In a battle between Baptists and bankers, I should just run for cover.
But the Southern Baptists get me to cheer them on by joining a right–left nationwide coalition to fight predatory payday lending (wait: isn’t “predatory payday lending” redundant?):
Faith for Just Lending, a new coalition of Christian groups representing different parts of the political spectrum, was formed to advocate for the elimination of unjust lending practices that hurt the poor.
“Payday lending is a form of economic predation and grinds the faces of the poor into the ground,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“As Christians,” he continued, “we are called by Jesus, by the prophets, and by the apostles to care for the poor, individually, and also about the way social and political and corporate structures contribute to the misery of the impoverished. Groups across this diverse coalition don’t agree on every issue in the public square, but I am happy to work together on this issue to stand against unchecked usury and work for economic justice, human dignity and family stability.”
Besides the ERLC, the coalition includes the Center for Public Justice, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, National Association of Evangelicals, National Baptist Convention USA, National Latino Evangelical Coalition, and Pico National Network [Napp Nazworth, “Payday Lending ‘Grinds the Faces of the Poor Into the Ground,’ Russell Moore Says; New Left-Right Christian Coalition Seeks to End Practice,” Christian Post, 2015.05.19].
Faith for Just Lending (hmm… their Web address LendJustly.com suggests they mean “lending that operates within the bounds of justice,” but might they also mean “just lending,” as in “just lending people money, not screwing them”?) offers four principles to guide their religious and political advocacy:
- Individuals should manage their resources responsibly and conduct their affairs ethically, saving for emergencies, and being willing to provide support to others in need.
- Churches should teach and model responsible stewardship, offering help to neighbors in times of crisis.
- Lenders should extend loans at reasonable interest rates based on ability to repay within the original loan period, taking into account the borrower’s income and expenses.
- Government should prohibit usury and predatory or deceptive lending practices [“Statement of Principles,” LendJustly.com, downloaded 2015.05.19].
The first two principles call for individual responsibility and church action in supporting that responsibility. The third calls on lenders to check their capitalist urges with moral concern for their borrowers’ well-being… which may sound liberal but aligns with Adam Smith’s assumption that morality would check the profit motive in the marketplace. The fourth sounds distinctly liberal in the modern American vernacular, although the Baptists and other believers in Faith for Just Lending are simply saying that predatory lending falls within Adam Smith’s second proper role of government, “…protecting, in so far as possible, every member of the society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it….”
Expect Faith for Just Lending to send Pastor Steve Hickey some love for his pending initiative to cap interest rates. And expect the evangelical Reverend Hickey to turn to his Lutheran neighbors for help with the petitions: the ELCA is a partner in the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, one of the Faith for Just Lending supporters.