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If Sex Don’t Getcha the Money Will

By October 26, 2012 2 Comments

I vowed I wouldn’t make this post about how Evangelical celebrities keep tripping over the sex thing. But it’s so hard to resist. Just in the past week we have two newbies that can’t help but call up a golden oldie. First, right-wing screed-maker and putative thinker Dinesh D’Souza had to walk away from the presidency of The King’s College in midtown Manhattan after shacking up at a political hate-fest of God-and-America lovers with a woman not yet his wife, even though the woman who still is his wife had yet to be favored with divorce papers. Never mind, boys, God looketh upon the heart. Then, Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock gets all earnest over how God can bring a good thing out of evil—in this case, a cuddly little baby out of a rape.

Speaking of rape, of course, Mourdock is following in the august train of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, who said last summer that women are endowed with a magic contraceptive thought-thingie that prevents a rapist’s semen from producing any fruit in the woman he has favored with his attentions. So if she’s carrying it, she must have wanted it. Akin ought to know, science-wise and religiously too. He has a B.S. in management engineering (that’s your logistics and deliverables, like sperm and eggs and gestation and stuff) from Worcester Polytech, plus an M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis where–PCA institution that it is–he might have picked up an echo or two of the he-man New Calvinism. Fortunately for the rest of us, he chose politics as his full-time ministry.

Really, it’s all too easy. So I’ll land closer to home where not sex but money has proven to be the trip-wire. Seems that the just departed administration at my college thought it would be a nifty idea to finance a building spree by borrowing money from banks, investing it in real estate and those sacred Wall Street mysteries that did so much to help out the American economy over the past decade, and using the high yields to pay back the loans and supplement all those insufficient donor contributions with bigger bucks for fancier buildings. Except 2008 happened. Now we’re stuck with a zillion dollars in debt on top of a parlous environment in the higher education “industry” and a difficult-to-sustain business model. My college isn’t alone in the latter two fixes, of course; everybody’s facing it. But  at my place we’re facing it with the financial consequences of arbitrage. No fraud or malfeasance involved, we’re assured. Those were reasonable and customary investment practices. That is to say, everybody was doing it.

My mom and dad never liked that excuse when I trotted it out to justify my tepid and unimaginative walks down naughtiness street as a kid. And the excuse certainly does not pass muster with popes Catholic and evangelical when it comes to sexual behavior. (Well, same-sex behavior, since the divorce and premarital sex rates among self-described evangelical heterosexuals are no better than their worldly neighbors’.) But “reasonable and customary” seems enough for Christians on the financial front. Maybe because Jesus and the prophets didn’t bother so much about money compared to sex. After all, the Lord himself told a charming story about a guy who didn’t take enough as enough but vowed to build still bigger barns. So why doesn’t it say anywhere in Scripture that by their derivatives ye shall know them?

I dunno. I started out with an easy one, but here, to cite Mark Twain, I’ve hit a stumper.

James Bratt

James Bratt is professor of history emeritus at Calvin College, specializing in American religious history and especially the connections between religion and politics. Starting in Fall 2016 he took a break from blogging on The Twelve to teach in China and on the Semester at Sea, which venues afforded him some welcome distance from the USA’s descent into its current mortal illness. But now he’s back in the States, looking for hope. His most recent book (which he edited and completed for the late John Woolverton) is  “A Christian and a Democrat”: Religion in the Life and Leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Wow, Jim. Will we (the public, or at least the alumni) find out the full story on the Calvin finances?

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Reasonable and customary. Of course, that's not supposed to be acceptable for a Christian institution supposedly advancing a Reformed worldview. Like when Redeemer College came close to the fiscal cliff because it was trying to finance itself through a ponzi scheme, meanwhile critiquing other Christians for being too accomodating to secular models in their economic theory. Oh, we are a bunch.

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