“Pray-in” Draws Attention to the Problem of Predatory Lending – Baptist News Global
National faith leaders have held a virtual ‘prayer’ February 22 to highlight the power of prayer and scripture in the effort to end predatory lending in the United States
Members of the Faith and Credit Roundtable, a project of the Center for Responsible Lending, also used the event to remind payday lenders and auto stocks that their actions have spiritual and economic impacts.
“Predatory lending is legalized usurious lending. It’s blood money. And those involved in it must realize this and that they will not go unpunished in time or eternity. You can’t hurt the poor — it’s all through the Bible,” said Willie Gable Jr., pastor of the New Orleans Progressive Baptist Church and president of International Housing and Economic Development for the National Baptist Convention USA Inc.
The organizers organized the rally to begin at 2 p.m. on 2/22/22 to draw attention to Proverbs 22:22 and its warning: “Do not rob the poor because they are poor”.
But stealing from the poor because they are poor is precisely what payday lending is, according to the interfaith panel.
Desperate people often turn to predatory lenders convinced they have no alternative, said Dallas Lenear, pastor of Journey Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and executive director of nonprofit Project Green. dedicated to helping low- and middle-income families overcome financial barriers. .
“And predatory lending is definitely one of those barriers” for people who don’t see other options in a financial emergency, he said. “So they turn to payday loans looking for a bridge out of financial ruin, but what they find instead is that payday loans have become financial quicksand.”
Opponents of predatory lending face obstacles of their own, panelists said.
The Consumers Federation of America reports that 32 states have laws allowing aggressive payday lending practices or have failed to close loopholes exploited by lenders. Interest rates in some of these states have exceeded 400% for some loans.
Legislation to extend the Military Loans Act’s 36% interest rate cap to all consumers was introduced in Congress in 2021, but is still awaiting passage.
“The 36% interest rate limit has become the widely accepted dividing line between responsible lending and destructive credit that harms lives and destroys financial inclusion,” said the National Consumer Law Center. . noted.
Consumer advocates, on the other hand, are still struggling to convince the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to adopt stricter rules requiring lenders to determine the repayment capacity of borrowers before issuing loans. This agency was virtually shut down under the Trump administration.
“Now, more than a year into the (Biden) administration, there has been very little movement to crack down on predatory payday lending,” said Stephen Reeves, director of advocacy for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. “At this point, we are concerned that this issue is not a high enough priority for the office.”
During the prayer, Reeves emphasized the need for prayer as a powerful aid “in the long-term fight” to end predatory lending. “We fight against greed – people who see the vulnerable not as human beings made in the image of God, or as neighbors to be loved, but as targets of exploitation.”
The power of prayer should also lead Christians believe that payday loans are not only unacceptable but not insurmountable, said Sekinah Hamlin, economic justice minister for the United Church of Christ. “We must refuse to accept that attrition is always with us.”
During the process of paying off $104 million in consumer medical debt, UCC learned that the pressure to repay these loans often leads individuals to turn to payday lenders.
“We are still in a pandemic as many families struggle to gain financial security in a volatile economy,” Hamlin said. “The least we can do is protect them from abusive and deceptive practices such as payday loans.”
Anything built by human beings — including payday loans — can be overcome through faith and advocacy, said Rabbi David Rosenn, president of the Hebrew Free Loan Society in New York. “Markets are not natural facts. They are created and shaped by the choices we make, and those choices have ethical consequences.
And those who practice predatory lending are doing exactly what Proverbs 22:22 warns people not to do, he added. “There are those who are looking for ways to remove the protections to rob the poor because they are poor.”
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