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American Magazine

On Campus

Banking on More: Perspectives on Faith and Money

By Sarah Stankorb

Kay Spiritual Life Center

Kay Spiritual Life Center (Photo: Jeff Watts)

These are not fat times. So where do students with money worries go on campus? The financial aid office, the career center — certainly.

Another resource sits at the east end of the quad, Kay Spiritual Life Center, where 33 chaplains with 22 different religious perspectives assist the campus community with issues great and small.

Seven chaplains answered our call for a snapshot of the core teaching or value their faith places on money. We also asked for their thoughts on whether a loss of a spiritual center contributed to today’s worldwide economic crisis.

BAHA'I: Donna Denize

On a Baha’i identity: “Am I a kind person? Am I a loving person? Am I a forgiving person? That’s your identity. Not your bank account.”

On today’s economic crisis: “Baha’is view the world as going through a dual process of things deteriorating and of things being created. Even as we see the destruction and misuse of resources and human rights abuses worldwide, people are coming together on such issues as the environment, or economics. We look at the glass as half full and do not focus on the negative because it is paralyzing. Focus your energies on something that will benefit social progress . . . We need a new system that allows us to work as a global economy.”

HUMANIST: Binyamin Biber
A humanist’s perspective: “We have a debt or need for a balance with the entire planet so that human beings do not assume a privilege that allows them to destroy the balance of the planetary ecology and community of all species.”

Food for thought: “There are countries that have been exploited, essentially drained of their natural resources by elites and corporations . . . I think there’s a growing understanding in economics and policy that some degree of debt forgiveness and restructuring of debt will be needed as will greater transparency on the part of governments that seek debt relief or debt forgiveness. As a progressive movement humanists see economics as part of a larger ecological sensibility. The two words come from the same root ecos, house. So economy is the rules of the house and ecology is the operations of the house. We have to [define] those within the balance of nature.”

JEWISH: Jason Benkendorf

Jews believe:  “Traditional Judaism views all material possessions, like life itself, as merely on loan from God.”

Honesty an economic key: “The Torah teaches us not to ‘put a stumbling block before the blind’ (Leviticus 19:14). One way this has been understood is that we are forbidden from knowingly offering bad advice or intentionally misleading those with less information or expertise. These instructions were widely ignored in the financial sector prior to the financial crisis.

METHODIST: Rev. Mark Schaefer

A Methodist believes: “All things are really God’s and are to be used in ways that recognize that. Therefore, wealth is to be used in service to others, not simply for our own aggrandizement . . . The focus is primarily on God but focusing on the needs of others can be spiritually healing.”

The economy: “Methodism has a strong distaste for gambling, not simply because it’s a vice but because of the spiritual damage it does. It conveys the message that we can prosper through luck and chance, rather than hard work. It places trust in material gain rather than in God’s grace and provision. It tends to be predatory toward the poor. Everything about this financial crisis speaks to those same concerns. Predatory lending, speculation rather than investing in production, and a host of other practices led to the collapse.”

MUSLIM: Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad

The Koran promises: “‘no increase for the usurer but mansions in paradise for the one who spends in charity.’ Islam contrasts usury with charity. Wealth is a test for humans, but then so is poverty.”

Economic contrasts: “Muslims view their opposition to usury, distrust of debt, and their support of sound money and honesty in commerce as antidotes to the causes of the financial crisis."


Roman Catholics believe: “We’re all connected to each other.  The Catholic word is solidarity. Jesus teaches us that ‘Whatever you did for one of these least ones you did for me.’ Our eternal life depends upon the love we have for our brothers and sisters.  This goes back to the Hebrew Scriptures. It’s not an option. If I want to get to heaven, I’ve got to be generous, compassionate, and just.”

Roots of our economic realities: “The increasing discrepancy between rich and poor in this country and throughout the world is a scandal, a sign of gross selfishness that poses a great threat to society and the human person.”

SIKH: Surjit Mansingh

Sikhs are enjoined: “to pray, work, and share. Wealth gained by legitimate work is permissible, and Sikh communities all over the world tend to be relatively prosperous.”

Economic detachment fulfills: “The Sikh gurus emphasized how you reach spiritual liberation, how you reach God, as a householder in everyday life . . . It doesn’t call for withdrawal from the world. It calls for detachment, as the lotus. The lotus roots are in mud but its flower is above the water.”