The New York Times religion coverage has surged in recent months, perhaps in an indication of the coming primary season and the continued political strength of social conservatives. Last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine included two interesting pieces. The first is about religion and economic prosperity. It includes a chart that shows, to no one’s surprise, that a person’s branch of religious affiliation is largely correlated to economic prosperity. But where I would have guessed that the most prosperous groups would have been the Unitarians and the Episcopalians–showing my Protestant bias, I guess–the three most prosperous groups turned out to be Reform Jews, Hindus, and Conservative Jews, in that order. The Times writers, or at least the headline writers, went a step further by asking: “Is Your Religion Your Financial Destiny?” Given the penchant for changing religions that all the religion surveys seem to show, this seems to get the causal arrow backwards. It would seem more accurate to say that your level of prosperity determines, or largely determines, your choice of religion, rather than the other way around.
Across the road at Askewville Baptist, the Rev. David Crumpler asked if I’d seen the field. When I said I had, he told me, “Well, that field used to be a trailer park.” A silver-haired, trim-mustached man from Alabama, he’d spent all day supervising the handing-out of relief supplies. He marveled that of a dozen or so single-wides, almost all of them were empty when the tornado struck the park. Only two were occupied. Those two were spared. The rest were gone.
“That’s lucky,” I said.
“That’s God,” he said.