Two articles caught my interest in First Things this month. As with everything in that journal they were a bit above my pay grade. (Does that mean I can be President?) The first one was about demographics and depression. As a matter of fact that was the article’s title, “Demographics and Depression” by David P. Goldman, who among other things I guess is an associate editor of First Things. The other article was about faith and finance. Oddly enough it was also the title of the article, “Faith and Finance” by Gary T. Anderson. He works at Notre Dame University where he teaches something called the Old Testament.
(Perhaps he should enroll the president of the university in one of his courses. The fellow may learn something about fidelity and obedience, and what happens to people who forget Who Matters Most. People, did I just write? Forget people, whole countries.)
I really got lost with the first article by Mr. Goldman, but he kindly provided a chart which I could understand. I am still at the picture book stage in my reading. The chart illustrates what I think is his argument that we are (and this is my word) de-populating ourselves into poverty. There are two lines on the chart. These are the wavy lines that are on most charts. They tell the story. Then there are the two lines that divide the story into “chapters” so to speak. Some numbers go up one side on one line and some dates go across the bottom of the chart beneath the other line. Both wavy lines start off in the lower left corner where “x” meets “y”, as it should do in any decent chart. They are not too far from one another at all. One line is roughly at the number ten while the other line begins roughly at the number seven. The numbers represent percentage points, and go all the way up to thirty-five percent of something.
On the right side of the chart, the lines diverge quite a bit. They reach almost to the top and bottom of the chart itself. But they have changed positions. The line which started at ten has fallen to four. Poor line! The line which started at seven has soared across the page all the way to thirty-one. Hooray! What is more, it has managed to accelerate its rise with commendable steepness at a point roughly two thirds of the way across the page, angling upwards like a rising jet at take off. Double hooray!!
The rest of the article is seasoned with a spicy mix of numbers and proportions and predictions and results. I failed the first math course I took at Manhattan College and learned a lesson from that. Stay away from highly seasoned writing. It upsets my brain. The chart was enough for me.
Now, the article written by Professor Anderson is more to my liking. I don’t remember that there’s a number connected to it at all, except for page numbers I suppose. True to his profession, he writes about faith, promises and the Old Testament. He even makes a couple of references to Jesus making a couple of references to what wasn’t then called the Old Testament.
At the risk of boring the reader to tears, Professor Anderson’s article reminded me of a course I took several hundred years ago when I was a Jasper (That’s what Manhattan College students are. It’s at least better than Gophers or Hogs). Father Anthony Rubsys, may he rest in peace, was my teacher, a gentle fellow who had actually been in the places Jesus walked and talked in. He could even speak the same language. He was the fellow who brought home to me the truth in the line about there being more things than are dreamt of in my philosophy…and most of them are contained in one Book.
Anyway, the deal here is that Professor Anderson said that faith and credit are very closely related, and that lending and all of that stuff that has gotten us into a whole world of trouble (literally) is somehow related to our loss of faith in one another. Anyway, I think this is what he’s saying. (I really could be president. And, maybe I should be.)
To prove my point, I’ll quote him quoting some guy named Surowiecki: “This culture of credulity did plenty of damage to the economy, but now it’s given way to something even more corrosive; namely endemic mistrust.” No one, even Mr. Jones down at the Farmer’s and Barber’s Savings and Loan on Main and Elm wants to come off a plug nickel. They just don’t trust anyone, anymore. And the “S” guy says this about that: “Fraud impoverishes a few; fear impoverishes the many. As long as mistrust prevails, people will be pulling money out of the system – sometimes at the point of a gun.”
Can you say Bonnie and Clyde?
He has a solution, of course. And, don’t you know it’s connected with faith, belief and works of Charity; Catholic stuff. Well, what do you expect from someone who teaches at Notre Dame? (Wait a minute. What am I saying, here?) Well, despite that, he does come at things from a Catholic perspective in this article. Linking credit and faith, Professor Anderson explains that while our faith has been destroyed in the market place by an abuse of our trust, that case cannot be made when we turn to our relationship with God: “According to the Bible, however, one should not leave the matter of personal faith solely in the hands of an earthly treasury.” Because, of course, things rot and decay, become eaten by moths and lose value, and, as I have learned from my involvement with the Families of Nazareth Movement which teaches what St. Teresa of Avila said, that “God alone suffices”, any dependency on man will end in disappointment.
Anderson argues his point tellingly by quoting St. Augustine: “Listen to the Scripture telling you how to make the Lord your debtor: “Anyone who gives alms to the poor is lending to the Lord.” And, we have it on good authority that the interest on that loan when fully paid amounts to a hundred fold. How do we make God our debtor one is entitled to ask? Where do we line up to lend Him the money we are now withdrawing from the banks and sewing into mattreses, putting in coffee cans?
The answer he supplies is all around us in the poor. Put your money in them, he advises, and build up your treasure in heaven. Of course, we have allowed the state to be come the primary reliever of the pains of poverty, and our taxes, which no one willingly gives, to be the means of that alleviation. And, no government rules in heaven, we must remember. Love rules, and Love’s return on the investment is everlasting. There are no depressions or recessions in heaven.
Oh, I forgot. The line at the bottom of the graph above? It counts the decades between 1950 and 2050. The line at the right counts the percentages from Zero to 30 percent of the population. The graph shows how the population of people over 65 will amount to 35 percent of the total in 2050 and those under four will amount to a measly few percent.
What surprised me was that there would be any at all, the hazards to beginning life being so great these days. But, we may take comfort in knowing that every such child, however rare, will be a wanted child. It will also be very busy, having to support all those old and decrepit non-working grannies. But, then, perhaps we may find a solution to that problem. Look to Oregon, Old Man…