Evangelicals see moral decline in Wall St. woes
By Ed Stoddard
DALLAS (Reuters) - Conservative U.S. Christians say the culture has gone to hell and it has taken the economy and Wall Street down with it.
It is a view which outsiders may find puzzling but has wide resonance in the U.S. heartland: the notion that moral decay and a lost sense of responsibility has brought on the worst banking and credit crisis since the Great Depression.
Such a view helps explain the unpopularity in conservative Christian circles -- which have a big influence on the Republican Party -- of a $700 billion bailout plan which the U.S. House of Representatives rejected on Monday, rocking financial markets.
Mounting consumer and household debt as housing prices fall is one of the main reasons behind the current crisis -- a crisis that religious conservatives say has moral roots.
The narrative goes roughly like this: the "collapse" of the traditional family, widespread divorce and a "permissive" culture have led to a disregard for personal responsibility.
A culture focused on instant gratification -- through the overuse of credit cards to buy consumer goods, for example -- has also lost other "traditional values" such as thrift and hard work.
"You can't have a strong, vibrant society when you don't have strong, vibrant families. It's a crisis of commitment, it's a crisis of responsibility," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative lobby group with strong evangelical ties.
"If you don't live up to your responsibility you are going to see that in the broader culture. You see this on Wall Street," he told Reuters. Continued...