Friday, December 30, 2005

Better living through UUism

Like PB, The CSO and I are magazine junkies. Our taste in magazines differs from hers, but the principle is the same.

The basket of magazines in our bathroom is pretty full. I was cleaning it out yesterday and found the Oct. 30 edition of the New York Times magazine. They had an article on Dave Ramsey, a christian debt counselor. Ramsey himself seems like a good guy and his financial policies are similar to TheCSO's financial ideas. It strikes me as a good sign that his site doesn't take credit cards.

I've never been a big fan of "Christian" businesses. If I were a Christian, people using my faith to advertise their businesses would really offend me. Even as an Ex-Christian, it offends me. It doesn't really happen up here, but when I lived in the bible belt, gas stations with large signs that said "Jesus is lord" were common. I tried to stick to chains that were a little less offensive in their advertising. Can you imagine the Jesus you've read about being even remotely OK with businesses using him to advertise? Me neither. Talk about money changers in the temple.

But what Ramsey is doing is a different deal. There's a lot to be said for Christian self-help, actually. To take Ramsey's example, I'm pretty sure Jesus would have had a big issue with credit card companies (who are admittedly money changers in a more literal sense than southern gas station owners) that prey on the poor, and his followers supporting them by getting into debt.

To be honest, when I've had money problems, and they've always been comparitively small ones, nothing has eaten away at my peace of mind like worries about making my car payment. It really is a spiritual drain. How can I focus on living a good life when I'm full of worries about survival?

Sort of the opposite of Teyve surmising:

If I were rich I'd have the time that I lack
To sit in the synagogue and pray
And maybe have a seat by the Eastern Wall
And I'd discuss the holy books with the learned men
Seven hours ev'ry day
And that would be the sweetest thing of all

Or as Ramsey puts it:

What could the People of God do for the Kingdom of God if they were DEBT FREE?

The more I read, the more I think Dave Ramsey is doing a really good thing for his faith. I am less impressed with other forms of Christian self-help. The Maker's Diet, for example.

And I wonder what UUs could be doing with all of this. After all, is there a religion better suited to writing self-help books than one that makes it clear that, whatever you believe about God, it is our religious and moral duty to taked care of one another? In a religion where collectively we can assume nothing about God, we're left with the conclusion that the only thing we can be sure of is one another. To live as moral beings and to reach out to others as moral beings is really our only option.

What our sermons may lack in theological complexity, they often make up in a certian moral clarity that I consider uniquely UUism's. We must assume that God does not hate all the same people we do, and that if there is justice to be found, we have to try to find it on earth. Your problems are mostly because of things you've done, but you mostly have the power to fix them.

I find much of what is in self-help books to be sort of simplistic, but sometimes simplistic advice is what you need. Most people have the jist of "Eat vegetables and exercise and you will lose weight," though that isn't advice that is very easy to follow, at least not for me. Still, there's a UU diet in there someplace.

But I like the idea even better for other forms of self help. Relationship books for example. I had a friend once who seriously needed to hear "If you always talk about your husband like he's a moron and brag to your girlfriends about how you deny him sex, you probably shouldn't be so surprised that your marriage has problems." She had no clue. A better friend than I was would have told her, but I was pretty young at the time and not confident that I knew what I was talking about. Turns out, I did, and my policy of talking about the CSO with respect has had a big payoff in the sort of trusting relationship that I really don't think someone who regularly makes fun of their spouse in front of casual acquaintances can possibly have. Sex problems and money problems don't kill marriages. Contempt kills marriages.

I think the first UU self-help book might be "The Top Ten Signs You're a Jerk--and how to fix yourself." It could include chapters like "Are you funny or mean?:A quiz for potentially hurtful wiseasses" or "Are you honest or self-absorbed?:a quiz for people who talk about their feelings all the time" etc, etc and soforth.

Other titles: "Grow Up! The Challenges of the first few years after college graduation and how to face them like an adult," "Happily Ever After, how to be a good spouse in a modern marriage," etc.

There's money to be made here, kids.


Ps. My interview yesterday went well. If they don't hire me, they had another candidate who was very good. This is likely the case though, as there was a lot of competition.


PeaceBang said...

So, um, if you don't get that job I would be willing to send you food money while you write that UU self-help book.

Anonymous said...

Yes, please write that book. We need it.

DEBTective said...

Dollface, just wanted to say a big-time thanks for spreading the word about Dave Ramsey and debt freedom. Hope you can deep-six your own debt soon! Here's looking at you, kid.