by Dr. Charles Alonzo Peters
On Thursday night I sat down like many of you to view Almighty Debt, CNN’s latest installment of its Black in America series. I’ll admit I was a little apprehensive. How was a mainstream media outlet going to handle an institution as complex as the Black Church and a subject as delicate as debt without resorting to standard stereotypes.
Watching CNN’s Almighty Debt is like watching a Tyler Perry movie. You know there’s talent involved (Soledad O’Brien is an intrepid reporter). You’re excited to see Black folk playing the leading roles, and there are definitely high points. But you have the gnawing suspicion that the plot line will eventually leave you a little disappointed.
Almighty Debt follows the the financial tribulations of three families, all members of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens. The Jeffrieses – a luxury car salesman and his realtor wife who’ve fallen on hard times and are in danger of losing their McMansion to foreclosure. The Fields – whose husband Carl has been searching for over a year after being let go as an insurance executive. And Fred Philps – a high school senior desperately in search of scholarship funds to attend college.
The true hero of the story – Reverend DeForest Soaries, a no nonsense pragmatist, preaches the need for financial education and fiscal responsibility. Tirelessly he works to help his congregation by arranging meetings with the banks to try to prevent the Jeffries foreclosure, interceding with a college on behalf of young Fred Philps, and connecting Carl Fields with a network of potential employers.
It’s refreshing watching a pastor who preaches financial responsibility while shunning the prosperity gospel. The stories were compelling to a point. My compassion quickly disappeared for the Jeffries. Seemingly in a state of denial, they insisting on living a lifestyle they truly couldn’t afford, all while tolerating a daughter incurring $400 monthly credit card bills.
But here’s my real problem.
Almighty Debt was preaching what we already know. We’ve seen these stories, even lived the very same ones ourselves. From CNN I was not expecting just a restatement of the problem, but an in depth investigation of the solutions.
In particular, I was craving more analysis of “why”. Why did the families do what they did to get themselves in their financial situations. Once you understand the “why” you have the seed for a solution.
Why does a family insist on purchasing a mini-mansion with 2 BMWS and a lifestyle they hasn’t allowed them to accumulate enough savings to survive the recession – and what’s the psychology that prevents this same family from downsizing in response?
Perhaps a closer examination of the effect that racism has on our need to accumulate material possession would have been in order. How we seek to validate ourselves with huge homes and expensive cars because we don’t receive that validation from a society that constantly disparages us. Or, maybe an analysis of a media that constantly promotes consumerism would have shed further light on the situation.
Despite biblical admonishments to prepare for the harsh times that we might encounter in the future, why do so many Christians fail to prepare, fail to save? Why hasn’t a seasoned industry veteran like Carl put away enough money to survive the storm? Perhaps a psychological examination of our inability to prepare for future hazards would have added incite to a problem that plagues us all.
The missing ingredient from Almighty Debt was the true success story – a look at a Church family living below their means. One that opted for the Honda Civic rather than BMW 5 Series. The family that chose the modest home instead of the McMansion and because of this was able to deal with the blows of the recession.
Now that would have been something refreshing to see.
BMWK. What’s your opinion of CNN’s Almighty Debt – Black in America Series? Did it hit the mark or leave you lacking?
Every Monday you can find great insight and tips on managing your greenbacks by Dr. Charles Alonzo Peters of MochaMoney.com here on BlackandMarriedWithKids.com.