The other day I took Daughter No.1 to see the Breaking Dawn movie. I read all the Twilight novels this time last year (and reviewed the first one here) but hadn’t seen any of the films until this one.
I was impressed that the daughter was happy for me to take her – the young women who work in my office all said it would be far too embarrassing for her to have me there, as Bella and Edward snogged on the screen. Now, I consider the opportunity to embarrass one’s offspring to be a perk (even a prerequisite) of parenthood, that should be fully indulged, but the daughter was remarkably unfazed – so perhaps all the work we’ve put in at keeping an open relationship with her is paying off.
Anyway, I quite enjoyed the movie, as I enjoyed the books (being as in touch with my inner teenage girl as I obviously am) and Daughter No.1 and I had an interesting chat about it as we drove home.
One surprising thing is that Edward isn’t all that good looking (something with which the daughter agrees), yet he is the pinup of choice in a million bedrooms. Which simply demonstrates the power of marketing, and the extent to which we believe something is desirable just because we are told it is. Back in 2008 Robert Pattinson (who plays Edward) said, "It's funny, but about a year ago I'd talk to girls and no one would be interested. Really, it's true, and then when it was announced I would be in 'Twilight' and the book's author gave me her seal of approval, everyone seemed to change their mind. The attention I get now is just mind bending."
We all (and not just teenaged girls) need to be alert to how easy it is to be suckered by fame and fortune and advertising and celebrity. The reality is that though we like to think of ourselves as independent and savvy and smart, we tend to believe what we’re told.
To claim that Edward is not that attractive might be contentious enough (Go Team Jacob!) but let me draw what may be a more contentious line from that to the current economic crisis: Just as Edward isn’t that attractive, perhaps the economic crisis isn’t that bad.
As I can already sense people picking up stones ready to hurl at me, I’ll try and qualify that.
Sure, the economic crisis is very bad. Especially if you live in Greece. In the UK it is also very bad if you are a young person looking for work (though not as bad as in Spain where the unemployment rate is a Great Depression equalling 25 per cent); if you have lost a job it is very bad; if your income is dependent on revenue generating investments it is very bad. Every time I fill up the car with fuel, or get a utility bill, or buy groceries I experience the pain of inflation that seems to be running ahead of the official rate. And of course, it could all get very much worse if the Eurozone doesn’t sort itself out.
So there you go – all my caveats expressed and you can put those rocks down.
Yet, it’s not that bad – certainly for those of us who have held onto our jobs and have mortgages to pay. With interest rates still so low paying a mortgage is a lot less painful than it has historically been, and this makes a major contribution to household finances.
What has happened is that for the past three years we have been fed an almost relentless diet of terrible financial news which leaves us all feeling poorer, even if objectively we are no worse off than we were. Five years ago we were all still drawing capital out of our houses and racking up big bills on our credit cards which made us feel as though we had lots of money – when actually, we just had lots of debt; which is at the root of the whole crisis anyway. Now, because we’ve been told to believe it, we believe Edward Pattinson is the handsomest man ever to breathe and that we have never been so financially desperate.
What to do?
Those of us who are Christians have a special responsibility to think about money in a way which is not “conformed to the pattern of this world” and this means we should not have our thinking bent by the news, but shaped by the gospel. The economics of the kingdom of God are different from the economics of this world. Practically what this means for us might be things like:
- Be a good steward – it is much better to learn this lesson when times are fat than when they are lean, but whatever the times it is a lesson that needs to be learnt.
- Remember the poor – our subjective feelings of financial hardship should not blind us to the objective poverty of the two-thirds world and our responsibility to love our neighbour.
- Help those who are affected by the current financial situation – this is a time for the church to be church.
- Don’t be judgmental towards the poor (as this report reveals we are becoming) – instead we should seek to serve and to bless.
- Remain thankful – God is good, and greatly to be praised!
- Live in faith and not in fear – God has promised to provide for his people, and we need to believe this.
- Be generous – faith and generosity travel hand in hand, whereas fear inevitably leads to selfishness and envy. Living generously means we continue to give money away, we open up our homes to others, we look for opportunities to bless others, we pay for our round at the bar and we don’t skimp on tips.
- Hack down some idols – if money and possessions have become our idols a time of economic uncertainty will certainly expose this; which means this is a great time to get out the axe!
Rather than buy into the gloom we are told we should inhabit, this is a great opportunity for the church to demonstrate the grace and generosity of God at work in us, remembering that “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22).