Payday Someday?

February 21, 2008

Robert Parham had a good column yesterday at Ethics Daily about payday loans. A recent study found that payday loans are much more common in the "Bible belt," which he argued represents a failure of Christians to take action to stop such economic exploitation. Here are a few highlights:

The predatory practice of payday lenders flourishes in the Bible Belt, the very place where one would think that the piety and morality of church goers would oppose such ventures that charge the poor exorbitant interest rates exceeding those of "the old mafia loan sharking syndicates." That is not the case, according to a new study that maps the correlation of payday lenders and conservative Christians.

... Calling their findings "a tragic and sad irony," Peterson and Graves said: "Those states that have most ardently held to their pious Christian traditions have tended to become more infested with the progeny of money changers once expelled by Christ from the Hebrew temple. Legislators in those states who have effectively used Biblical principles to shape their legislative agenda on social and cultural issues have failed to consistently apply Biblical principles to economic legislation."

... The widespread practice of charging astronomical interest rates on loans made to the poor runs counter to the biblical injunction against usury, which is condemned along with the shedding blood, extorting and forgetting God (Ezekiel 22:12).

... Not only does the Bible reject the excessive interest of the payday lenders, but the Bible speaks repeatedly about protecting the poor, the orphan, the widow and the stranger in the land.

Given the clarity of the biblical witness and the crippling reality of payday lenders, some Baptists are addressing the issue.
Parham goes on to praise the Baptist General Association of Virginia for speaking out against payday loans. Hopefully other Christians will also lend their voice to this issue.