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Starting early last Sunday morning, the turmoil in New York's financial markets triggered a spiritual response among Christian leaders reminiscent of the response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Cell phone text messages quickly spread calls to prayer. "Barclay has pulled out of Lehman deal," one announced. Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers was finalizing bankruptcy papers; Merrill Lynch was clinching its deal to sell itself to Bank of America. Monday would be devastating.

Many Wall Streeters realized that the crisis could be earthshaking. A. J. Rice, well-respected CEO of the hedge-fund firm Pomeroy Capital, says, "Most people think this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. In 1987 we had a dramatic shock, but the other shoe didn't drop." This year, a whole lot of shoes have dropped. Wall Streeters have lived with a constant sense of foreboding.

First there was the January sub-prime market crash and its ongoing problems; then the collapses of Bear Stearns and, most recently, Lehman Brothers; and now Merrill Lynch's loss of independence. More than 350 banks are on a watch list circulating on the street. "I was surprised and unsettled when Bear Stearns went under," says Rice. "I worked for them at one time. I knew we were in untested waters."

How Christians respond to the crisis will be a test of their wisdom, courage, integrity, and compassion for the mighty as well as for the humble. One executive told CT, "Our response will answer the question, 'Who is Jesus on Wall Street?' "

Bishop Roderick Caesar of New York City's Bethel Gospel Tabernacle, which has a number of members from Wall Street, says that the crisis is so fundamental to our world that "the church has to be poised for the moment and be prepared to work together."

Last Sunday ...

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September 2008

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