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Penny Pinching as a Christian Virtue?

The spiritual dimensions of frugal living.

Recently, my child who was home-schooled for six years attended a conference called Gathering Around the Un-hewn Stone. I make note of his educational history because I feel responsible for inspiring alternative ideas that catalyzed more alternatives than I imagined when he was 8.

The event opened with a lecture, "The Ecological Endgame of Industrial Civilization as a Crisis of/for Faith," which was purported to be about the moral bankruptcy of progress as an article of faith in modernity and, by default, of Christianity for the past 300 years. Resistance involves learning how to brain tan a deer, forage for food, and live out "attachment parenting"—a phenomenon about which my son has no need of instruction, given that he clung to me like a monkey when he was a boy.

In her book, In CHEAP We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue, journalist Lauren Weber espouses similar values, which, like rank materialism, are as old and American as Manifest Destiny. Last week Atlantic economics blogger Megan McArdle reviewed Weber's book for The New York Times, and compared it unfavorably with the work of financial adviser Dave Ramsey, whom she describes as a "popular evangelical guru."

Weber grew up without much heat in her home and surprised herself by following in her father's frugal footsteps. McArdle takes issue with Weber's idealization of fiscal asceticism, but not with Ramsey's "save now, worry less later" approach. She says Weber's idea of thrift as a moral virtue is ...

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