More Than Money
Issue #7
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Money and Spirit

Table of Contents

“Without a Rudder”

There is a vast chasm today between the once-potent forces of religion and faith on the one hand and the day-to-day details of work life and personal finance on the other, according to a new cultural critique. In God and Mammon in America , Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow argues that this severed connection is wreaking psychological havoc for millions of Americans struggling to lead honorable financial lives but seeing no clear signposts to guide them in matters of money.

The core of Wuthnow's analysis is a survey of more than 2,000 working Americans on the relationship between spirituality and such matters as career choice, workplace commitment, consumerism and charity. The study reveals that Americans are spiritually adrift when it comes to making decisions in the realm of personal economics. Once stern and prescriptive in worldly matters, religion has become nothing more than a source of psychological uplifting, a tool of therapy that buttresses individual choice and lets people feel good about whatever code of conduct they choose. Consequently, the faithful go about their lives "pretty much the same as those who have no faith at all."

Wuthnow holds that religious leaders have taken the path of least resistance in staying silent on the delicate issues of workplace zealotry and material self-interest. He urges voiceless American ministers to reclaim their traditional responsibility for financial as well as spiritual guidance to the flock.

Excerpted from "The Coin and the Spirit" by Wray Herbert in US News & World Report, Sept. 26, 1994 , p.82.

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