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Mammon Addiction: Sam Polk’s Story

Mammon Addiction: Sam Polk’s Story

Former hedge-fund trader Sam Polk shares his story of wealth addiction, living into scarcity, and finding hope in sobriety and his nonprofit Groceryships in today’s New York Times:

I’d always looked enviously at the people who earned more than I did; now, for the first time, I was embarrassed for them, and for me. I made in a single year more than my mom made her whole life. I knew that wasn’t fair; that wasn’t right. Yes, I was sharp, good with numbers. I had marketable talents. But in the end I didn’t really do anything. I was a derivatives trader, and it occurred to me the world would hardly change at all if credit derivatives ceased to exist. Not so nurse practitioners. What had seemed normal now seemed deeply distorted.

I had recently finished Taylor Branch’s three-volume series on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, and the image of the Freedom Riders stepping out of their bus into an infuriated mob had seared itself into my mind. I’d told myself that if I’d been alive in the ‘60s, I would have been on that bus.

But I was lying to myself. There were plenty of injustices out there — rampant poverty, swelling prison populations, a sexual-assault epidemic, an obesity crisis. Not only was I not helping to fix any problems in the world, but I was profiting from them. During the market crash in 2008, I’d made a ton of money by shorting the derivatives of risky companies. As the world crumbled, I profited. I’d seen the crash coming, but instead of trying to help the people it would hurt the most — people who didn’t have a million dollars in the bank — I’d made money off it. I don’t like who you’ve become, my girlfriend had said years earlier. She was right then, and she was still right. Only now, I didn’t like who I’d become either.

Have you ever faced an addiction on your spiritual journey? If so, what role did the church play or not play? How can the church best respond as we live through addiction in our life together?

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Rod Gillis

You know, I read the original article this morning in the the York Times, and I thought, I'll bet this is more prophetic than most sermons being preached this morning. Then, when I read the tag line in this article, neutralizing and domesticating Sam Polk's story by asking "How can the church best respond as we live through addiction in our life together" I realized I was right. Anglicanism just does not have the courage to challenge greed, money, wealth.

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