 2009


Marble, you're likely thinking of Sōka Gakkai, an offshoot of Nichiren Buddhism. It has many things in common with Prosperity Doctrine Christianity.
posted by lekvar at 1:24 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


In addition to wearing Prada and Ray-Bans and driving Mercedes, the Catholic Church also likes to blackmail local governments when it can't get what it wants.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:55 PM on November 14, 2009


Regardless, the RCC church is immensely wealthy beyond all belief and doesn't share it particularly well.

That isn't exactly true. Most of the Church's wealth is locked up in illiquid assets -- buildings, land, art -- that are hard to dispose of. They have nowhere near the cash on hand you'd expect of an organization that size, and the cash they do have is heavily dependent on the wealth of each individual diocese. Where, say, Orange County had the money to pay off sex abuse claims, Spokane filed for bankruptcy and had to run special collections to pay off their legal bills, which were a mere 1/20th of what Orange County paid.

I would put the Catholic Church in the same category as the royal families of Europe -- they look wealthy, but the reality is without the support of their people (parishoners for the Church, governments for the royalty) for day-to-day capital needs they'd quickly be reduced to selling everything off, and as is they're essentially charity cases with nice churches/palaces that double as museums.

Most of the money the Catholic Church collects goes right back out again. I think their overhead is very high compared to most non-profits, but it's still going out. They're also stuck with a terrible pension system, when you think about it -- instead of just dumping 6% into clergy's 401(k)s they're feeding, clothing, housing, and taking care of their medical needs until death. By comparison the Protestant churches have had few major issues with pensions other than some denominations borrowing too heavily from them and having to pump capital back into them at a higher cost later, which isn't all that different from what many companies have done to their pensions.

The American Catholic Church is probably sitting on $17B in buildings, land, art, and investments. That's only half what the Gates Foundation has in cash and stock right now. And the American Church is not only the wealthiest but also the biggest money spinner for Rome. And Apple has $20B in cash on hand right now, more than the $17B the American Catholics would get if they sold everything right now.

They're rich. Very rich. But they're not as rich as you think they are.
posted by dw at 2:11 PM on November 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't know, this Jehovah god of yours seems like kind of a tight-ass. Mammon, though, that's a god I can get behind. He knows how to take care of people.
posted by klangklangston at 2:19 PM on November 14, 2009


"Mark's Work Wearhouse: Officlal Clothier of Five Fresh Fish."

That could have a really neat looking official seal.
posted by rokusan at 2:52 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


without the support of their people (parishoners for the Church)

And taxpayers. I pay a fair bit more than I would otherwise were churches not tax exempt. And I'm not at all sure they provide adequate social benefit to warrant that status, unlike the food bank or handicapable workshop.

I am fully in support of Apple, Gates Foundation, and the American Catholics all paying more in taxes. It is not feasible for the 10% middle-class population to support everyone's needs, when 80% of the wealth is held by the 5% ultra-wealthy.

But none of that is here nor there. The Prosperity Bible rip-off is what we were talking about.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:23 PM on November 14, 2009


rokusan: ouch.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:25 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are articles out there which state flatly that the pope wears Prada. I did not cite those. Instead, I cited one where the Vatican denies it - which includes their side of the story. Unlike the articles that I did not cite. Therefore I referenced an article which presents their side.

Yes, you referenced an article that presents there side (as they presented it several years ago. But you also flat out stated that the Pope wears Prada. You didn't qualify the statement. You made clear that this was (to you) a criticism. You don't have personal knowledge of whether it's the case and you admit that it's hotly contested. It's dishonest of you to summarize the state of affairs so flatly, when you know it's not that simple.

would Jesus wear Serengetti glasses whether donated by wealthy manufacturers or purchased?

VikingSword, you're hillariously out of your depth.

As I pointed out above there's a Gospel story about just that:

John 12
Jesus therefore six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus raised from the dead. 2 So they made him a supper there: and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of them that sat at meat with him. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, that should betray him, saith, 5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred shillings, and given to the poor? 6 Now this he said, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the bag took away what was put therein. 7 Jesus therefore said, Suffer her to keep it against the day of my burying. 8 For the poor ye have always with you; but me ye have not always.
Now, granted, there's a symbolic point being made here, a foreshadowing of Jesus' burial, but the non-symbolic fact is that Jesusdid make use to use expensive donated stuff that could otherwise have been sold and the money given to the poor.

The Hitler Youth story was funny because it shows not the mendacity of the Popes spokesman, but their (widely acknowledged) incompetence. As that article points out, his 1996 book Milestones (as well as the Wikipedia article, even back then I think) and published newspaper stories before his election all acknowledged this point.

That's not the point. The point is that the Pope IS running around in designer wear. At all. Instead of off-the-rack stuff. Like his more image aware predecessor who - (from the article):

Do you even read the articles you link to? The articles also talk about the change in the tailor that the Pope was buying stuff from... that is he changed from the tailor used by his predeccesor. Who, therefore, obviously wasn't wearing off the rack stuff (but there really is no "off the rack" in clerical cassocks. The only other example besides the shoes is the sunglasses. I've seen no evidence that those were not "off the rack" though of high quality. Ironically, the Prada shoes you accuse the Pope of wearing would be "off the rack" despite being designer and the Vatican story that they're made by his cobbler would make them designer.
posted by Jahaza at 5:53 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


This makes me think of some strain of Buddhism I heard about where people chant repeatedly in order to obtain a new car and suchlike. I can't remember what it was called though.

You are thinking of chanting the Daimoku "nam myoho renge kyo," and the group that is most associated with today is called SGI, or Sōka Gakkai, a modern Buddhist movement based on Nichiren Buddhism. My experience with them was nearly exactly the same as that in the story on the savethemanatee.com link I posted, that it's a cult. Same thing, you have to buy a Gohonzon (from the church, naturally), chant on what you want, like a Mercedes or a raise at your job, and you'll magically get it! So, obviously any money you donate to the church will only help you achieve these goals. Not sure how, exactly, but can't hurt! And, besides, the church always seems to need a lot of renovations. At the time, my friend had already given them several thousand dollars that year, about 8 months in, and she made $6 washing dishes. But of course totally worth it, because look at the beautiful track lighting that bought for the church, and on top of that you get whatever you want when you chant for it. And that's what Buddhism is all about, right?

Needless to say, I ran away as fast as possible and even briefly tried to extract my friends from the cult, though that wasn't successful. Not sure if they ever made it out.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:07 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Hitler Youth story was funny because it shows not the mendacity of the Popes spokesman, but their (widely acknowledged) incompetence. As that article points out, his 1996 book Milestones (as well as the Wikipedia article, even back then I think) and published newspaper stories before his election all acknowledged this point.

You call it incompetence. I call it mendacity. Whichever it is, the point is: the spokesman has proven to be wrong and unreliable. I have no confidence in anything he says. Including the Prada denial. Which leads me to:

Yes, you referenced an article that presents there side (as they presented it several years ago. But you also flat out stated that the Pope wears Prada. You didn't qualify the statement. You made clear that this was (to you) a criticism. You don't have personal knowledge of whether it's the case and you admit that it's hotly contested. It's dishonest of you to summarize the state of affairs so flatly, when you know it's not that simple.

NO. The only thing which I agree with is that it is contested (hotly or otherwise) by the Vatican spokesman. Not that "it is hotly contested" in general. The Vatican spokesman claims - which to me, mean less than nothing. I would call O.J. a murderer, and if somebody said "but he says he's innocent", I'd roll my eyes and continue calling him a murderer. The Vatican spokesman says "not Prada"? Cool, and O.J. says he's still searching for the real killers. The Vatican spokesman has proven himself unreliable when it comes to this pope, no matter if you want to call it mere incompetence... which makes me wonder "you don't have personal knowledge" of the spokesman's soul - so you don't know if it's mere incompetence or mendacity. So you pick incompetence - fine. I pick mendacity. But see, whichever it is, he's still unreliable.

John 12 [...]

Pretty BS interpretation. It is clear Jesus did this as a unique occasion - before he was to be sacrificed: "Suffer her to keep it against the day of my burying. For the poor ye have always with you; but me ye have not always."

"but the non-symbolic fact is that Jesusdid make use to use expensive donated stuff that could otherwise have been sold and the money given to the poor."

Oh - is the Pope going to be crucified and buried? If YES, then he can refer to John 12 as the justification for wearing Serengetti glasses and Prada shoes on that one particular occasion. Otherwise? In everyday life? Did Jesus justify anywhere accepting luxury gifts? Well? I think I can see who is "hilariously out of his depth here". Hmm... hold it - perhaps this actually explains a thing or two - how the RCC can justify their high officials living in obscene opulence while some of their believers literally starve to death - and how their defenders can see nothing wrong with it... "it's in the bible!!!UNO".

The only other example besides the shoes is the sunglasses. I've seen no evidence that those were not "off the rack" though of high quality. Ironically, the Prada shoes you accuse the Pope of wearing would be "off the rack" despite being designer and the Vatican story that they're made by his cobbler would make them designer.

It seems widely reported that the sunglasses were Serengettis. You may not be convinced, but I did note that even the Vatican spokesman has not denied it - but then again, maybe that was just incompetence in not being ready with a mendacious denial. And by "off the rack" in this context meant "everyday" as contrasted with luxury items you have to buy in special shops. Of course if you see Prada shoes in the light of "everyday" items, then we again would have a nice insight into how the RCC and its defenders seem to have somewhat of a different take on things from mere mortals.

Catholics - and poor of all faiths - literally starve to death, in India and in Africa especially. It is obscene beyond words, that the RCC spends a single cent on anything other than bare necessities for their "men of god". To gallivant around attired in luxury clothes, makes a rather disgusting contrast to the people he's supposed to be ministering to. He is measured by the distance to the least among his flock - those who starve. Where is he by that measure? That's right - in hell.
posted by VikingSword at 6:43 PM on November 14, 2009


Catholics - and poor of all faiths - literally starve to death, in India and in Africa especially. It is obscene beyond words, that the RCC spends a single cent on anything other than bare necessities for their "men of god". To gallivant around attired in luxury clothes, makes a rather disgusting contrast to the people he's supposed to be ministering to.

I agree, but the Church is entrenched. It would require a reformation to tear down the walls of the Vatican and give away all the treasure to the poor masses under their umbrella, and many Catholics do good work on a small scale in their communities because of the Church's teachings (though as Hitchens has argued, they may have offset any good works with all the bad ones, though I can't fault acts of altruism as such). Catholicism also has a long and well established scholarly tradition which is much more skeptical and inquisitive than any Protestant-based teaching, and strongly emphasizes intellectual rigor, as strongly as it can without turning the church on its ear. The church could enter into a new relationship with the world by becoming a bit more Anglican, which is to say, keep the trappings but drop the authority trip and petty moralism, though this isn't going to happen without some resistance. I do think it's necessary that Catholicism go through a new reformation if it wishes to enter into a modern era as well as participate in it, but I'm not expecting Benedict XVI to lead the way. Where is St. Francis when you need him? Probably not among the next in line.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:59 PM on November 14, 2009


It would require a reformation to tear down the walls of the Vatican and give away all the treasure to the poor masses under their umbrella[...]

Sure, but the credibility problem is how did it get to this point in the first place? How is it that the RCC has accumulated such wealth in the first place? From a faith based on the New Testament? Where in the NT is there a role model for such obscene wealth accumulation?

Regardless, bringing it back to the clothes and accessories issue - I cannot understand why they don't at least make an effort to symbolically show solidarity with the "least of us". Why is it necessary to have these elaborate garments in the first place? Where is there an example of Jesus wearing such elaborate clothing? Why not the simplest of garments? This obsession of separating themselves by elaborate costumes is no different than the kind of signaling a shaman in costume does - he's "different". I don't see Jesus doing it in the NT. Dress in rags - as the least of your flock would. That does away with the need for tailors, hatmakers and the rest of the luxury industry servicing the RCC. When you prance around in gold encrusted garments, it just leaves a bad taste in the mouth - especially a starving mouth.
posted by VikingSword at 7:18 PM on November 14, 2009


Catholics - and poor of all faiths - literally starve to death, in India and in Africa especially. It is obscene beyond words, that the RCC spends a single cent on anything other than bare necessities

The same can be said of mega-churches. The amount of money the congregation spends on idolation is absolutely sickening. There is so much more good they could be doing, and yet they choose to put their millions and billions into edifices and symbols of wealth and greed. There is an idolatrous quality to the way they spend their wealth — and they are essentially everything that the red-letter Christ seems to me to actually want for mankind.

I mean, I'll give a pass to the RCC on having spectacularly extravagant cathedrals: they did this in a less enlightened time, just as they once burned heretics in a less enlightened time. In the here and now, though, I just can not imagine why a new communion would choose to erect an architectural and technical orgy of self-indulgence, taking it to an extreme that can be genuinely described as an idolatry of excess — instead of making a difference in the real-world human disasters on this small planet.

Freaks me out. It requires a pre-modern mindset.

Mind, I won't claim to be excessively charitable myself. I do indeed need to start properly tithing to charity. It doesn't require religious faith to understand the global, social value in doing exactly that.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:52 PM on November 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't see Jesus doing it in the NT. Dress in rags - as the least of your flock would. That does away with the need for tailors, hatmakers and the rest of the luxury industry servicing the RCC.

As I understand it, the Greed Gospel claims that Jesus was, in fact, fabulously wealthy, as evidenced by the quality of his robe and the quality of the whores washing his feet. Or something like that. It is a Through the Looking-glass interpretation of the New Testament. Well worth doing some googling¹.

¹<snark>Assuming enterprising SEOs haven't packed the web with information pablum. See if you can spot where religion and MLM begin to cross. And come to think of it, I wonder how SEO organizations and religions diagram out. I know the Scientologists have a number of ISP/web businesses and leverage their masses in support of making the church make mo' money. Same thing with many of the LGATs. The "New Age" is a web of MMFs using greed and religion to concentrate the wealth of the many into the hands of the few. GG for teh win.</snark>
posted by five fresh fish at 8:03 PM on November 14, 2009


Whoops, I see you're still riding the RCC hobby horse. Never mind the GG, it's not how the RCC works; it's how the new churches work.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:05 PM on November 14, 2009


Freaks me out. It requires a pre-modern mindset.

Except, this mindset is present in many people right now, right here. I mean, look what we are arguing over. In response to a simple observation of sartorial excess, a huge discussion erupted... not about the excess, but about the brand! Prada or not Prada? The mind boggles. As if it makes a difference if it was Prada or Versace, or D&G, or some high-end private cordwainer. This is what the RCC defenders light upon: you may have gotten the brand wrong! A-a-a! Naughty, naughty, papa would never do Prada!

The whole thing is obscene. And yet, we accept the wealth displays of the RCC like a medieval pageant, and people don't rise up with a biblical cry of "Hypocrites!". The RCC is not laughed out of public life - even though they blatantly contradict what JC stood for. Mindset indeed.
posted by VikingSword at 8:20 PM on November 14, 2009


one of the most vile corruptions of Christianity since 13th century kings told everyone Jesus was a wealthy prince and that's why you should toil for us endlessly.

Those fuckers! This is seriously like the first time I ever heard about this.
posted by nanojath at 8:39 PM on December 12, 2009


It's one of the reigning theologies today, nanojath.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:01 PM on December 12, 2009


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