Magi Mike's Blog

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Why So Many Conservative Protestants are Poor and Republican Pastors are Rich

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Which political party has the best values, and how does religion affect these values? Kennon Sheldon, a professor of psychology in the University of Missouri College of Arts and Science, compared extrinsic values (financial success, status, appearance) with intrinsic values (growth, intimacy, helping) of admitted Democrats and Republicans.

Republicans scored consistently higher on the extrinsic value of financial success and lower on the intrinsic value of helping others in need. Only non-religious Republicans did not value helping those in need, but even religious Republicans were more interested than Democrats in financial success. Democrats had essentially the same values whether religious or non-religious.

What of necessary challenges that require intrinsic values because connection and cooperation are central to them rather than wealth and consumption? Examples are changing to sustainable energy in the face of climate change, and keeping people united in the face of increasing racial diversity. Can wealthy Republicans deal with such policies. They do but the evidence is they use simple, humble conservative Christians’ willingness to care for the less fortunate as a cover for their own utterly unChristian greed. The poorer Christians do the caring while the richer ones avoid it while adding to their wealth.

Conservative Protestants are indeed dramatically over represented at the bottom of the US wealth distribution. Lisa A Keister, Duke professor of sociology, found that Conservative Protestants tend to save less and accumulate fewer assets than other Americans and their religious beliefs contribute to their low wealth:

We know that wealth ownership is extremely unequal in the US, and large numbers of families have little or no savings. However, sociologists and economists have just begun to explore why that is. While there is evidence that religion and wealth are related, what has been missing is a clear account of the process by which religion affects the wealth of believers.

Prof Keister

Keister used data on more than 6,000 people in her survey, which includes detailed information about family background, religious affiliation data and financial information. She concluded that conservative Protestant beliefs influence wealth ownership directly and indirectly. The direct influence stems from conservative Protestants’ approach to finance—in particular the belief that people are managers of God’s money and excess accumulation of wealth should be avoided. This is perfectly sound Christianity. After all, Christ said, “Blessed are the poor”. In addition, conservative Protestants have tended to be less educated and have large families beginning at younger ages, and fewer conservative Protestant women work.

Keister’s study examined the wealth of members of conservative Protestant churches, defined as members of churches with relatively traditional religious beliefs who accept the Bible as the inerrant word of God, value personal conversion experiences and emphasize the importance of the Christian faith to social issues—Assemblies of God, Baptists, Churches of Christ, Church of God in Christ, Nazarene and Pentecostal.

Wealth was defined as net worth, or total assets minus total liabilities. Wealth is among the most fundamental indicators of well-being. Unlike income, which disappears with the loss of a job or the death of the earner, wealth endures. Wealth as a measure of economic standing has important advantages over income. It doesn’t go away if you lose your job, or if you have a medical problem. You can also pass it to your kids. It can do all kinds of things for you. Conservative Protestants have very low overall wealth. In 2000, median net worth for conservative Protestants was $26,000 compared to $66,200 for the entire National Longitudinal Study of Youth.

The Bible contains a large number of lessons about money and finances. The study found that conservative Protestants tend to hold the following beliefs:

  • Divine advice, advice from clergy and other religious advice about money and work have merit. For example, more conservative Protestants than other people are likely to pray about financial decisions
  • Excess accumulation of wealth is undesirable. More conservative Protestants said money prevents one from knowing God than other people.

Keister notes that conservative Protestants are among the most generous contributors to churches and related organizations. There is a curious irony in this finding, in that these poor conservative Christians send money to spouting pastors and TV evangelicals who are vastly rich, helping them to get richer, yet they take their minister’s advice on giving up their last mites, like the famous widow.

The reason has to go farther than religious sincerity and devotion. It must reflect the generally low education and IQ of these poor people. In other words, the cleverer pastors are taking advantage of the low intelligence and gullibility of their flocks! Thus the study found that religious belief can influence net worth indirectly through low educational attainment. Education is one of the strongest predictors of wealth, and conservative Protestants have significantly less education than members of other faiths. Contributing to their poor education is that conservative Protestants have children early and have large families, making saving difficult. Also, conservative Protestant women stay at home, cutting family income.

The study examined three groups:

  1. People who were conservative Protestants in both childhood and adulthood
  2. People who were raised conservative Protestants but left
  3. People who joined conservative Protestant churches as adults.

All three groups have low wealth, but that the lifelong conservative Protestants had the least wealth, and those who joined the denominations as adults had the highest. It suggests that values learned in childhood have a strong influence on saving and assets later in life. Religion had a significant effect after controlling for class background, adult class and other indicators such as parents’ education and income. Race is another factor. The effect was stronger among black conservative Protestants, though it was significant among whites as well.

There is no mistaking that these Christians who are poor in wealth, education, culture and intellect are trying to do as Christ taught them, but they are unable to see that they are being conned by the latter day Sadducees, the greedy, spouting Protestant pastors and ministers whose main ambition is to take the last dollars from these gullible people to line their own pockets and send their own kids to posh schools. It is time that some of the clergy practised Christianity themselves. Christ spoke out against the smug Pharisees. If there are any honest Christians out there, they ought to be condemning as agents of Satan, the selfish accumulators calling themselves ministers and evangelists. Christ said: “Give all ye have to the poor and follow me”. If that is being Christian, it follows that what Protestant pastors are doing is following the Antichrist.

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Written by mikemagee

13 August, 2010 at 2:19 pm

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