Harvard theologian Harvey Cox wrote in the Atlantic Monthly in March of 1999 that in America we now see “The Market as God.” Cox wrote: “The Market is not only around us but inside of us, informing our senses and our feelings. There seems to be nowhere left to flee from its untiring quest. Like the Hound of Heaven, it pursues us home from the mall and into the nursery and the bedroom.” It has been said that the present day religion of America is “consumerism” and the cathedrals of worship are the shopping malls. Television advertising is the “evangelistic outreach” of this religion, spreading the message and drawing followers to come and worship. Wall Street is the “holy city” from which the “profits” speak. This is the idolatry of our age. Though we have inscribed on our money, “In God We Trust,” our behavior reveals that it's money that we trust. We put our confidence in hedge funds, mortgage-backed securities, 401(k)s and mutual funds. (These various financial tools are not inherently wrong but we too easily fall into the trap of seeking a “risk free” system where we put our confidence in man, not in God.)
But the reality is that idolatry always has consequences. Our love affair with debt, irresponsible home buying and “we can have it all right now” is literally destroying our society. Of course, we want to fix the blame on one group, or another. People on the left blame the economics of Ronald Reagan and his followers. People on the right blame Congress and the Fannie and Freddie fiasco. But quite frankly, before we cast the blame on others, we need to examine ourselves.
We are all to blame in general, some of us more particularly than others. Investors, home owners, borrowers, lenders, journalists, elected officials, economists, regulators, credit rating agencies and even some Christian ministries are all responsible in some way. The tragedy is that we all suffer, to varying degrees, because we are all in this together, and we failed to listen to the truth about our idolatrous addiction to materialism as a nation.
When idols fall, they usually fall hard. Their fall is usually accompanied with a great deal of sorrow. But with the fall of the idol comes a new day – hopefully, it will be a new day in which we rebuild upon the “rock,” rather than upon the “sand” of seeking fulfillment through the things which we possess.