I will receive $1,800 this May. The IRS will pay me $1,200 because I’m married and $600 for my children. The money comes with no strings. And therein lies my quandary—how will I use my economic stimulus payment?
Through the Economic Stimulus Act, Washington wants 130 million recipients to spend $168 billion in an attempt to bolster the economy. The prescription is consumption.
The message is striking. The American economic engine requires an ever-increasing rate of consumption to remain functional. Good Americans are good consumers because when they stop consuming, the system fails. Like a junkie in search of a fix, the economy needs an injection of cash.
Is consumption really a viable answer? I find two problems with this approach: one practical, one theological.
This is the intro for an article I wrote for FPU's Scholars Speak feature. I raised the issue at faculty prayers the other day and was surprised by the vigorous amd engaging reactions I got. The dilemma is this: as Christians we claim that material possessions should be low priority and that our "treasure is in heaven," but our government is telling us that spending and consuming is the answer to a weak economy. This raises all sorts of questions: Should good Americans be good consumers? Can an economy continue to grow and can Americans continue to consume in greater quantities at an endless pace? Is there also a place for saving and sharing our money? Is it un-American not to spend the stimulus rebate? Are there any theological implications? What should Christians do with the stimulus checks that will be sent out in May?
In my recent research I have been shocked to discover that no one is raising these questions. I suspect that there are people who are interested in the theological ramifications of the stimulus package, I simply can't find a public place of discourse on the issue.
I offer the following suggestion in the spirit of being transparent, certainly not to be haughty.... Tracy and I are giving our rebate away. We'll split it between an urban ministry in Fresno, a transitional home for homeless families in Pasadena and a HIV/AIDS clinic in Jos, Nigeria.
What will you do with yours? Would you consider giving a portion to a ministry or charity? Would you leave a comment and let other readers know about your issues, dilemmas, concerns, and suggestions? I know money is a private matter, but maybe on the advent of May's stimulus rebate it should be a public discussion.
Here's the full article to spur other thoughts and conversations.