Last fall Andy Crouch wrote a remarkable essay in Books & Culture about the economic catastrophe that started in August 2008. The piece is called "Why I Am Hopeful," but Crouch doesn't sound very hopeful at the start.
We are a terrifyingly unserious people, our heads buzzing with trivia and noise. This is more true, if anything, of American Christians than the rest of our country. The stark contrast between what I experience among Christians anywhere else in the world -- and not just the "Third World," because Canada and Germany and Britain and Singapore come to mind as quickly as Uganda and India -- and American Christians is astonishing. We are preoccupied with fads intellectual, theological, technological, and sartorial. Vanishingly few of us have any serious discipline of silence, solitude, study, and fasting. We have, in the short run, very little to offer our culture, because we live in the short run.
Although Crouch lets Canadians off the hook, this remains a damning accusation, and unfair to many American Christians who are serious people. But let's grant that he is right, on the whole.
Crouch goes on to explain that he's hopeful because hard times bring out the best in people. He doesn't minimize the troubles that Americans are facing and will continue to face. And -- refreshingly -- there's no schadenfreude here, no gloating, no vilifying the evils of capitalism. But he does make a case that troubles build character.
But the irony is that the fruit of the Great Depression was not only dramatically improved systems of economic governance and ultimately even greater prosperity, but people of a fundamentally different character.
I recommend you read the whole article, which is here. It's well worth your time.