Tag Archives: greed

Greed, groupthink, and the housing/debt crisis

This week I heard a great program on “This American Life” (NPR) regarding the housing and mortgage crisis and how the heart of this problem is simply greed. Well, the problem is pretty complex. But, what is clear is that all involved–from the homeowner, insurance agent, Wall Street broker, to Banking Organizations looking to invest–everyone either turned a blind eye for personal gain or knowingly sought something that was too good to be true. You hear the stories of individuals choosing massive loans because they can (without any income verification), agents making 100,000 dollars per month selling loans that they knew couldn’t be repaid, large brokers who felt they HAD to satisfy larger companies desires for these bundled mortgages because they could get such a better return on investment. And everyone conspired to think that it was all going to work out. They had data on their side (unfortunately telling them about the predictions of loan worthy individuals repaying their loans but assuming that those completely unable to pay back loans would act like those who could pay them back), they had larger corporations demanding to invest and willing to offer mortgages too good to be true. A classic case of group-think!

If these kinds of situations interest you and you are wondering, “how in the world did anyone fall for this kind of thing?” then you should check out the link above and listen on-line.

As an aside, greed and group-think doesn’t just happen on a secular level. Years ago, many Christian organizations (along with some large Philadelphia organizations like the Academy of Art, UPENN, etc.) got sucked up into a ponzi scheme better known as New Era Philanthropy. It was a classic case of nonprofit greed (give .5 million dollars to Mr. Bennett and get back 1 million in 6 months). It was too good to be true but most only focused on the good part. Lots of well-meaning folk, including my own Biblical Seminary, came out quite wounded.

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Filed under Cultural Anthropology, news, News and politics, self-deception

Greed and illicit sex: Would you treat them as equals?

Our visiting professor, Richard Smith, (and my good friend) had us faculty meditate on Paul’s teaching regarding greed. He had us read Col 3:5-7 and Eph 5:3-5. In both passages Paul puts both greed and sex on the same footing: they are both forms of idolatry.

He asked us to consider how greed might infiltrate our lives (yes, even impoverished seminary profs). Do we, like our culture, consider greed a petty vice or perverse? Would we be inclined to use church discipline when greed appears (1 Cor. 5:9-11 suggests so)?

What is the line between justice and demand; between security and self protectionism?  I raised a concept that I heard from a development officer of a local nonprofit. He talked about nonprofit greed. We fantasize and imagine security where we no longer have to ask for money or worry about next year’s budget. Ever had that fantasy? I do. 

By the way, I suspect this devotional work we have been doing of late is rather rare for faculty. We faculty are already arrived and we make decisions on the proper way to teach and the proper way to govern. But how many faculty meetings give ample time to applying biblical truth to their own lives. Its not normal and we tend to slide back into intellectual discussions…

Okay, now that I’ve felt pride for our faculty, I better go and repent of this vice 🙂

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Filed under Biblical Reflection