I don’t like church, but I do like Lutherans. And Lutherans don’t like payday lenders… or at least they shouldn’t, says Lutheran theologian Anna Madsen. The pastor-blogger finds that Martin Luther deemed usurers the worst scum on earth:
…according to Carter Lindberg, Luther “exhorted pastors to condemn usury as stealing and murder, and to refuse absolution and the sacrament to usurers unless they repent.” (“Luther on Poverty” in Harvesting Martin Luther’s Reflections on Theology, Ethics, and the Church, ed. Timothy J. Wengert, [Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 2004], 148).
Pastors, get your exhorting on: Luther loathed the act of exacting interest (especially on the poor) so much that he excommunicated usurers until they turned themselves around. (Not as in the Hokey Pokey, but as in the the Latin word “con-versio”, “to repent,” which means, literally, to turn oneself around.)
Luther, never one to mince words (for a cheap cackle, take a look at the Luther Insult Generator [Insult Me Again!]) claimed that “after the devil there is no greater human enemy on earth” than an usurer [Anna Madsen, “Illusory Usury: A Religious Rejection of Payday Lending,” OMG Center for Theological Conversation, 2015.08.18].
Madsen finds that Luther would not have fallen for payday lender Chuck Brennan’s pretensions to charity or payday lender Rod Aycox’s promises to help civic causes. Luther said usurer’s money is the spoils of theft:
It is so easy to find a little excuse to light the devil’s path… “I intend to accumulate my money in order then to endow Masses and services or to give alms for the support of the poor….” How skillfully Sir Greed can dress up to look like a pious man if that seems to be what the occasion requires, while he is actually a double scoundrel and a liar… You cannot show off how magnificent and proud you are, and then say that you have done it for God’s sake and for the honor of the church and that you intend to pay for it with benefices and services. This would be as if someone pried open your house door and your treasure chest and took what he found, and then said that he intended to give part of it as alms. Oh, what a precious offering that would be! Here is the rule: If you want to give something to God, give from what is your own. He says (Is. 61:8): “I hate the offering that comes from robbery.” [Luther’s Works 21:183; in Madsen, 2015.08.18]
If Lisa Furlong takes offense at her fake 18%-rate-cap petition being called a decoy petition, how must she feel about Luther’s assessment that the payday lenders pulling her strings are lying devils?
When a family has nothing to eat, because it has to make payments to usurers, this is not Christian, it is not human! This dramatic scourge in our society harms the inviolable dignity of the human person [Pope Francis, quoted in “Usury: An Affront to Dignity,” News.va, 2014.01.29]
Luther and the Pope on the same page—that’s a sure sign the 36%-rate-cap petitioners are right, and the fake 18%-rate-cap thugs and other tools of the payday lenders are going to hell… or at least electoral defeat in 2016.