UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

No-debt Movement in US Evangelicalism Womack, Nathan


Financial crises and economic recessions over the past few decades have given rise to the no-debt movement in both religious and non-religious spaces. Many evangelicals in the United States, in particular, have embraced the no-debt movement that emphasizes debt elimination, financial stewardship, and generosity. Financial ministries such as Crown Financial Ministries and Dave Ramsey Solutions have become an integral part of the religious landscape as they provide resources, seminars, and curriculum to churches to help congregants get out of debt and generate wealth. The leaders of these ministries, in addition to pastors and church leaders, work to weave theology into financial practices to help adherents view debt through a theological lens. The no-debt movement is not only evangelical in its theology but also reflects American values and culture of freedom and agency. Although there has also been an increase of non-religious no-debt organizations and leaders who promote similar practices as evangelical no-debt leaders, the evangelical no-debt movement adds a theological lens into the American financial experience that provides adherents with new language and new practices. Debt is viewed as a form of slavery and adherents of the no-debt movement use various biblical texts to support their position. The only appropriate response to debt is to attack it until it is gone. This means that many people in the no-debt movement adjust their financial lifestyles in order to aggressively pay off debt. In addition to the aversion of debt, the evangelical no-debt movement promotes the concept of stewardship and generosity. Stewardship is the belief that God created everything and things like money, assets, and wealth belong to God, not the person. God entrusts people to manage assets like money and they are responsible for stewarding God’s money well. Excessive consumer debt is a sign that a person has not been a good steward of what God has given them and thus they need to make changes in their thinking and actions in order to get in line with God’s way of handling finances. Once a person is out of debt they are able to become more effective stewards of God’s provision because they can now be generous with what God has given them. Many adherents of the no-debt movement promote generosity as one of the ultimate goals of financial freedom. God give people money and wealth so they can steward it well and give it away to people in need.

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Attribution 4.0 International