Thinking about the crisis spiritually

Charles Calomiris has an interesting take on the crisis. I had just pointed to the peace connection with the crisis, and here Calomiris talks about spiritual response to the crisis. He gives a speech at Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, Harvard Club and reflects on the crisis and its lessons.

When the Church of the Annunciation invited me to comment on the current financial crisis from a spiritual perspective I was hesitant. I am not a theologian, just a lay member of the Orthodox Church. I agreed partly because I was intrigued by the question and uncertain about what I would be able to say in response to it. I have studied financial crises most of my professional career, and since mid-2007 I have been busy researching, writing and speaking about the current crisis and the policy responses to it; but I had never considered the points of intersection between spirituality and financial crises. I see my attempt here as a starting point for exploring those points of intersection .

He starts by listing four causes of the crisis (inter-related) and the policy responses. Then he comes to the spiritual side:

Crisis is a word derived from the ancient Greek krinein, which, according to the Dictionary of Word Origins, means “to sift, to separate, or to judge.” In other words, crises are moments when circumstances force us to make important decisions. But why should our individual or collective decisions in response to financial crises have a spiritual component? How will spirituality make our decisions better?

The first and most obvious answer to these questions is an historical one. The Bible, after all, is itself largely a crisis chronicle. It might be best described as a recounting of a sequence of political, economic, and personal crises, which often coincide, and in which spiritual insights or errors prompted people to make important decisions, for better or worse, about their personal and societal futures. Adam and Eve, Moses, Gideon, David, Solomon, Jesus, and Paul, just to name a few, were all faced with crises that they had to manage. What these people did in response to crises is very instructive. I would even go so far as saying that the Bible could be used as a crisis management manual.

In discussing Biblical accounts of spiritually informed responses of to crises I want to emphasize two aspects: Spiritually informed responses manifested on the inside (silent, internal learning), and those manifested on the outside (through actions taken in the presence of others).

He then explains the inside and outside giving examples of Ruth and Job who teach lessons in crisis management.

Towards the end he says:

In 33 AD, Rome suffered the world’s first “global” financial crisis (gripping the entire Roman Empire). The crisis brought panic and depositor runs to the banks of the Via Sacra in Rome. Emperor Tiberius rose to the occasion and stopped the panic by loaning the banks money from the Imperial Treasury. This intervention is still regarded as one of history’s most successful policy interventions in dealing with a financial crisis. And yet, Tiberius is not remembered much for his success. Around the same time as that first global panic, someone stole Tiberius’s thunder, a Jew who was suffering through a crisis of his own in Jerusalem, one that the world would never forget. His willingness to make difficult decisions, His commitment to righteous witnessing, and His love for others remain an unequalled and inspiring model of good decision making during a crisis.


Excelelnt stuff from Calomiris. Gives completely a different perspective on the crisis. And teaches me a few thing about Bible. I haven’t read it but would surely r’ber these stories.

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