Everybody loves Ramsey

September 5, 2011

The ubiquitous Mr. Ramsey

I don’t know much about Dave Ramsey. Like everyone else, I see his face plastered on billboards. I see posters advertising his “Financial Peace” seminar around church. I see his books on sale everywhere. I’m aware that he has a talk radio show.

Based on conversations with credible friends, I’m sure that much of his personal financial advice is sound. And I’m all for getting rid of credit cards. I haven’t used one in five years (of course, by then the damage was done). One clergy friend needed to get a better handle on his dire financial situation before being ordained. Within a year, he whipped his credit score into shape. I asked him how he did it. He said, almost apologetically, “I’m not a Dave Ramsey guy, but…” Yes, he took the Ramsey course.

So I have nothing against Ramsey. No, that’s a lie. I sort of dislike him for the same reason I dislike Lady Gaga. I’ve never really heard her either, but her inescapable public persona annoys me. The point is that I recognize that my feelings aren’t based on anything.

One of my favorite bloggers, Stephy Drury, is more familiar with Ramsey and writes about him in this thought-provoking piece. She gently challenges the idea that his overall financial philosophy—embraced uncritically by many Christians—is fully Christian, or that it provides true financial peace. Like Biggie said, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” But we’re all hypocrites about money, as Drury well knows.

Here’s my favorite part:

So basically, it sucks to be a rich Christian. Or could getting rid of your stuff also get rid of a lot of your problems, like Biggie said? There’s got to be a reason monks take vows of poverty and can have joy. If you don’t have a bunch of money you have to trust more and that isn’t a fun activity for humans. It’s also just weird. If we don’t go with our straight-line way of thinking and use the paradoxical power Jesus taught that looks for all the world like weakness (what Luther called left-handed power), it seems illogical. Or did Jesus’ weird directives and backwards ways of teaching with parables actually show us some of who he is because they are so counter-intuitive? If you say you follow the teachings of someone who said his followers must give what they own to the poor, you’ve got a dilemma because no one wants to take that literally. It says the rich young ruler walked away very sad because he was very rich. Of course he did. Can you really have that kind of material wealth and follow someone who said to give it all away?

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