from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A moral question for Christians (and others) 

Please note, I do not consider myself a Christian, although I did spend 17 years of my life in overtly Christian denominations, the Episcopal Church and the Orthodox Church in America (in which I held national, diocesan, and local elected and appointed positions),and I have a master from a Catholic Seminary. Thus I can only speak now now from the perspective of an outsider, albeit one with a certain amount of knowledge.

How in good conscience can you support the charging of usurious interest rates by credit card companies, rates that now often exceed those charged by the Mafia loan sharks of New York when I was growing up? Do you not read your Bible?

I realize that this subject will probably not draw much attention tonight given the focus on the forthcoming "documentary" from ABC.   But it is the issue on my mind today.  We have `reformed" our bankruptcy laws in favor of lenders many of whom are predatory.  We have alllowed states to compete in permitting lenders to have effectively unlimited power to raise interest rates.  We tolerate predatory lending practices, especially to those most in need of financial assistance, at a time when we are also cutting the safety net of social support programs.  

I realize that most of the Biblical texts that address usury are from the Hebrew Bible. But then, many choose to make parts of that collection binding on their behavior (although I will not go into how selective they can be in what they ignore even as they take other parts literally).  Further, one can find at least some of the principles espoused in those texts reinforced by the words and actions of Jesus in the Christian Bible, especially in Matthew 25.

We live in a time where our government is tilted ever more so in favor of those who have versus those who have not.  How can anyone who seriously reads the words of Jesus or of the Hebrew prophets accept such a course of action?  How can we legalize tilting the economic scales even further, by tax policies and by spending policies?

It would take far too long to explore all the biblical texts that come to mind, and it would take even longer to fully describe all the political decisions that I think violate the spirit of those texts which cover a period of over 3,000 years of human history.

As a Quaker I of course oppose war and state violence except when absolutely necessary to truly defend, a category in which I do not include the actions of the current administration in Iraq and elsewhere in its so-called war on terror.  But I also must oppose those things which while they might not represent the violence of military action nevertheless represent violence to the humanity of others.  If the Geneva Conventions and other treaties ban inhuman treatment and we are rightly outraged by waterboarding being done in our names, can we in good conscience profit from the misery of others?  Do we own stock in companies that apply usurious interest upon the poor by placing their credit card operations in states like Delaware and South Dakota?  Do we object strongly to those Democratic politicians (which unfortunately includes my own congressman Jim Moran) when they vote to allow more depredation by credit card companies and banks either through lifting limits on the interest that can be charged and the conditions under which rates can be raised at the same time as they restrict the traditional access to bankruptcy protection?  Do we realize that ordinary people have lost access to much bankruptcy protection at the same time as corporations still maintain their access, and that nwelathy people can in certain states protect most of their assets in bankruptcy by placing all of them in their luxury homes, even protecting assets effectively obtained by ripping off customers and stockholders from settlement agreements?

This might not seem like that much of a moral issue right now, but to me it is symptomatic.  If we cannot get our politicians to honestly address things like this, we will know that the canary in the coal mine of responsibility for our entire society is dying.

Uncontrolled interest rates on credit cards, on payday loans, hit those least able to escape from the crushing effects such interest imposes.  

Loss of access to bankruptcy proceedings hits most heavily on people impacted by unpredictable events such as medical crises not covered by insurance (and remember that 1/7 of our population lacks any medical insurance), or by death of a family wage earner who lacks sufficient insurance, or similar things.

So I ask?  If you consider yourself a Christian, why are you not outraged by such things?  Is it not a moral issue for you?  If it is not, I do not understand.

if we do not address such issues, we will continue our slide into something previously unknown in the past century of our history - we will continue to move in the direction of a 3rd world nation, where the rich and the elite have protections, politically, legally, and financially, and where increasingly the rest of us are pushed into a permanent underclass whose sole purpose is to provide for the comfort and luxury of elite.  Somehow I do not think that Jesus of Nazareth would approve. And I know that the Hebrew prophets would have some very strong words as well.

I do not apologize if my question offends - I mean to challenge.  What say you?

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