On October 15, Christian leaders from several southern states met and prayed in front of ACE Cash Express, a local payday loan store in New Orleans, La. Together, they called upon these “payday’ or predatory lenders to stop trapping consumers in a never-ending cycle of debt with their unethical and usurious lending practices.
Several Baptist leaders leaders attended the event including Stephen Reeves, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s associate coordinator for advocacy and partnerships; Rev. Dr. Willie Gable, senior pastor of Progressive Baptist Church, New Orleans, La.; Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes, senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas Texas; and Rev. Dr. Steve Wells, pastor, South Main Baptist Church, Houston, Texas.
Wells offered these strong words during the demonstration (see video here):
Jesus said, at the end of times you know things have gotten as bad as they could because there would come some who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. [Payday lenders] were promising one thing and delivering another. They said they would be part of what provides for you and they became what destroys you.
That’s what this is.
They said it’s a loan. It’s a lie.
It’s a strategy for taking and taking and taking until there is nothing left. So, we’re here today to call on all people of good faith to call it what it is—to stand up against it, to say it’s not a loan. It’s a lie.
It cannot be a part of the way that God intends the world to work. So we must stand against it.
No justice, no peace.
This gathering came on the heels of research showing that borrowers in southern states pay 62 percent of all payday fees. Research released by the Center for Responsible Lending shows that households in many southern states are beset by payday lenders charging interest upwards of 300 percent APR. In fact, seven of the top 10 states with the highest fees collected by payday lenders are located in the South.
A 2008 statistical study by Steven M. Graves and Christopher Peterson published in the Catholic University Law Review found that “states with a powerful conservative Christian population tend to host relatively greater numbers of payday loan locations per capita as well as a greater commercial density of payday lenders.”
“These findings propound a tragic and sad irony,” Graves and Peterson continued. “Those states that have most ardently held to their pious Christian traditions have 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.”
Read more about the efforts of Baptists to address the problem of predatory lending in the latest issue of fellowship! magazine, the bimonthly publication of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The cover story of the October/November issue is titled “Predatory lending: Baptists confront a neglected justice issue.”