Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Bible Usury and Debt:

Since this blog deals with how Christian morality impacts American law I'll touch on this story. There is debate as to who -- the Christian Left or the Christian Right (or even Christian libertarians) -- best represents the Bible's politics. These aren't easy questions and I'm not convinced any of the sides are "right." I'm certainly not convinced that Jesus' admonishment to feed the poor demands socialized medicine or redistributionist economics.

There are a couple modest positions I've concluded are so clear that they are beyond debate. One is the Bible is anti-usury and arguably teaches, like Islam, the charging of ANY interest (even a "good" rate for borrowers) is a sin. Therefore, if it's a good idea to write biblical teachings into the law or otherwise have the law reflect and not seem inconsistent with biblical morality, high interest loans are immoral and ought to be illegal. Arguably there should be no interest charged on loans. That represents a huge tension between free market capitalism and what the Bible teaches.

The second non-debatable point is that the Bible is radically pro-debtor. David Skeel, law professor at Penn and whom I had at Temple, seems one of the few notable right of center Christian academics who consistently trumpets a pro-debtor tune (to the chagrin of bondholders everywhere).

The anti-usury, pro-debtor stance of the Bible, it seems to me, are two areas where the Christian Left is more biblical than the Christian Right.

Though, I have concluded that the Bible/Christian religion is, at its heart, a-political and compatible with virtually any political system. It's not just Romans 13 (which we've discussed at great length), but also -- and more importantly -- Mark 12:17. When Jesus said "Render Unto Caesar" he didn't refer to the noble Stoic Roman republicans, but rather to the ignoble imperial Roman tyrants.

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