The housing bubble and megachurches are connected.
The housing bubble is one of the social evils of Australian society today. The baby boomers are largely to blame. Not all of them, of course. But as a generation, they have pushed up house prices to insane levels, to the point where houses are not affordable. This has happened through speculation, media infatuation (property shows), negative gearing, and an obsession with property.
John Howard is partly to blame too. He and his government loved making Australia’s middle aged middle class feel incredibly wealthy because their houses were ballooning in value. It was part of the reason for his electoral success. Rudd’s government introduced the first home buyers’ boost just when property was correcting, and all that money went into the hands of real estate agents and baby boomer investors.
The outcome of this situation is that nobody has any time. Two incomes are the norm, and working hours are long. The average house price is something like seven times the average annual income – while historic averages are more like three. So everyone is so very busy paying off ridiculous mortgages making some other people feel wealthy.
A colleague commented the other day that the death of volunteerism in churches has led to the rise of the megachurches. I say the death of volunteerism is surely linked to the busyness due to the housing bubble. (Volunteerism, of course, is not entirely dead; but it’s not as flourishing as it once was. The reason for this is not simply the selfishness of Gen X and Y.)
So with no time to volunteer or help, people need/want churches which do it all for them, with a large paid staff to do all the things which the ‘laity’ once had the time to do. My colleague’s theory, then, is that this situation means megachurches work best for the busy lifestyle of today.
I feel angry and disenfranchised by the way things have gone. I hate this obsession with property; I hate that I have ended up spending a lot of time thinking about it. I think we have a huge house of cards, and there is this part of me which longs for it all to come crashing down. The other part of me dreads the pain this will case so many people, the overly-indebted Gen X and Y, particularly.
But the society which will emerge in the aftermath of the coming financial crisis has to be better than the one we have now. In hardship and humility, we may just reconnect with each other. We may have time for each other. We may lose the Australian obsession with property and wealth.