We had a study last night on the history of the Christian Church when this quote came up. This was written in 1985 by Justo Gonzalez in The Story of Christianity: Volume Two – The Reformation to the Present Day about the Great Depression in the 1930. I have bolded the interesting sections…remember this was writtin in 1985.
On October 24, 1929, panic gripped the New York Stock Exchange. With short periods of slight recovery, the market continued dropping until the middle of 1930. By then, most of the western world was in the middle of a great economic depression. One-fourth of the labor force in the United States was unemployed. Britain and other nations had social security systems and unemployment insurance. In the United States, fear of socialism had prevented such measures; therefore, the unemployed found themselves entirely on their own, or forced to seek charity from relatives, friends, or churches. Soup kitchens and breadlines became common sights in all major cities and many smaller towns. Runs on banks, bankruptcies, and foreclosures reached a record high.
At first, the nation faced the Great Depression with the optimism that had characterized earlier decades. President Hoover and his cabinet continued denying the existence of a depression for months after the market had crashed. When they finally admitted that there was a depression, they insisted that the American economy was sufficiently sound to rebound by itself, and that the free workings of the marketplace were the best way to ensure an economic recovery. Although the president himself was a compassionate man who suffered with the plight of the unemployed, there were around him those who rejoiced in the hope that the Depression would break the labor unions. When finally the government intervened to prevent further bankruptcies in industry and commerce, comedian Will Rogers quipped that money was being given to those at the top hoping that it would “trickle down to the needy.’Gonzalez, 1985, 376
Still don’t think there are parallels to today? Foreclosures at record highs? Fears of socialism? An entire school’s union fired? Bailouts at the top hoping to trickle down to the bottom? Wow.
This isn’t a partisan political discussion…but it is an interesting parallel that the Church has to decide how to respond. How do we offer hope in the midst of similar despair? How do we not repeat the mistakes of the past and seek new relevance today?