'Recession' Presumption Leads to Stories on Thrift and Savings

Fiscal responsibility has surfaced on the networks!

The mainstream media have come to the conclusion that the American economy is in recession.  While there is a great deal wrong with that presumption, the silver lining is that all of the networks are running stories on how to be more fiscally responsible.  The latest entry in this thematic arc comes from Good Morning America and a feature on financial counseling done from a Biblical perspective.

Reporter Dan Harris featured the work of Howard Dayton and Crown Financial Ministries in the January 24 broadcast.  He used a couple who attend a megachurch in suburban Chicago as the case study for featuring a “Christian cottage industry” that has sprung up in the last few years.

HARRIS: Tens of thousands of churches across the country and the world are now offering financial advice. It's become a sort of Christian cottage industry.

VIDEO TAPE of HOWARD DAYTON, CROWN FINANCIAL MINISTRIES:  In the Bible, there are 2,350 verses dealing with money and possessions.

HARRIS: One of the leading figures in this field is a self-professed former greedy businessman named Howard Dayton. His radio show reaches 2 million people a week. (Question to Dayton) To my knowledge the Bible was written well before the IRS, Roth I.R.A.S. 401ks, car mortgages, et cetera. So how useful is it really?

DAYTON:  It's incredibly practical. Obviously it doesn't deal with mortgages and Roth I.R.A.S and that sort of thing, but the basic fundamental principles are there.

Harris outlined the principles as “debt is bad so save aggressively” and “giving is good.  You should give 10 percent of what you make to the church he (Dayton) says.”  Harris Then Harris brought in a professor of preaching from Emory University to criticize Biblically-based financial ministries. 


HARRIS: But critics say finance ministries are trivializing the Scripture by making it a how-to guide.

TOM LONG, Ph.D., Prof. of Preaching, Emory University: It's one thing to say “what would Jesus do?” but it gets a little silly when it's, “would Jesus diversify his portfolio? or take a no-load mutual fund?”

HARRIS (to Dayton): The heart of that critique is that Jesus was dealing with much more profound issues than how you manage your money.

DAYTON: That's the huge mistake most people make. They don't see handling money as a spiritual issue.  It's intensely spiritual.


Images used throughout the piece included people in church, the Bible and an on-screen graphic of Luke 16:11, “If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of worldly wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?”  Harris closed the piece with a sound bite from the featured couple who said, “If you're not debt free, you're a slave.”

This focus on thrift, savings and personal responsibility applied to finances is a vastly different focus from how the media were covering such topics just a year ago.  A recent study done by CMI and sister division the Business & Media Institute entitled “Debt: Who$ to Blame?” documented that the networks virtually ignored the issue of savings and thrift while at the same time wringing their collective hands over the “credit crunch” and “subprime mortgage mess.”

While the presumption of recession is a journalistic bias, it provides an opportunity to cover financial strategies that encourage savings.  One hopes the networks will keep it up when the economy is chugging along at full throttle.

ABC is scheduled to carry more on bible-based financial counseling in the January 24 broadcast of Nightline.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.