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four years later: dave ramsey déjà vu

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Monday, December 2nd, 2013

four years later: dave ramsey déjà vu

over the past 5 years, there’s been a handful of posts here on this blog that have struck a chord and taken on a life of their own, still generating conversation and driving traffic. for the most part, they weren’t expected and certainly weren’t planned. it happens unexpectedly and organically.

one of those posts was right around 4 years ago in which i posited that mega-popular financial author and radio personality dave ramsey was little more than a prophet of the american dream, rather than a purveyor of a financial perspective that reflects the way of jesus. since that post went live, i’ve had countless people challenge me on my position (some, in fairness, who have been thoughtful and open to dialogue) and even 1 person (whom i had never met previously) who took me out to lunch to unexpectedly ambush me with a prepared defense of ramsey (trust me, it was as weird and awkward as it sounds…).

while the dave ramsey disciples are greater in number now and are just as intense as ever, i’ve watched with great interest as a recent dave ramsey controversy has rippled across the internet. what i suspected (and proposed) four years earlier is finally seeing the light of day by many more people. in a strange way, it’s been a relief to watch it play out.

i was first turned onto its origins a couple weeks ago via a tweet from dave bazan.

i encourage you to read the linked article for yourself. i began writing a post shortly after reading it, but it never made it out of draft status. plenty of others had already chimed in and many more have since then. the general consensus is that the post on ramsey’s site (not actually penned by ramsey, in fairness) is offensive, short-sighted, divisive and ultimately, unhelpful. the response was swift, but the more pointed and thoughtful responses came after ramsey offered some additional commentary, in which he called critics of the article “ignorant” and “immature”.

as per usual, the most thoughtful and helpful response was penned by rachel held evans. she said precisely what i was thinking and eliminated the need for the post that i begun but never published.

much like my post four years ago, she begins with due praise, saying,

Much of what Ramsey teaches is sound, helpful advice, particularly for middle-class Americans struggling with mounting credit card bills. I have celebrated with friends as they’ve marked their first day of debt-free living, thanks in part to Dave Ramsey’s teachings and all those white envelopes of cash he urges his students to use instead of credit cards.

she quickly, though, turns the corner.

But while Ramsey may be a fine source of information on how to eliminate debt, his views on poverty are neither informed nor biblical.

in my post post years ago, i suggested that ramsey is more concerned with the american dream than the way of jesus. rachel held evans agrees, saying,

For Christians, Ramsey’s perceived “direct correlation” between faith and wealth should be more troubling than his other confused correlations, for it flirts with what Christians refer to as the prosperity gospel, the teaching that God rewards faithfulness with wealth.

Ramsey’s particular brand of prosperity gospel elevates the American dream as God’s reward for America’s faithfulness, the spoils of which are readily available to anyone who works hard enough to receive them.

But such a view glosses over the reality that America was not, in fact, founded upon purely Christian principles (unless one counts slavery, ethnic cleansing, gender inequity, and Jim Crow as Christian principles), so we should be careful of assuming our relative wealth reflects God’s favor. (The Roman Empire was wealthy, too, after all.)

my goal (and i believe rachel held evans’ goal) isn’t to besmirch dave ramsey. the pragmatics of much of his financial advice are good and have excellent, proven results. but underneath the surface of that advice is very dangerous and non-jesus-like views on poverty and the poor. here’s to hoping more and more of ramsey’s disciples begin to see below the murky waters.

as always, the comment line is open. 😉