Mammon in the suburbs
Why does money seem to be the only thing Christian guys ever talk about?
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Have you ever been with a Christian dude who finds out that another Christian dude has money?
I wasn’t around for the British Invasion, when the Beatles took America by storm and women were literally fainting and swooning in their presence, but I’ve got to imagine it’s similar. Their cheeks flush a little, their heart starts to race, and the questions come out about how the money was acquired. Family money? Entrepreneur? Corporate ladder? Spoiler alert: It doesn’t matter. They’re excited either way.
They might be excited because they have a rental property to sell the guy. They might be excited because they’re a pastor who needs money to keep his church running, and this guy’s runway to “elder” will now be remarkably short. They might be excited because their son is about to start dating a girl whose dad has money. Imagine the luck! They might be excited because per the guy’s LinkedIn he has found the secret to #passiveincome and #triphacks and #lifehacks, and he is happier than he ever thought possible because he’s now (pick one: a crypto guy, a real estate guy, a multi-level-marketing guy, a fitness influencer guy, a writes-marketing-copy-from-home guy). Or a banker. This one never fails to excite Christian men, regardless of generation.
People used to have jobs, but now they have personas (and usually multiple jobs).
Or how about this one: You walk into the “youth room” of a local megachurch, which is actually a dedicated Pottery Barn–ish building complete with auditorium, stage setup, leather sofas with inexplicably steam-punk corrugated metal along the side (this must have focus-grouped as “important” in the teenage-offspring-of-rich-people demographic) and you say to yourself, “This is a long way from orange drink and dodgeball and those Awana meetings where we used to memorize Scripture and then run around after those little beanbags.”
In the youth room, you discover the kind of fundraiser that takes place multiple times every weekend in every suburb of every city of this great nation. It is a fundraiser where both family and emotion are leveraged to the hilt, in a dance that is part “organization celebrating the wealthy” and “the wealthy celebrating themselves.” This always involves a slightly-past-it CCM “star” who is now the house musician at his Nashville megachurch and does these freelance-checkbook-opening gigs in order to pad the ol’ income. It is never not gross.
I’ve noticed this dynamic since college, which for me took place at a prominent Christian school in the Midwest, in the mid-1990s. Prior to that, I grew up in the kind of small Indiana town where “having money” meant a couple of kids in class having new Jordans and conspicuously going to Indianapolis to do their school shopping (which is to say not very many people in my town had money). People in my town worked in non-union factories, and if you were doing really well you were a schoolteacher. Now, in 2023, schoolteachers are the object of pity that exists on the same level as those Sally Struthers “for the cost of just a cup of coffee a day you can support a local schoolteacher” commercials. Cut to a sad-looking emaciated schoolteacher holding a soccer ball in front of a cinder-block wall.
This is a good time to admit that I probably have a lot of personal hang-ups related to money, for reasons I can’t exactly explain. The hang-ups probably started at the posh college where I learned that it was important to cozy up to the right people in order to get invitations to ski trips and were aided by a series of Christian ghostwriting projects involving obscenely rich, famous Christian people who were dedicated to paying me as little as possible to write their fawning books. A large part of it is my own sin.
And to be fair, I could stand to be a little bit more fascinated with money. A little more dedicated to listening to money podcasts and reading money blogs and making money moves, which moves are made to grow money, leverage money, invest money, and create more money so that my kids will have money and their kids will have money and get invited to fundraisers and everybody will have money.
I’m simply suggesting that perhaps, as Christian men, we might find some other things to be excited about, besides money. That perhaps it is a bad look to obsess over something the Bible so often and not ambiguously guards us against being giddy over and obsessing over. That perhaps we should just go back to having jobs and not being “brands.” Maybe money shouldn’t be the first (only?) metric we use when deciding which relationships to pursue. That maybe we shouldn’t try to get more just because we can.
These daily articles have become part of my steady diet. —BarbaraSign up to receive the WORLD Opinions email newsletter each weekday for sound commentary from trusted voices.