Tomorrow, I leave for India. I will be gone about 9 days and will ascend high into the Himalayas yet again to meet with indigenous ministry leaders, check on the water project that we are funding, visit with church planters that we are supporting, and explore the possibility of putting missionaries in an Indian Holy City where there is little to no Christian work going on. I will be visiting a country that is hostile to Christianity, that suffers from extreme poverty, and that is in the grip of a worldview that is destructive to its people. There will be much talk among the Indians of what is going on in America because what happens in America affects the entire world. But, those days are coming to an end, I fear.
Der Spiegel, the German newspaper, has the best analysis of the demise of America’s economic, political, and imperial fortunes that I have yet seen. I highly recommend that you take a some time and read this piece. It is the type of analysis that rarely occurs from within our country, but I fear that it is accurate in its portrayal of a nation that has run out of gas. Here is an excerpt regarding America’s search for one economic boom after another to keep the prosperity rolling. It focuses on what happened at the beginning of this decade with the collapse of the tech stock bubble and the rise of the housing bubble:
In the United States, this process began after the collapse of the New Economy. Once again, Greenspan flooded the economy with money and, yet again, Wall Street started looking for a new market for its growth machine. This time it discovered the American homeowner, convincing him to take out mortgages at favorable terms, even when there was practically no collateral.
The total value of all outstanding mortgage loans in the United States — $11 trillion (€7.6 trillion) — is almost as large as the country’s gross domestic product. At the same time, with the help of Wall Street’s financial engineers, the Americans managed to sell a portion of the risk to other parts of the world, reasoning that if the risk was out of sight it would be out of mind.
But the fact that risks do not disappear when they are distributed around the world became clear at the beginning of last year. Interest rates rose across the board and house prices came down, triggering a chain reaction with collateral damage that was bringing down ever-growing segments of the financial sector from one week to the next. Today, 18 million single-family homes and condominiums in the United States are empty. More and more Americans can no longer afford the high interest rates they are being charged. Many consumers have even been forced to bid farewell to their beloved credit cards because the banks are no longer willing to extend credit to them.
To make matters worse, because a large share of the mortgage loans are now distributed all over the world, the crisis is spreading halfway around the globe like an infectious disease. In recent years, many of the industrialized countries deregulated their financial markets based on the American model. This has led to a relatively unimpeded flow of capital around the world today.
Spiegel quotes the New York economist Nouriel Roubini, "The US consumer has consumed himself to death." The effects will be felt as we lose our dominance on the world stage, as predicted by the soon-to-be released Global Trends 2025 by the U.S. intelligence community. Spiegel sums it up by saying,
A new chapter in economic history has begun, one in which the United States will no longer play its former dominant role. A process of redistributing money and power around the world — away from America and toward the resource-rich countries and rising industrialized nations in Asia — has been underway for years. The financial crisis will only accelerate the process.
America’s Collapse and the Role of the Church
America has been counted out before. The 1970’s were the last time that people all around the world were predicting the demise of America. We bounced back then and it is possible that we can bounce back again. We were not facing the challenges then that we are now with our enormous debt and failing financial institutions, but we were looking at high interest rates, unemployment, and inflation and we had just suffered through Vietnam with a strong Soviet Union breathing down our necks. It was a perilous time. We pulled together, pointed ourselves in a positive direction, and we recovered. I believe that we can do so again.
My hope would be that the Church would be true to itself and its calling and play a prominent role in the renewing of America. We can do that if we would identify the greed and consumption lust that lives within us and eradicate it. We can be salt and light if we would not be caught up in the greatness of the America and the pursuit of the "American Dream" and if we would instead prophetically call our nation to the virtues that once made her great. To do that, we have to live out those virtues ourselves. We have to be true to what God has called us to as we are faithful to Him instead of the American consumer lifestyle. We are headed for difficult times and the Church must function as the moral compass of a nation trying to find her way. But, that is impossible if our compass is broken.
I have noticed that very few Christian leaders or bloggers have said much of anything about this economic crisis. Do they not realize that when people begin to lose jobs and homes that their own churches will be affected? Their ability to use money to do ministry will be greatly diminished? I know that pastors are not economists, but at the same time, these issues affect us all. There is a great moral and spiritual dynamic to what is happening right now and it would serve us well to give the same attention to the events of today as we have to the evils of Hollywood and the secularists of the past. The Church, if we can find our way and extricate ourselves from the tenticles of greed and consumption, can be a great shining light to a nation that is wondering "what’s next?" or, "How now shall we live?"
I will be updating from India with stories and pictures. It will be refreshing to spend time with believers who only have Jesus to cling to. May we be more like them.