Gods Controversy with Capitalism: Usury, Corporations, and a Cry for Economic Justice Published January 15, 2008

How Unrestrained Capitalism Makes God Angry

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised. Isaiah 10:1-4, NIV.

He oppresses the poor and needy. He commits robbery. He does not return what he took in pledge. He looks to the idols. He does detestable things. He lends at usury and takes excessive interest. Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head. Ezekiel 18:12, 13, NIV.

Rarely have my political views been changed by watching a television show, but last year I was watching a show called Boston Legal, (which Ive since stopped watching because it became too politically one-sided (to the left of course) and too smutty) and, I must credit the writers for opening my eyes to an abuse of biblical proportions in the US economy. The show was about a secretary who had come into bondage with the credit card industry. While not excusing her lack of fiscal restraint, the show pointed out several things that made me realize how the economic interests in this country conspire to use credit to put the people of the United States into perpetual economic slavery through debt. The United States used to have laws against usury, (lending of money at an exorbitant rate of interest), but now the banking and credit system have established usury as a norm of capitalism. Here are just a few of the highlights of current oppressive practices by the financial industry:

1. Once you are considered a credit risk, or are late on a payment, the credit card company can raise your interest payments to over 30% per year on your outstanding debts. By all historical standards, this rate is usurious and used to be called loan sharking.
2. If you inquire about a loan on a car or anything else, even if you do not take out the new loan and even if you are not late on your payments on your current card, the company can raise your rates to the 30% rate.
3. People who pay off their credit card loans monthly, and so incur no interest payments, are called deadbeats.
4. Credit card companies continue to entice those with bad or risky credit through new offers of new credit cards and loans.
5. The credit card companies charge the highest interest rates on the people least able to pay, thus ensuring that these people will remain in economic bondage, never able to get out from their debts and always increasing their indebtedness to the credit companies.

There was an old song sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford called Sixteen Tons. The lyrics told about the oppression of miners by the coal companies who allowed the workers to buy food and supplies on credit, but only at the company owned stores. The company kept the prices so high at the store to keep the workers in debt and never paid the miners enough to get free of their debts:

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

The reason that God has a controversy with capitalism is not because of the system of capitalism and private ownership, but with the abuse of capitalism by economic powers which enslave the common man. There is good reason, as I write this piece, why both Mike Huckabee and Barak Obama have struck a chord of sympathy with the average American, whether they be Republican or Democrat. The common man is not participating in the prosperity of the international corporations which benefit from globalization. The economic powers of banking and finance, which control the flow of capital and interest, are squeezing the little guy with outrageous interest rates; or are lending them money which they know cannot be repaid. These corporations benefit from globalization, lowering wages on the domestic workers, making them compete against the abject poor in foreign countries for the same jobs. But the domestic worker is not benefiting. In fact, our workers are competing for lower wages and a lower standard of living. Even highly educated computer programmers and technicians are competing against those who will work for a veritable bowl of rice a day. It is the first time since the Great Depression, where the educated and skilled in our society, as well as the laborer, are all competing against foreign labor to embrace a declining standard of living! In other words, rather than looking towards the future in hopes of climbing the economic ladder, the average citizen is being forced to take steps down the ladder in order to stay employed.

Combine the breaking of the back of the common man with the enticements of credit card debt and usurious interest charges, and you have a recipe for a new class of economic serfs indentured to the corporations.

It is highly significant that both Democrat and Republican parties have signed onto new banking legislation that made it harder to declare bankruptcy, made it easier for banks to declare customers in arrears by reducing the billing cycle from 30 days to 20 (not enough time if the mail is delayed or you are away on business or vacation to get the mail, write the check and send it back!), and who both are supported by huge campaign contributions from the banking industry. Both Democrat and Republican parties have also endorsed globalization legislation without holding foreign countries to account for child labor, unsafe labor conditions, or a host of other standards which would make the competition between nations more equal. They have sundered the domestic worker for the sake of global profits for corporations.

Why are these problems a matter which should concern a biblical Christian? Because these practices violate the Word of God on many levels, not the least of which is Gods anger at the oppression of the poor, the widows, and the orphans.

One of the chief reasons God sent Israel into exile was not simply for their idolatry, but for their economics of oppression. Every seven years, all people were to be released from their debts and their lands restored to them. That year was called the Sabbath Year, and it was a guarantee that every person would be free of enslavement, debt, and able to make a new start. But the rich and the powerful never allowed the Sabbath years. They kept the poor enslaved to debt. When God judged the rich in Israel for this abuse and oppression of the poor, he said they would be in exile for 70 years, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years. 2 Chronicles 36:21, RSV. In other words, for 490 years, Israel had had no Sabbath years of release and rest, so for every year that was missing, the Lord would free the land of the oppressors of the poor and allow the people once again to pasture their flocks freely (Is. 32:14).

What Im saying is that the economic system of the United States is operating contrary to the laws of God, protecting the rich and powerful while they exploit the poor and the common worker. And God is not happy. He has a controversy with unrestrained capitalism which allows corporations to salivate with greed and take advantage of those least able to stand on their own. These usurious laws should be abolished before God sends the entire banking system into exile and collapse. If he needs to free the people from bondage, it may be the method he chooses.

He (the Lord) has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. Luke 1:52, 53, RSV.

Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3:5, RSV.

My recommendations for a remedy: The first thing the nation should do is to reduce the maximum interest rate to less than 10%, no matter who the borrower is. If the loan is too risky, the lender should not lend! But they should not enslave those least able to pay. The bankruptcy laws should be revised to make it easier to fulfill a virtual Sabbath release. And the globalization treaties should level the playing field, allowing domestic companies who operate under pollution controls and who must pay workers compensation, fair wages, and health care, to levy an import duty on all those foreign imports made in countries where these rules and wages are not followed!

Also, the maximum governmental tax rate in the scriptures is 20% during times of crisis like war or famine. Pharaohs excise tax under Josephs governorship was 20% in order to prepare the nation for a coming famine, Genesis 41:24-36. In contrast to the USA, the biblical norm for the maximum tax rate is 10% for the king or government (1 Samuel 8:15), and 10% tithe or so for the house of God and its laborers. However, excess taxation is fodder for another article!

Finally, a few words of warning for the United States Congress and those aspiring to be President. I write these words as a conservative Republican, but before I am a member of any party, I am a Christian: God is NOT mocked!

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised. Isaiah 10:1-4, NIV.

The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland for ever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks, till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest. Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence for ever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling-places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Isaiah 32:14-18, NIV.

The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to make a proclamation of liberty to them, that every one should set free his Hebrew slaves, male and female, so that no one should enslave a Jew, his brother. And they obeyed, all the princes and all the people who had entered into the covenant that every one would set free his slave, male or female, so that they would not be enslaved again; they obeyed and set them free. But afterward they turned around and took back the male and female slaves they had set free, and brought them into subjection as slaves. The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah from the LORD: Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I made a covenant with your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, saying, At the end of six years each of you must set free the fellow Hebrew who has been sold to you and has served you six years; you must set him free from your service. But your fathers did not listen to me or incline their ears to me. You recently repented and did what was right in my eyes by proclaiming liberty, each to his neighbor, and you made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name; but then you turned around and profaned my name when each of you took back his male and female slaves, whom you had set free according to their desire, and you brought them into subjection to be your slaves. Therefore, thus says the LORD: You have not obeyed me by proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother and to his neighbor; behold, I proclaim to you liberty to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine, says the LORD. I will make you a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. Jeremiah 34:8-17, RSV.

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