Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#220 Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is the financial guru of Christian culture. He is to American evangelicals what Oprah is to the untoward penurious masses who lean to her, begging her folksy utile wisdom, except Dave is Oprah in this scenario and he mainly talks about money. In that sense he’s like evangelical Suze Ormon but 100% less lesbionic and his advice is coated in Bible verses. This makes him irresistible to Christian culture.

Dave Ramsey: credit card assassin

Every evangelical worth their salt has at least one copy of Dave’s books, usually Total Money Makeover, and has partaken in his Financial Peace University one of the times it was hosted by their church. Most protestant churches in the U.S. have Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University posters somewhere on their walls. They are very, very excited about him. He tells you how to attack your debt and ratchet up your emergency fund using proverbial (literally) gazelle-like intensity.

It’s common sense and really pretty rad. You do your debt snowball and dart around like a gazelle and soon you have a nice little pile of financial peace. Well, maybe. There’s always something, isn’t there. Some people say the more money you have, the more problems go along with it. I think that’s how Biggie put it. Dave has probably figured that out by now with everyone after him about his expensive houses and cars, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

The patented gazelle-skin Dave Ramsey Wallet™

One way to identify a Dave Ramsey devotee is by their Dave Ramsey branded wallet (see above). It isn’t cute, but that only bothers people who are capable of getting upset about accessories. Maybe Dave should have a follow-up workshop called The Total Wallet Makeover. I would like to suggest this one:

Dave likes to say that while you're paying down your debt "If you will like no one else, later you can live like no one else." This could be taken to mean that for now you're living strangely by budgeting so that one day you can live strangely with financial peace. By this logic, financial peace is equated with having a lot in savings. It sounds about right, and no one seems to wonder if it will actually bring financial peace.

Dave Ramsey isn’t just for Christian culture anymore. He’s branching out and crossing into the mainstream like Amy Grant and Jars of Clay by buying advertising on celebrity gossip pages and such. You can hardly go to a nice stupid site like PerezHilton without seeing Dave’s visage leering at you like Jack Nicholson through a splintered door, holding a dastardly credit card whose seconds are numbered. That credit card has been up to no good. Time to get yourself some financial peace.

People have been talking about Dave Ramsey even more since he bought a $4.9 million house. The opinions are pretty polar; everyone is either proud of his success or disappointed that he professes Christianity from his 13,000 square foot home with a bath that has an alleged 18 shower heads. I will let you absorb this. When people ask him how this aligns with the faith he professes Dave has responded with "Most of the patriarchs in the Bible were wealthy,” “You're managing money for God” and “The Bible doesn’t tell you to be poor.” [1]  Christian culture seems to swallow this just fine.

Casa de Ramsey

In the comment thread for this article on Dave’s house a woman named Melissa said: “I can't believe he could not come up with something better to do with his money…I have 340 poverty kids that need help where I work - what's the chance. Food banks are over burdened by the needs, I'm trying to find a way to get handicapped access playground equipment…18 shower heads, shame on you.” To this some of Dave’s supporters replied “Melissa, stop being a HATER!” “Dave Ramsey has worked his butt off for everything that he has.” “Get a life, just because you don’t have the common sense to save doesn’t mean you can bash someone who does.” “Can we say jealous?...I’m sorry, but this is America, if you work hard and succeed you may do as you wish with YOUR OWN profits. You people who point a finger and say selfish and wasteful, take a look at how much percentage wise Dave donates and how much you yourselves donate and I feel the three fingers pointing back at yourself will clear up who is in the wrong” and “He earned it. If he wants to live in a 10 Million dollar house, thats is fine. This guy gives more money to charity than a host of Americans.”

Dave responded to some of the criticism in this article, saying it's none of our business but that he tithes ten percent and has a family foundation to which he gives a huge percentage. This kind of answer is plenty for Christian culture. Their thinking goes something like, “Hey, he has been more than generous to tell us he tithes the Old Testament mandate of the first ten percent so everyone get off his godly hind-end.” (While they're thinking this they think hind-end, not ass.) Christian culture doesn’t tend to wonder whether it really isn't their business what another Christian does with their multimillions. They have flexible boundaries when it comes to talking about sexual purity with acquaintances and inquiring after strangers' eternal souls, but fellow Christians' finances are a different story.

It’s reminiscent of that one time (at band camp) when the rich young ruler asked Jesus how to be his true follower and Jesus said “Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. Then come, follow me." Because he was so rich he got really sad, and seeing his reaction Jesus said, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who have it all to enter God's kingdom? I'd say it's easier to thread a camel through a needle's eye than get a rich person into God's kingdom."

So basically, it sucks to be a rich Christian. Or could getting rid of your stuff also get rid of a lot of your problems, like Biggie said? There’s got to be a reason monks take vows of poverty and can have joy. If you don’t have a bunch of money you have to trust more and that isn’t a fun activity for humans. It’s also just weird. If we don’t go with our straight-line way of thinking and use the paradoxical power Jesus taught that looks for all the world like weakness (what Luther called left-handed power), it seems illogical. Or did Jesus’ weird directives and backwards ways of teaching with parables actually show us some of who he is because they are so counter-intuitive? If you say you follow the teachings of someone who said his followers must give what they own to the poor, you've got a dilemma because no one wants to take that literally. It says the rich young ruler walked away very sad because he was very rich. Of course he did. Can you really have that kind of material wealth and follow someone who said to give it all away?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

#219 The word "hubby"

"Hubby" isn’t often said by neurosurgeons, rocket scientists or most self-respecting intellectuals, but within Christian culture you hear it all the time. It runs rampant in Young Marrieds ministries, amongst pastors' wives, and on stay-at-home-mom blogs which feature lots of Bible verses and recipes.

"Hubby" is rarely spoken in seriousness by anyone outside of Christian culture. Most people outside Christian culture have only heard it in the context of Ben & Jerry's or from British tabloids, and in extreme cases, from an older, socially-challenged female relative. But in the Christian culture vortex you are subjected to this word and all its incarnations ("hubs," "hubby hubs," "hubski") and qualifications (most often "hunky," "hot" and "godly") early on and very often.

The one hard and fast rule concerning "hubby" is that it is never uttered by a man. Christian culture does have its pride, however ambiguous.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

#218 Michele Bachmann

Christian culture is so excited about Michele Bachmann. A self-proclaimed constitutional conservative and founder of the House’s Tea Party caucus, her presidential candidacy nomination has given them renewed hope that America might be reclaimed from the liberal left who are about to capsize this country with their secular socialist agenda.

Christian culture believes that only a born-again leader can keep this country from combusting like the Roman Empire, but the leader must not just say they are Christian (like a certain president who's probably Muslim). They want a leader with all the Christian cultural markings, and Michele has got them: great hair, Oral Roberts degree, lots of homeschooled kids, Republican congresswoman, Tea Partier, global warming skeptic, Obamacare opponent, intelligent design enthusiast, same-sex marriage contender, and a gaydar-enacting husband who runs his own Christian counseling practice. This political résumé is the stuff of which evangelical dreams are made.

Michele says she's committed to fixing Washington’s broken ways by advocating for America’s adherence to the Constitution and would like to bring God back into our government. (This of course presumes that he at one time was there and was ousted.) Christian culture believes God was a sort of honorary founding father who's been kicked to the curb and that the Constitution is based on Christian principles. They generally won't acknowledge the absence of Christian thought in the Constitution, much less any evidence that the founders didn't intend to create a Christian nation. (Christian culture does not like discussing the Deist, Freemason and Unitarian beliefs of the founding fathers—and the Catholics and Anglicans are often put in the non-Christian box as well—nor that separation of church and state means anything besides keeping the state out of the church’s influence within public institutions, but that's another blog post for another day.)

With Michele's MILFy goodness leading the way, Christian culture has renewed hope that this country can be wrested back from the organized resistance groups who have succeeded in undermining their cherished American values and have publicly ridiculed any reliance on their Creator as the sole source of all our national blessings and prosperity. Because to allow that wouldn't be constitutional at all, now would it.