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In God We Trust: Faith and Money in America

Aired December 24, 2009 - 20:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS: Tonight we explore the intersection of faith and money in American life. Good evening, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

Every religious tradition speaks to how the faithful should handle their money. At a time when money is tight, has Americans' devotion been tested or strengthened and how do we balance humanity greed with good? This is "In God We Trust: Faith and Money in America."

Religion for centuries has been an important buffer against the human desire to acquire riches and things. It is also been accused often and loudly of having a greed of its own. America has the most diverse religious marketplace on the planet. Unlike most developed wealthy countries, the United States is still abundantly religious. So after two years of recession, two years that tested Americans' pocketbooks, where do we stand?


ROMANS (voice-over): Money makes the world and its religions go around. These are some of the sights and sounds of religion in America. These are the numbers. More than 3/4 of America is Christian, 25 percent of Americans say they are Catholic, almost 16 percent Baptist, mainline Protestants, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, they make up almost 13 percent of adults. Another 1/5 of Americans together belong to dozen of smaller Christian denominations, 1.4 percent are Mormon, 1.2 percent are Jewish, eastern religions including (inaudible) make us close to 1 percent of adults. Muslims are 1/2 of 1 percent and 15 percent of Americans are either Agnostic or Atheist, the rest either aren't sure where they fit in or didn't want to respond.

Here are the trends, mega churches light on the cross and heavy on the oratory are on the rise. Hispanics are the fastest growing Christian demographics, mainly Catholic. Since 1990 according to the American religious identification survey, the Muslim population has doubled to more than 1.3 million. And a growing number consider themselves spiritual but not necessarily religious, which brings us to the financial crisis. Father Thomas Reese is a catholic priest.

FATHER THOMAS REESE, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: The focus has been on profit, you know, pure and simple no matter where you get it and how you get it, and no matter what the consequences are.

ROMANS: In the Christian bible, the passage in Timothy 6:10 reads the love of money is the root of all evil. Often misquoted as money is the root of all evil. Karen Armstrong, Renowned Religious Scholar.

Did greed and God get out of whack?

KAREN ARMSTRONG, AUTHOR, "THE CASE FOR GOD": Yes, I think so. I think you see you've got to have some kind of counterbalance to greed, for example. If greed gets out of control and becomes the main appetite without any check, without your Buddhist walking along side you, or without Jesus saying, you know that treasure doesn't help you or the Koran saying look your money will not help you on the last day, the questions you will be asked is did you give to the poor. This counter voice is important and I think instead of (inaudible) -- absorbing the capitalist (ethos).

ROMANS (voice-over): An ethos often unchecks during the boom of the last 20 years.

ARMSTRONG: I believe the desire to acquire stuff and wealth is the second most distinctive characteristic of homosapiens, of the sex.

ROMANS: Yet, the (inaudible) faith built a vibrant capitalist societies that improve the lives of millions.

IMAM FEISAL ABDUL RAUF, FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN, CORDOBA INSTITUTE: Money is a tool to achieve objectives that we want. We want to purchase a home. We want to clothe ourselves to shelter ourselves, to feed ourselves. We need good health care and a good education so to be able to provide for one self and for one's dependents are an essential part of faith even.

ROMANS: With all the getting there is giving back. Sixty-four percent of Americans regularly give to some house of worship.

IMAM RAUF: In every faith tradition, there is an important aspect of charity. In our faith it is one of the five pillars of our faith.

ROMANS: Judaism as well. Rabbi David Saperstein agrees money helps build and grow society but says, the religious texts decry excess.

RABBI DAVID SAPERSTEIN, DIRECTOR, RELIGIOUS ACTION CENTER OF REFORM JEWISH: Always seek moderation for whatever your level of wealth might be. Always seek moderation. When it lives up to its potential, organized religion placing indispensable role in creating a fairer, more just, more compassionate society.

ROMANS: About 38 million people every week attend religious services in this country and in a time of crisis like the worst economy since the great depression --

FATHER THOMAS REESE: We slow down and begin to think about what is important in our lives, and I think we turn to family. We turn to church. We turn to God. That is only natural. I think it helps us to rethink our priorities.

ROMANS (on-camera): Family, church and God, three pillars of so many American families if not a church, synagogue or mosque. Joining us for the hour, Rabbi Mark Wolff is with the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Daisy Kahn is the Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancements, Lee Jenkins is an ordained minister and a financial adviser and John Allen, CNN Senior Vatican analyst.

So let's just open it up with are people giving less, are people stressed by what's happened, John over the past two, three, or four years? And is that being reflected in the (inaudible).

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Religion is probably the only industry in America, if I can put it in those terms where the bottom line actually suffers when demand goes up. I mean, the reality is the churches, synagogues and mosques are facing radically increased demand especially for their charitable services. Things like help with food, medicine and emergency and somewhat, and at the same time, their income is down. So the first (inaudible) is you look in a lot of congregations, they are squeezed between a rock and a hard place these days.

ROMANS: You're all hearing this too from your communities. That this is a real challenge because they have to give more at the same time, less is coming in.

RABBI MARC WOLF, VICE CHANCELLOR, THE JEWISH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Absolutely, we've seen it across the board with Jewish institutions that fund-raising has been down and giving has been down, but need is up.

ROMANS: Let me ask you this, I want to ask about this idea greed and God getting out of whack because there was a boom time when we acquired so many things with easy credit and we could buy whatever we wanted. We got into bigger houses and multiple cars. Is this part of the problem? Did we lose sight of what was important in our families and maybe we're suffering the consequences now?

DAISY KHAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR MUSLIM ADVANCEMENTS: Well, we are supposed to be charitable especially in Islamic tradition during times of ease and during times of being tested as well or trials or afflictions. Afflictions are a form of blessing because during this time you are tested in your wealth and I'm not seeing this in the Islamic tradition. I'm seeing that people are adhering to what is a required 2.5 percent of their accumulated wealth. So people are much more generous because the need is greater.

ROMANS: Rabbi, you say that in religion there is a guiding voice really. In this economy, many have gotten to this point of you say enoughness. What does that mean?

RABBI MARC WOLF: The idea of enoughness is taking stock of exactly what it is that we have in our lives, and particularly now when we are challenged in an economic situation. People begin to readdress their priorities and see how their lives are structured. The concept of enoughness is being happy with what you have, happy with your lot in life.

ROMANS: Let me ask you Lee, you are a financial adviser and ordained minister. We have a debt problem. This is what happened in this country and the bible is pretty clear in several different places about death at least for Christians. What is happening right now with the debt and the God balance for Americans?

LEE JENKINS, ORDAINED MINISTER AND FINANCIAL ADVISER: Well, pretty much, I think, people have learned a valuable lesson. In the bible, it is not a sin to be in debt, but debt is discouraged. It says, being in debt is similar to being a slave. Most people didn't believe that. That is how we got in this financial crisis. People who were in church didn't believe it and people who didn't go to church didn't believe it.

ROMANS: Right, I think we're still in the battle scarred part of the whole thing right now and the healing comes next. OK, we have a lot to talk about in the rest of the hour. Thank you all for being with me. I want you all to stay with us. >

Next, three very different families dealing with the same challenge, how to stay true to your faith without breaking the bank plus our conversations with Deepak Chopra, Mitch Album and Joel Osteen, all coming up.


It's difficult to put a price on religious beliefs. For the most (about) religion guides how they earn, spend and invest their money. It also leads to financial decisions and stresses far different from those who don't share their believes. (Debb Ferick) followed three families of three different faiths struggling with the financial challenges of staying true to their religion.


DEBORAH FEYERICK (voice-over): It is Sunday at the New England Chapel and for these churchgoers, God is in the air. For Jody and Ken Koeman, Christianity is at the heart of everything they do.

JODI KOEMAN: Good morning. How I live and work and what I eat, how I treat everything is filled with my faith in God.

FEYERICK: The Koemans have lived simply. At times working two or three jobs, shopping at thrift stores.

JODI KOEMAN: This is the only piece of furniture we ever bought. Everything else is like used or gotten off the road and refurbished so it's like you just learn to live creatively.

FEYERICK: The Koemans never worried about cutting expenses, their focus always on faith rather than finances.

KENT KOEMAN: There's something in me that said your income is going to be fine. You'll be taken care of. Work with whatever income you have.

FEYERICK: Jodi works at the church planning Sunday services, Kent teaches bible at a Christian school. Concerned with the financial reality of raising kids, Kent recently took a job as a lab technician, boosting the family income to $117,000. Are you rich? KENT KOEMAN: Not, I wouldn't look at our finances and numbers on a balance sheet and say we are rich. We have three wonderful children. We have a great marriage relationship. That is how we measure our wealth.

FEYERICK: Every month they say they automatically contribute 10% of their earnings to the church.

KENT KOEMAN: It becomes like a cable bill where you are used to living without that money. It is out the door.

FEYERICK: Do you sometimes feel that you are making sacrifices, like for example, if you didn't tie one particular month maybe that would put a couple extra dollars in your pocket?

JODI KOEMAN: Yes, I feel like sometimes it is a sacrifice and that's where my faith comes in and says, you know what, let's look at this again or other people will help me sort of refocus, but I think that is such a natural tendency.

FEYERICK: Still the family's larger income raises new issues.

JODI KOEMAN: I really feel sometimes that this is too much. When we had no money, you don't have anything so you didn't do anything. You didn't have the choices.

KENT KOEMAN: This is going to be a great run.

FEYERICK: Choices like whether to finish the family room quickly rather than bit by bit or buy a flat screen TV. Kind of extravagant?

KENT KOEMAN: Well, yes, it is. It used to be a lot more extravagant than before. They have gone down in price.

JODI KOEMAN: That is still a discussion.

FEYERICK: Although it is a Tuesday, the Levis home feels like it does on the Jewish Sabbath. The cramped Brooklyn New York apartment is filled with the rich aroma of chicken, fresh bread and pie.

MARNIE LEVY: Every Friday night is a holiday, but everything is family focused, you are bringing life into the world. He says I'm not working for me. I'm working for my family. It is a beautiful mindset because the struggling is also your struggling for your family.

NORMAN LEVY: You love your daddy?

FEYERICK: Lately, the struggling has been hard on this orthodox family. Norman who prays every morning, works at a high-end jewelry store, his salary up and down based on sales.

MARNIE LEVY: We live above our means.

NORMAN LEVY: The biggest expense we have rent, health insurance and school.

FEYERICK: They had cut back on most everything, buying less meat and less clothing for their four children.

MARNIE LEVY: I like to just get by everyday. Probably the best plan, but not really much you can (inaudible). We don't own a car, we are renting a home.

FEYERICK: And religious expenses can cost a lot. It is forbidden to drive on the Sabbath so the Levy's pay nearly $3,000 a month rent to be in walking distance of their synagogue. Private school runs up to $17,000 per child.

MARNIE LEVY: Come close.

FEYERICK: And kosher food prepared under strict Jewish law is expensive.

MARNIE LEVY: I mostly pay by check, and to be honest with you, I write it and I hope he isn't going to be able to put money in the bank.

FEYERICK: Money is tight but this self-described middle class family says --


FEYERICK: Their lives are rich.

MARNIE LEVY: I'm the luckiest person in the world. I have it all.

FEYERICK: Every morning before sun rise, Celina (Saswell) and her 12- year-old daughter, Lila, wake for morning prayers.

SALIMA SUSWELL: It's pretty much my foundation for everything. I mean, we like to say that Islam is more of a way of life than a religion.

FEYERICK: (Suswell) is a devout Muslim. Her parents having converted from Christianity in the mid '60s. She married young, divorced and now works as a paralegal.

SALIMA SUSWELL: This is what is part of the script that God has written for me and right now, I think we do just fine.

FEYERICK: Their three-bedroom apartment is modestly furnished, a small prayer room uncluttered by possessions until last year, Lila attended $5,000 a year Islamic school, a stretch says (Suswell) who now sends Lila to a public school, teaching her Islam at home.

SALIMA SUSWELL: This is halal chicken.

FEYERICK: As part of the Islamic dietary code, she buys expensive, especially prepared meat. (Suswell) pays her bills on time, avoids credit cards which Islam discourages and is struggling to save for Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, which she expects to cost about $8,000.

SALIMA SUSWELL: It is something that I have chosen to do to further in my faith. FEYERICK: Her faith also enriched by (Secat) Muslim charity equal to 2.5 percent of her annual income.

SALIMA SUSWELL: When I'm at my lowest, it sort of persuades me to give even more because it is like a pay it forward thing. If I take care of others, Allah will take care of me.

FEYERICK: She and Lila try to take a vacation once a year and if they were to hit the jackpot --

SALIMA SUSWELL: I wouldn't play the lottery because it is gambling. That is against my religion. The first thing I would do is donate to the Islamic community and I would probably put money towards Lila's college fund and we would probably go to Paris.

DEBORAH FEYERICK (on-camera): While these families may or may not have greater money worries than many people suffering through the recession, the difference is that what may lack financially they make up spiritually. So at the end of the day, they're always ahead. There is always the emotional, spiritual payout.

ROMANS: And just think of it, these three families are, you know, there are millions more just like them with great and small variations on their daily planner for their situation, but lots of American families are working through these struggles right now.

FEYERICK: All about the choices.

ROMANS: That's right. All right, Debb Ferick. Thank you, Deb. >

He is the pastor of the largest congregation in the country, 43,000 in Houston and millions more around the world. My conversation with Joel Osteen is coming up. But next, Deepak Chopra on why greed is taking the place of true faith.


Credit and debt are usually terms left for economists and personal finance experts but now we want to get a faith-based perspective on how you spend your money and how you view money. Deepak Chopra is the author of many books on spirituality and as an adjunct professor of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. Welcome to the program.


ROMANS: You teach a course about management and you speak to CEOs about how they can blend making money, but also conscience capitalism, as you call it. Did we lose track -- do we lose track of our conscience in how we did business that led up to this calamity that we face today?

CHOPRA: I think the first principle that's taught in business school, I teach at Kellogg Business School at Northwestern University, and the first thing I tell them is that the first principle of business is wrong. When you to a business school, the first thing you are told is the purpose of a business is to improve shareholder value. Right there you are off track. The purpose of a business is to improve the quality of life on this planet and to improve the stakeholder value, but the stakeholder is everyone from the community, the consumer, and our ecology, and the poor people in the world. They're stakeholders.

ROMANS: What about consumers? You know, many of us watching this program are not going to be the CEO who try to make a more sustainable product or could try to do better for their employees or their country. Well, what about the consumer, should the consumer spend, invest and make money based on values not on greed?

CHOPRA: First thing the consumer should learn to do is to stop spending money that they haven't earned to buy things they don't need to impress people they don't like. OK, we start off on the wrong track, we are buying stuff that we don't need with money that we still haven't earned just so we can keep up with the Joness.

ROMANS: Were Americans filling something in their soul over the 20 or 30 years by buying things on borrowed money, a hangover after the holidays because they have to pay for something that maybe was just a sugar rush in their life. Is there a way to fix or change that mentality?

CHOPRA: Slowly and we all have to participate in it. Money reflects -- the way we spend money reflects our values. So we've spent money with only one inner dialogue, me, me, me, me. Now spend money with the inner dialogue we. Turn me around and make it we.

ROMANS: Do you believe that with faith comes the responsibility to give?

CHOPRA: I think all faith is based on giving. The biggest message of Jesus Christ is to go and serve and help the rest of humanity. If you do that, then yes, there is the flow of abundance, but by faith means I'm going to pray to God and somehow money is going to start flowing in. That is not real faith. That is greed.

ROMANS: Let me ask you one last question, you have one piece of advice for the American consumer watching this who feels frustrated about all of the things that have happened and now may be playing defense with their finances. What do you say to them?

CHOPRA: I think first of all, don't be scared. It is a hard time for a lot of people. A lot of people are suffering. We must have compassion and understanding for this suffering but, you know, in a sense we allowed Wall Street to governor our lives and now Wall Street itself is paying its karmic debt.

As Wall Street recovers, we should right now think of spending money in a way that helps everyone and let's focus on relationships instead of consumption. It is an ugly word we have to describe ourselves in America. We call ourselves consumers. Just think of the images that conjure up in your imagination when you just say the word consumer. We are a conference of relationships so focus on love, kindness, compassion and giving. The universe is abundant, it will flow. ROMANS: All right,Deepak Chopra, thank you so much for joining us.

CHOPRA: Thank you.

ROMANS: Congratulations on your most recent book.

CHOPRA: Thank you. >

ROMANS: The mega business of megachurches, marketing or message, or both. The pastor of the largest church in America, Joel Osteen answers his critics next.


Welcome back to "In God We Trust, Faith and Money in America." Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, what do they have in common? They run mega churches, drawing worshippers from all over, both in their stadium- like structures and on television sets around the world. They turned Sunday worship away from the local church into the all-encompassing experience that's like nothing you have ever seen.

This is a church, but not just any church. It is a megachurch and here they do religion in a big way. Joel Osteen maybe the biggest name in the megachurch world, but his church is just one of more than 1,300 across the country.


Scott Thumma, Prof. of Sociology of Religion, Hartford Seminary: For a long time they were in the Sun Belt and the southern states. And that is still where most of the concentration is but they have really spread all over the country in just about every state.


ROMANS: Their message is mostly evangelical, but it is as much the message as who delivers it and how that is behind their fast-growing popularity.


Jonathan L. Walton, AssT. Prof. of Religious Studies, UC, Riverside: Plasma screen tv's have replaced crosses, the ways, the PowerPoint like presentations of the words of songs and liturgical practices have replaced the hymnals. And this really resonates with a younger generation.


ROMANS: The average age of a mega church goer is 40, 13 years younger than a traditional church. Megachurch worshippers tend to not only be younger but also more diverse.


THUMMA: When you go to the most of the Megachurches, you are going to find diversity of age, you're going to find diversity of income and educational levels. But you also find racial diversity. In almost 30 percent of these Megachurches and across the country, you have 20 percent or more integration of different ethnic groups.


ROMANS: Megachurches differ from traditional churches is in another and perhaps the most controversial way. They are very profitable.


THUMMA: The mega church on average has about $6.5 million in income a year.


ROMANS: From self-help books to CD's and dvd's, Megachurch pastors are seemingly everywhere. You can even friend them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.


WALTON: When you have pastors thinking of themselves as chief executive officers and it is hard to tell the difference between a pastor and P Diddy because of this sort of aesthetic modeling and posturing, what does this say about God?


ROMANS: Tens of thousands of people gather at Lakewood church every Sunday in Houston to hear Joel Osteen preach about hope, faith and success. Millions more watch him on television. His latest book "It's Your Time" was an instant best seller. Osteen's detractors though call him Christianity life. I went to hear him preach and sat down with him afterwards in the pastor's suite, he told me people are simply beaten down and they need somebody to lift them up.


JOEL OSTEEN, PASTOR LAKEWOOD CHURCH: God, I'm going to start this week off in fame expecting your goodness, expecting you have a blessed and a prosperous week. Amen. Well, God Bless, give you the very best...


ROMANS: What are you telling people about the recession and how God will help them with their money or how God will help them to make the right choices for success?

OSTEEN: Well I tell them this is not the time to get discouraged and put your whole life on hold and really could be talked into having a down year. I really believed that fear is contagious. So, if you get talked into saying, well, I'm going to survive this year and if I just can make it not get laid off, I believe you draw more, you know, negativity in. First, if you get up and tell, yes, we are not in denial. The economy is terrible and, you know, stuff is not going great. But I believe God can, you know, cause me to be at the right place at the right time. And you know, put your faith up there.

ROMANS: You also said at the beginning of the service, and it's said it was projects on the wall too. It said, God plans to prosper you and not harm you. What do you mean by that?

OSTEEN: Well, it is scripture in the book of Jeremiah. And the word prosper to me, I mean, it gets, a lot of time it gets to in some people's minds, it is just money. I don't believe it is just money. Money is a part of it. To prosper you is to give you a good life, meaning good relationships, give you health, give you, you know, good jobs, give you money to pay your bills and to do other things. I'm all for sacrifice and I believe in that but I also believe that God wants us to be leaders, he puts gift and talents in every person that they're supposed to come out to the fool.

ROMANS: Well, other say that Jesus said follow the commandments, give up all of your possessions and follow me. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. You're saying, you don't have to feel badly about material wealth if God gives this to you?

OSTEEN: You know, the scripture talks about it, the love of money is the root of all evil. I think, that's people are getting next step. It is not money because, you know, you go back to the old testament, Abraham the first one where Christianity were started, the scripture said, he was the wealthiest man in all the east. And so, God started with somebody that was wealthy. It wasn't the money, it was, you know, where your motives. What do you, you know, just trying to do it for yourself?

ROMANS: In the book you say if you are struggling with your finances get out your checkbook and speak favor over it. And you also say, if you have a burden of heavy debt, you have to announce to that debt, it's finished. Look at the house payment, it's finished. Look at the college loan, it's finished. Look at those unpaid bills, it's finished. Joel Osteen, how, how can we make those things be finished? A lot of people really want to believe that will go away. But, how do we make that happen?

OSTEEN: Well, I think, it starts, Christine with the vision you have, to believe that God can help you to get out of debt, to fulfill your dreams. I don't think anything is going to happen if you don't believe. And so, I think that is where you start. Now, you can't just believe. Because God expects you to do your part as well. I always tell people this, if you'll do the natural, God will help you do the supernatural. Or if you can do what you can God will help you to do what you can't.

ROMANS: How should we do living our lives? What should our values be in relation to money, do you think?

OSTEEN: Well, I believe the ideal thing is to not have debt. I mean, the scripture says, way back in the Old Testament, God says, you will lend and not borrow. That's part of the blessing. My dad, he came out of the depression. He would never buy anything on credit. Everything was paid for. He taught us to, you know, he said you fill up the barrel once, you get some savings and live off the top of the barrel.


OSTEEN: God rewards the people...


ROMANS: Did we lose the proper balance between God and greed over the '70s, the '80s, the '90s, when American families were in a way being hopeful as you're telling them to, saying I think, I'm going to get a raise next year. I hope that I'm going to be able to get a little bigger house. I think I can get this mortgage and we took on more than we could possibly, possibly afford.

OSTEEN: I believe you should be practical.

ROMANS: Be practical but hopeful?

OSTEEN: Exactly. In belief but, you know, again, don't step out, I mean, I have had messages where I told them drive an old clunker while you pay off your car. I mean, you know, don't live just to please everybody and keep up with the joneses. We kind of joke about that, that you know what, my dad always says, sit on an apple box until you can afford a car -- until you can afford a chair.

ROMANS: Right.

OSTEEN: That is kind of the mentality we have.

ROMANS: No apple box here and Joel Osteen can afford that chair, no doubt. He receives $12 million for the advance of his latest book, and Lakewood has an annual budget of $80 million. Lakewood though is still paying off its $100 million expansion of his new home this summit, former home of the nba Houston rockets.

The separation of church and state. Not so much. Wait until you see how much religious money pours into Washington. Ahead, the influence of the church on the state.


ROMANS: Welcome back. As you just saw, Megachurches are popular, they are growing, they are profitable and sometimes controversial. What is the appeal John Allen to the Megachurches?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Well, you know, look the religious story of America from the very beginning has been diversity. And we never had a state church and we are also the mother ship of capitalism. Which means, that religions have had to learn to be entrepreneurial. To figure out with the market once to respond to it. In many ways, the Megachurches are the best current example of that. I mean, they are kind of comprehensive, one-stop shopping religious service providers in a way that is very catchy and engaging. And I think that is part of the reason they work.

ROMANS: And Daisy, you had said that you think that is like bringing the mall to Sunday or brining the mall to religion. It is the merger of these two kind of purely American cultures.

DAISY KHAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR MUSLIM ADVANCEMENT: These, first of all, Megachurches are a uniquely American phenomenon, wrapped around the charismatic leader. Having said that, religions have used all kinds of tactics to invite the devotee, connect with God. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem is these tactics should not impact religion in such a way that actually get, you know, don't like the institutionalizing of that religion.

ROMANS: Right.

KHAN: What I'm saying is that we should not be consumed by the consumerism of America. That would be bad for religion.

ROMANS: Marc, are there lessons on the religions about how to inspire or attract the American religious follower from the Megachurches.

Rabbi Marc Wolf, Vice Chancellor, the Jewish Theological Seminary: Absolutely. We have seen the opposite trend in Judaism where people are looking for more intimate community, smaller communities. And you'll see, or notice independent communities of people who are located around an idea or looking at around prayer service that has been growing within Judaism.

ROMANS: John, I have to ask you about wealth in the Catholic Church. Because you often hear, you know, it is the richest, the Vatican is the richest repository of art in the world and real state in the light. You say that the Catholic Church is really scotch tape and gum at this point. There are a lot of liabilities here. Have the catholic sex abuse scandals and the payouts from that, just before that big recession, what has been the business problem for the Catholic Church because of that?

ALLEN: Well, first of all with the Vatican, you are talking about an institution, that you're right, it has this kind of mythic standing as this ultra wealthy institution. You think the pope is sitting top bags of cash, but I mean the truth is it is the annual budget about 300 million dollars. I mean, compare the Notre dame, 1.2 billion which means under the end could fund the Vatican four times every year and still buy football uniforms. Now, in terms of the American operation, the domestic reality is that the sex abuse crisis has been an enormous financial hit. There are now seven dioceses in the United States that is bankrupt. The Catholic Church has paid down more than $2 billion. And even though, they have worked heroically to make sure that hasn't come with the expense of essential services and nevertheless churches, that is $2 billion that is not available to build new churches to educate children and to feed the poor. That has been an enormous hit on top of which is already obviously a very difficult set of economic circumstances.

ROMANS: All right. Everyone stick with us. Much more to talk about all fascinating aspects of fame and money in American life. He traveled all across the country to see it for himself. Bestselling Author Mitch Albom with a true sample of faith and money in American life. That's next.


ROMANS: Welcome back. Here is the number for you. $2.5 billion. That is the amount more than 15,000 groups and individuals have spent this year lobbying politicians. That is according to the center of responsive politics. You might be surprised to learn how much you spent lobbying d.c. on religious interests. Kate Baldwin takes a look.


SISTER MARGE CLARK, LOBBYIST: So, I think, it's some point we do need to kind of go through question by question and I don't...

KATE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sister Marge Clark has been a nun for 46 years. She's also a registered lobbyist working just blocks from Capitol Hill.

CLARK: I think we are looking through a faith lens. We are always looking at it from the cry of the poor.

BALDWIN: Her firm network considers itself a catholic social justice advocate lobbying on issues and legislation ranging from immigration to health care, fair pay, even the f-22 fighter jet program.

(on camera) Why is it important for you to take your advocacy out of the church and on to Capitol Hill?

CLARK: Because the church can't change the systems. It's law that has to be changed.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Sister Marge is far from unique. Political and religious experts say, there has been a surge in religious lobbying in recent years including Seik, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim groups.

ALLEN HERTZKE, POLITICAL PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA: If you belong to a church or synagogue or temple or mosque chances are, your denomination or your faith has a Washington office. It has become that broad.

BALDWIN: Allen Hertzke is the author of a soon to be released pew study on religious advocacy. He estimates the religious lobby as the most multimillion dollar enterprise with more than 200 officials and un-official groups vying for influence in Washington. Well, the scope of religious lobbying may be modest compared to the entire lobbying industry, those who study money and politics add it's very difficult to measure the muscle of faith and skeptics say that is a problem. What they see as undue influence these groups wield even as some maintain tax exempt status.

BARRY LYNN, EXECUTIVE AND DIRECTOR, Americans United for Separation of Church and State: I'm not saying that people don't have the right to make moral arguments to congress, but congress has to make its decisions not based on pressure from any church but on the basis of the constitutional values of all of us.

BALDWIN: So is the line separating church and state beginning to blur? Sister Marge says not at all.

CLARK: Jesus was a political activist. He was trying to change unjust systems. And I think that's one of the ties for being a lobbyist.

BALDWIN (on camera): Religious advocates and experts say, rather than a legal issue, it is more a question of accepted standards, where should faith-based organizations draw the line? A pew study suggests the American public view at least is shifting. In 1996, 54 percent said houses of worship should express their political views, in 2008, 52 percent said they should keep out of it -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you Kate. Looks what inside the politics when it comes to your faith that usually starts in the home. But for some, the religious beliefs we are raised with tend to fall to the wayside is to become adult. For Author, Mitch Albom. This was his story, Albom's new book, "Have a Little Faith" is his own personal journey back to his faith, Judaism. And lessons he has learned about faith and hope and this is really a story about money too. When you talk about the Rabbi, when you talk about Henry Covington, this pastor in Detroit. These are two people with very small, limited means who are able to really change the people around them. And you found these amazing parallels between these two very different men from two very different religions. Tell me about that.

MITCH ALBOM, AUTHOR "HAVE A LITTLE FAITH: Yes, well, one was a suburban Rabbi in his 80s close to death and the other was a Detroit inner city pastor struggling to keep his church alive. And I was moving back and forth between these two worlds between Detroit and New Jersey back in fourth and yet I noticed that these two men who couldn't be more different on paper were still united by this very powerful force to faith and that was guided them through their particular problems. And I said, wow, these two on the human line so different can be connected by this thing that all of us somewhere along the line have this story and that's what led me to the book.

ROMANS: Let's talk about faith and money than in American life, and two different ways in suburban New Jersey and also in Detroit. Tell me little bit about Detroit and Henry Covington and his amazing faith even as the roof of his church building is falling down around him.

ALBOM: Yes. Literally. I got involved because I work with the homeless here in Detroit. And I heard about this shelter being operated in this church that had a giant hole in its roof and it's had it for years where rain and snow literally came in on the pews. And the one point, the congregation made up of the very poor and some cases homeless people had actually build a plastic tent inside their own sanctuary, so that they would have a place that they could stay dry and semi warm while the snow and rain fell around them on Sunday mornings. And I just thought this was tragic. And yet their faith was strong enough to do that and what we ultimately did as a result of the book, I wrote the story and ironically we've had people from around the world respond to that very image and they sent in $1, $5 and $7, to buy a shingle for the roof. And this week, we actually put a brand new roof on the church and they are going to have their first dry Christmas, thanks to the kindness of others. So, you never know how faith could inspire money coming and going, you know.

ROMANS: Here in a recession or we hope at the end of the recession, beginning of the recovery, American families are pretty shaken. When you hear stories like this and you realize what people can give, do you think that people are going give more? Do you think people are going to look away from consumer excess and trying to acquire things and that maybe they're going to have a more whole relationship with their faith like you now have?

ALBOM: You know, when the Rabbi was close to the end, he told me a story about, he said, you know, when babies come into the world you ever notice how their little fists are clinched. And I said, yes. He said that is because babies think when they come into the world, not knowing any better, they can take it all. You know, they are going to have everything. They said, look at me. I'm an old man. And how I'm going to die and he opened his hands like this. Because at the end, you realize, you can't take anything with you.

And I think as we get older, we do realize that one and when we had a recession like we had here, we do realize that. And what happened was at least here in Detroit, you know, a lot of people put their faith in the work place. They said, work is going to take care of me. I will network. I will be with my colleagues at night. You know, I don't need to be with my friends and family. Work is going to take care of me. And then all of a sudden they get laid off and what happens, nobody in the work place wants them anymore. As if they're contagious. Where do they go? At least around here, a lot of them went back to their church. So, I do think that financial recession can actually lead to a return to faith because I think we lost our way from a lot of that stuff when things were going good.

ROMANS: I think you might be right. Mitch Albom, the book is called "Have a Little Faith" it is a great read. And Mitch is actually tie things when the profit of that book will go to help 6,000 roofs into in Detroit. Best of luck to you. Thanks for joining us.

ALBOM: Thank you so much.

ROMANS: Next, a glimpse into the future of faith and money in America.


ROMANS: All right. We've covered now religion, money and politics, three things your grandmother cautioned about discussing over any civil dinner table but we are going to discuss here. Where do we go from here? Are people going to change the way they think about money, spend money or earn money, or invest money because of the financial crisis and returns their values?

Daisy, do you think people are going to think about the how they spend money because they saw the excess that led to this crisis?

KHAN: We are seeing a stronger push towards financial responsibility in the Muslim community. Partly, because we have many challenges, we have extremists' ideas that are defining the religion for us. We have certain issues that we have to contend with as a community under suspicion. So, this is what consumes us.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the financial crisis, Lee, in particular. A few years ago, I started to going to this big ballrooms, organize by rainbow coalition and Jesse Jackson (ph) who said I want you to see what is happening to the people out there and with this foreclosures. And I would talk to this people in line asking for free advice about their foreclosure that may the problem is. Where did you get this sub prime mortgage? And they've say, someone at church hooked me up within. And this was a trend that I saw. There has been some who said Christianity has actually helped fuel the housing crisis by so many people getting involved in the home mortgage market. Have you seen that at all?

LEE JENKINS, ORDAINED MINISTER AND FINANCIAL ADVISER: Yes, I did. Years ago, I saw pastors and church leaders extol the virtues of owning a home.

ROMANS: Right.

JENKINS: Or getting a car and things like that. And basically we were encouraging people to get into debt. Now, I thought it was a very honest mistake because people went out and got sub prime mortgages, people who had bad credit, who never should have even qualified to be in a home or in a certain priced home actually ended up getting homes. So, the bottom line, mistakenly, yes, a lot of people in the church did encourage a lot of this rampant debt.

ROMANS: When the going gets good again, won't we all start get something.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Well, I tell you in the catholic world, one thing you can take to the bank if I can use that in that communist context, whatever you can take to the bank that who's going to change, is that whatever Catholics decide to do with their money in this country, they are going to have less of it. Because the reality is the face of the Catholic Church is changing. When we are moving from being a predominantly white Angelo catholic church in this country, to being an overwhelmingly Hispanic church.

ROMANS: Where the giving is a little less, right?

ALLEN: Well the giving is little less and the income levels are high. Hispanics are less likely to be college educated. They are less likely to make more than a $100,000 a year, which means that we are becoming once again as the Catholic Church was in the 19th century. A predominantly blue collar ethnic immigrant church in this country which is going to change the church political priorities and has also going to change just financial resources.

WOLF: Well, I think, one of the positive things that actually come out of the economic crisis is that people are encouraging collaboration people are encouraging and sharing of resources. And not only re-institutions getting together but donors of those institutions are encouraging it by setting institutions down at the table and saying, look, you two have these things that you share in common. You need to work better together.

ALLEN: Yes, this is very much happening in the catholic world. I mean, interesting leaders are group called the national leadership roundtable that advises the Catholic Church on how to use its finances. And they did a study that found if you add up all the catholic parishes in America, their annual buying power is about a $105 billion which works out at times that of home depot. And the ideas, if they can just work together, they could achieve economies of scale.

ROMANS: Yes. Interesting points in that, certainly is faith and money put together. Everyone, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. It has been a pleasure to talk to you this hour and hopefully we will be able to do it again, "In God we trust" is printed on the back of every dollar bill and every coin in the United States. Religion is tightly woven in the fabric of American life. How we worship and where we worship is changing. And what may change is how we spend our money and whether we choose to have it better coincide with our values. I'm Christine Romans, thanks for watching.