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Week 5: Money

CF565: Empowering the People of God

Introduction

This week we will examine the spiritual meaning of money. The goal is to help you to make spiritual sense of one of the key issues that keeps people awake at night.

We begin with a fifteen-minute video that introduces the questions that we encounter in this week's work. Some of the phrases in the video will be explained in detail in the readings for the week.

As a background, here are some comparisons that will help you see how different people in American society experience issues of money.

Read this excerpt from a TIME magazine called, "Are We Better Off?" [Word doc]

And read these summaries of sociological studies from about the same era. The statistics in these studies are a bit dated. But the conclusions are still quite relevant.

  1. Robert Wuthnow, "Pious Materialism" Christian Century
  2. Robert Wuthnow, "The Crisis in the Churches"
    These study notes provide the key quotes from an article that explains why evangelical churches often neglect money questions. I am not having you read the article, just the summary. Summary - "The Crisis in the Churches" [Word doc]

Biblical and Theological Reflections

  1. Re-read Miroslav Volf's "God the Giver" chapter that you received in the first week of the class. This time pay attention to God as a model of what it is like to practice generosity, even at a cost to one's self.
  2. Read Walter Brueggemann, "The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity" Christian Century 
  3. Read Walter Brueggemann, "We are Takers: A Prayer
  4. Read David Rohrer, "Gratitude is the Stem Cell of Worship"

I would also invite you to read a summary of my thoughts about money. This would once have been the substance of our lecture in class next week. But it makes more sense to provide you with this material before you write your papers.

Now we are ready to talk about the week's assignments

  1. Download the "Money Autobiography" [PDF]
  2. Spend at least an hour writing out your reflections on the questions in the Money Autobiography document.
  3. Spend at least an hour discussing the document with another person.
  4. Write a theological response (and attach the Guide to Grading) about the following paragraph. Note: the TA's report that student papers turn out better when students write at the top of their reflections: Presenting Problem, Deeper Issue, Spiritual Issue. This seems to provide a format for deeper reflection.

Please write your reflections about this quotation:

"Ordinary citizens are perhaps most puzzled of all. Rising standards of living, to many, mean largely an increase in the number of things they 'must' buy. This is not just crass materialism; many of the new musts are not goods but services--medical insurance, day care for young children, college tuition for teenagers--which have rocketed in price. Small wonder that so many people feel they are working harder and harder just to keep up." (TIME)  

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