It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses a House

Y’know when you watch a movie and then you watch it again later and it takes on a new meaning?  I re-watched Fun with Dick and Jane:

An update of the 1977 comedy, Dick and Jane are living the good life. That is until Dick (Jim Carrey) loses his job shortly after getting a promotion that convinced his wife Jane (Téa Leoni) to quit her job. The money is gone, and the house ends up in foreclosure. Dick decides to turn to a hilarious life of crime to pay the bills with his lovely wife by his side. Then together they decide it’s time to steal back what Former CEO Jack McCallister (Alec Baldwin) had stolen from them.

The first thing to go is their lawn-the sod gets repossessed.  The electricity gets shut off.  They bathe in the neighbor’s sprinkler system.  They downgrade to a POS compact car.  It was a really funny movie a couple of years ago.  Now it is an uncomfortably funny movie.  You don’t have to look too far to see the effects of the current financial crisis.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the financial crisis for a few months now.  Things are getting pretty rough.  I am in the telecom industry and work for a company that can fall apart at any moment.  And I am not alone.  I have many friends and former co-workers that are jobless.  A couple of my friends just got laid off.  A few years ago there were still jobs to be found…now it is somewhat different.

Most people, even though they live paycheck to paycheck, could survive for a few months.  But then they get hungry.  And cold.  Or hot.  And frustrated.  And depressed.  And finally desperate.  Desperate people do desperate things.

Think about it.  I mean really think about it.  What if…What if you lost your job.  Spouse loses theirs.  Interview after interview, resume after resume.  Can’t find a job.  Or worse yet the ONLY job you can find a $10.00-13.00/hr job.  Any job means no unemployment checks.  Or unemployment runs out.  No insurance.  $10.00 per hour times 40 hours a week times 2 (mom & dad) equals…about $40,000 a year.  That’s about 75% to 50% of what most of my friends at Embarq make in a year (with both working).  Could your family make it if you lost 25-50% of your income?  Even those jobs will fade when folks can’t afford to eat out or remodel or whatever.

One of my favorite radio programs, This American Life, on NPR, had an incredible episode a couple of months ago entitled, Bad Bank.  They talked about a hypothetical bank-the smallest in the world, it has the owner’s $10 and a guy’s $90-he earns 3% for storing his money.  Then the bank turns around and loans $100 to a gal at 6% for a doll house.  This is called a balance sheet.  $100 in the bank, $100 being loaned out.  The bank profits 3% interest right?  Except gal loses her job and can’t afford her doll house payments anymore.  Now the bank doesn’t have the guy’s $90 to give back.  The program stated that the top 3 banks in the US have a unbalanced balance sheet-if there was a run on those banks today they would fail.  The banks want the government to know this, but not the average person!  As a friend of mine pointed out, the FDIC insures deposits up to $100,000 right?  Correct, and who pays that?  The government, the taxpayers, you and I.  And so banks are using that argument-give us a bailout now where folks can keep their homes, or bail us out later when we crash and burn and folks are homeless.

I live on a street that is full of duplexes.  The short block has maybe 20-30 families on it.  If half of them lost their jobs to the point where they could not pay their rent/mortgage and got behind to the point where they were getting evicted…if that happened over the period of a few months they would easily get escorted off the property by the authorities-some would get deported.  And what would become of empty houses?  Where would homeless folks go?  Personally I have no family in the area.  I have no friends with extra houses in the back yard.  But what if that happened over the period of a couple of weeks?  And multiply that times the number of neighborhoods around the city.  It is a much different picture.  There would not be enough police to force folks off the properties.   There would be folks who refused to leave.  There would be desperation, theft, anger, violence.  Things could get way out of control very fast.  Evicting squatters would be at the bottom of the list and the least of anyone’s worries.

OK, here it is, here is the heart of my thoughts:  What is the role of the church in these financially stressful times?
Does the church encourage their congregation to uphold the law and keep the peace?  Will churches open their doors to people who are homeless?  Open soup kitchens and clothing pantries?  Offer transportation-carpools?  Treat people with dignity and respect?  Offer training?  Assistance?  Pull their monies together?  Help single moms?  Pay mortgages and rent?  Stock food pantries?  Pay for lights, gas, water, etc?  Or be in a similarly depressing state?  Will churches end up in foreclosures too?

One of my friends has been laid off-for a year.  He paid his bills with credit cards.   He is pretty upset that he did the responsible thing, went into debt and kept current and others are getting bailed out.  And what about those that took out loans that shouldn’t?  The ones that knew they could not afford it?  The ones that depended upon the banks to deny them the loans.  They should get bailed out?  Businesses should be rewarded for failing?  It doesn’t seem fair!  The responsible ones are getting punished.  That all sound reasonable…right up until you lose your job.  And you suddenly become one who shouldn’t have taken out a loan.  You become the irresponsible one.  You become the failure.  And you feel like you have no options.

I work with a guy at Home Depot (most likely a few guys like this), he has a wife and child.  He works full time and he still qualifies for federal assistance.  I mean he is doing things right!  And he still can’t make it!  He is still at poverty level.

Another friend points out that laws are man-made and that we should do what we need to do to take care of our families.  What does that mean?  Squatting?  Stealing?

Another points out that God won’t give us more than we can handle.  But I am afraid that this line of reasoning is “prosperity Gospel” and faulty.  The truth is that God will never let anything happen to us spiritually to cause us to fall from grace-to break our spirit.  I am afraid that money is another matter.  Food, shelter, clothing, transportation-not spiritually guaranteed!  Will my theology friends steer me straight?  Or back me up?

Another says let’s go, the rapture is coming, Big Daddy is gonna take us home.  However, history paints a different picture of suffering and poverty-Christians participate, and are not delivered from it.  The plague, the depression, wars, martyrs.  God’s people are continually delivered from their sins.  Just not from the pains of this world.

And I am sure the list can go on and on.  The economy isn’t really that bad…It is the worst ever.  Tax and spending is the answer or not the answer.  The President is too liberal.  The Republicans are vetoing everything.  But I don’t care about the President or our government or economists.  I care about the church.  What is the church gonna do?

Another one of my friends attends a church who wishes to move from a temporary setting (mobile church-they set up each week in a school or some sort of facility, then tear it all down and store it during the week) to an actual building.  The pastor is continually asking for money for this endeavor.  My friend asks if that is the responsible thing to do?  The pastor is encouraging folks not to get “distracted” by the environment around them.  My friend is a little uneasy about that.  He sees people around him having a rough time.  He doesn’t want them to become a distraction that gets ignored!  He is considering giving to a charity.

What happens when folks stop paying tithe?  Not because they don’t want to, or because they don’t have any money left after paying for food.  But what if they don’t have money.  Any money!  What if they don’t have food?  No place to live?  No gas to travel?

I know it is a depressing and bleak picture.  I hope it is all crazy talk.  On one hand I say that things will never get that bad.  On the other hand I see layoffs and low-paying jobs.

But…what if?  And what will Christ’s church do?  I hope pastors are paying attention.  I hope they are thinking about preparing for a possible crisis.  I hope Christians are thinking outside of their consumer society.  Outside of their immediate family-you might not think you have extra room…but your friends may be eying your garage or basement soon.  Heck, I might be eying your basement!

I would like to know what you think.

Here’s what I think I think:

The church has a real opportunity to be the church.  The real test will be to see Christians taking in other Christians (and non-Christians!).  Families!  Will churches open their doors to the poor?  The homeless?  The filthy?  The non-Christian?  I hope so.

Will Christians do the right thing?  I don’t know what I would do if I was facing eviction.  I don’t know where I would go or what I would do.  I have no family in the area.  I don’t know who I would feel remotely comfortable asking for a place to stay-for a family of 6.  Or a handout.  Or a ride to work.  I would really want to stay and become a squatter in my rented duplex-my landlords have a real nice house…until they need to downgrade to my place.  I hope I embrace legal and peaceful options.  I hope I remember who is my Father.  I hope I remember you, my friends and offer to help you.

Will Cristian landlords reduce rent?  Will Christian business owners take a decrease in pay?  Will Christians continue to sacrificially give?  Will Christian landlord evict families?  Well, these are difficult ones that have no easy answers.

I hope most of these questions will not have to be answered-especially by me.

-Derin-

PS:  Please send pics of your basement.

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5 responses to “It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses a House

  1. That’s interesting. I haven’t really put much thought into being layed off, as Vanessa and I both have pretty secure jobs. How does the church function in countries with a lot of poverty? Finincial crises here in the US of A might do a lot to force the church from a state of theorizing about following Jesus to action. It is no fun to have a family move into a small house with you, but it happens all over the world in houses a lot smaller and with less amenities than ours. It is also no fun to spend the money for a car upgrade on folks who need diapers or shoes for the kids. It is a lot easier to just be a ‘tipper’ at church and spend 1 Sat every few months helping out at a shelter or something. Living it every day is tough. However, the state of living where you think so little of earthly possessions that you would give it away to people who need it is a big part of following Jesus. It is just not easy, and that could be a potential big issue of the church in times like these.
    (Nice post, by the way. I was concerned that you forgot your blog address)

    Derin Says: Thanks Joe. I think Americans have had it too good for too long. We really have done a good job of ignoring the poor. Maybe this is what is needed for our hearts to change?

  2. My pastor friend in Iowa, Dave (using him without permission), said that, “at least 60% percent of my sermons have focuses on material/social/financial gain…and its utter futility” Good job Pastor Dave! YOU ROCK! I love you man! And he has been teaching his children to live on less. And he lives healthy and he rides bikes. Not a very good American (I kid), but a man of faith. Thanks for being my mentor and best friend Dave.

    Hey, your basement is finished right?

    -Derin-

  3. I guess I don’t have any answers for this, but I know money has been a difficult issue for me. This is just a lot of ramblings about money.
    I want to give it away, but I have mounds of debt that I need to take care of as well. Sometimes I’ve felt conflicted by what Donnie says about money (If it seems like I’m being critical of Donnie, I must add that Donnie is the best pastor I have ever had. He has shown me tremendous compassion and support that I have not experienced in other churches, and I respect him greatly) Donnie says to give away all the money we can, but he also says to get rid of debt as fast as we can. Which one is it? Should I do both, or should I get rid of the debt that hampers me from feeling free to give.

    And really, although I know a lot of people would give me slack for saying this, Biblically I’m not really sold on the idea of tithing. I’ve done it most of my life, but more as a legalistic way to get God off my back and less as a way to be generous. I just don’t see much support for it in the New Testament as a part of following Christ. Of course it is in the book of Malachi, but Jesus only mentions it once, and it’s more in passing. He sets it as secondary to the matter of justice mercy and faith. To me Jesus was more about principles and qualities like generosity and compassion, than he was about rules like giving 10%. I think instead of saying give 10% Jesus would simply say be generous and allow us to work out what that means for us with out Father. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:7, God wants to give what we’ve decided in our hearts to give-not reluctantly or under compulsion, because he wants us to be a joyful giver. To me that says that being generous will look different. Maybe for some it will be 10%, maybe for others less or more, maybe for others it will be nothing so they can pay off their debt and give more in the future.
    There’s the passage where the widow gives all she has even though she is dirt poor. And Jesus praised her for her generosity. But I heard a guy at seminary say that he thought Jesus was doing more than praising the widow-that he was also criticizing the temple for asking her to give out of her poverty when widows were one of the people the temple was supposed to take care of.
    I feel like sometimes I’m un-Christian because I want certain material things-like a house to raise a family in, like no debt so I can give more and take care of a family. But then I look at friends that I have, like Donnie or Chris, and see the nice houses that they have, and I would never think they were less Christian because they have those possessions, so why do I hold myself to a different standard?
    I don’t want to be 80 years old and still have the debt I have because I felt the need to conform to what others think I should do. I want to pay off debt, I want to give money, and I want to have a house to raise a family in. And somehow those things have to work together, or maybe one has to come first. Would I be less of a Christian if I chose to put all my money to pay off debt and gave little to none until I was done? Or should I give money away and forget about what I want. Well I know I’m tired of disregarding what I want as if I could never want anything that wasn’t evil, as if everything I want will automatically not be wanted by God. I’m tired of only trying to love others, and not having any precedent for it because I don’t know how to love me. I’m tired of thinking that having a house would be shallow and materialist of me when I would never think that of Donnie or Chris.

    Derin Says: There are a few things that I have had to come to terms with. One is that I will never have my student loans paid off-I simply do not make enough money to cover one let alone two full payments. Two, because I will never have my student loans paid off I will never be able to qualify for a home loan nor will I ever qualify for a loan for a vehicle. Three, I will never be able to pay for my 4 boys to attend college. Painful realizations. That glaringly point out the bad decisions I have made in the past-starting with attending a private religious institution.

    I feel your pain Ben. I suppose if I were to offer advice-a position in which I am very unqualified-I would say pay your debt off as soon as you can. Beg borrow and steal and obliterate it. Not only will you find freedom, but you will be able to do much more with the money you have, save, give, and increase your quality of life.

  4. That was supposed to say “Don’t Worry” and have a link to the following:
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%206:25-34;&version=31;

    Added by me:

    Matthew 6:25-34 (New International Version)

    Do Not Worry
    25″Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[a]?

    28″And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

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