For a nation that prides itself on its matchless business sense, America has been slow to learn that consistently spending more money than one has can lead to financial problems.
Christianity - or the weird amalgam of vulgar materialism, ressentiment, and magical thinking that most often passes for it - seems to me to bear some responsibility for the problem, partly because it tends to treats wealth as a visible indicator of grace, partly because it encourages people to believe that they "deserve" financial miracles (God will guide the hand of the righteous to the winning lottery ticket!), and partly because it picks their pockets like an eight-armed Jenny Diver.
Apropos of which, a gruesome article in the Telegraph reports that churches are increasingly offering financial services to their flock:
They tend to offer a package of advice on budgeting, household cost-cutting and debt management bolstered by a strong Scriptural element.If you're thinking that this "strong scriptural element" involves an injunction against turning a house of prayer into a den of thieves, think again:
The church financial programmes differ from secular plans in two key areas: bankruptcy is frowned upon as un-Christian and charitable donations are encouraged, even when the donor is struggling. Participants are encouraged to give as much as 10 per cent of their income to their church."Encouraged" is one word for it, I suppose. The article notes that the cost of one Christ-approved debt management system is about eighty dollars. Of course, you're bound to get all of it back three times full and brimming over, like George Amberson Minafer. All the same, eighty dollars is a lot of kale in any deity's English.
Luckily, there are inexpensive alternatives. For the time being, Christian deadbeats in the great state of Indiana can get "In God We Trust" license plates without paying the standard administrative fee. A set of those might just convince the Lord to knock down your mortgage rate by a couple of points, or otherwise soften the hearts of your creditors.
Another possibility would be to ask friends and neighbors for donations so that you and the little ones can make a pilgrimage to the "working model" of Noah's Ark, which is now on display in the Netherlands.
Better yet, build an ark of your own as an Act of Faith, and charge the rubes twenty bucks to get an eyeful of it. Fill it with stuffed animals for sale by the pair! Get the family involved, like Johan Huibers did!
"The design is by my wife, Bianca," Huibers said. "She didn't really want me to do this at all, but she said if you're going to anyway, it should look like this."Not only will it pay for itself in a matter of months, but it presents an excellent opportunity to explain the knottier points of theology to those who are less scripturally grounded than yourself:
Under sunny clear skies Saturday, Huibers said he wasn't worried about another biblical flood, since according to Genesis, the rainbow is the sign of God's promise never to flood the world again. But he does worry that recent events such as the flooding of New Orleans could be seen as a portent of the end of time.The end of time? May God turn a deaf ear to the man!
Now, it's always possible that local authorities will tell you that you don't have the right permits, or enough cubits of land, to build a replica ark. But in that case, all you have to do is announce that you're being persecuted for your beliefs. Watch how fast the donations pour in!
The point is, there are plenty of shrewd ways of cashing in on your religion. Why shell out your remaining greenbacks to what Edward Lear called "the screamy ganders of the church," when you can build a scale model of Sodom in your basement, and destroy it on the hour for the edification of road-weary travelers?
Remember: The Lord helps those who help themselves.