A Biblical Approach to Economic Justice
“Embrace an unapologetic love of justice!" Cornell West
I am not a Biblical scholar, but I think many of us realize that the United States needs a moral leader badly, one who can inspire us to a spiritual commitment to justice. We need moral leadership to deal with all the issues facing humankind today, nuclear war, socio-economic collapse, ecological collapse, and an aging demographic. Three of the popular candidates running for president each embrace a spiritual commitment to justice, Dr. Cornell West, Robert F. Kennedy jr. and Marianne Williamson.
Dr. West seemed like an ideal candidate for this approach. He has dedicated his life to teaching an unapologetic love of justice, justice for the people, justice for their communities and their nations. Dr. West’s philosophy of peace and justice is deeply rooted in Christian Theology thus there is a focus on those suffering and in need. Dr. West says his campaign is about Dignity, the dignity of all working people everywhere by challenging this unjust system of economic slavery. I like to think this would include the small business owners, and professionals who’ve also been abused by this system, a system where all money is issued as interest-bearing debt by private banks for profit. Unfortunately, it appears his message is more anti-Trump than pro-democracy and his recent moves abandoning ballots lines have made it clear he is running more of a rhetorical campaign than one dedicated to challenging power.
So that leaves Marianne Williamson or RFK jr. Unfortunately, RFK jr. doesn’t seem to recognize the importance of the money power, despite formerly having Dennis Kucinich, who introduced legislation in 2011 to change the money system from private to public, managing his campaign. Bobby’s position regarding Palestine is so repugnant I think it caused Dennis Kucinich to resign as his campaign manager. A commitment to justice should not be selective. Marianne Williamson also doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of what the money power is about or the geopolitics all around it. We still need a champion, but they must be buoyed by an informed mass movement for justice.
“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Prov 22:7
This nation’s founding revolution was fought over this issue against the financial hegemon of the time, The Bank of England. Despite this, our society has run on money created as debt ever since Alexander Hamilton convinced Congress to hand its monetary authority over to a private bank. The only government issued money in a significant amount since then were the Civil War Greenbacks. Despite the populist progressive demands of the late 19th century for the government to take up its responsibility to create all the money as a debt-free permanently circulating asset, like Greenbacks. The populists wanted them issued into the productive economy for millions of jobs building infrastructure, roads, utilities, schools, libraries, and hospitals. Their demands were continually rebuffed and denied. Since the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 monetary authority has been owned and operated by the biggest banks in the nation.
Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. Ecclesiastes 5:10
The abuse of monetary authority for personal gain is the sin known as usury. Usury could be considered the sin of sins as it encourages “the 7 deadly sins,” pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth. Usury in Hebrew means “the serpents bite,” expressing the painfulness of the debtor’s slavery. Aristotle considered usury wrong and unnatural, that money was meant to be an exchange medium not an end itself. It may have been here that he realized money’s second role, that of an instrument of power. While usury was regarded a sin by the church the practice was common in business though the risk of being caught was sometimes fatal. Dante Alighieri wrote of usury in The Divine Comedy early in the 14th century, where he is guiding us on his fictional tour of hell.
Dante puts the usurers in the lowest sub-circle of the seventh circle of hell, with others whose sins are regarded as doing violence against nature and nature's God; many people have noted that usurers are placed deeper into hell than violent murderers, violent suicides, blasphemers, and sodomites. Dante regards usurers as perverting art, i.e., productive skill, by means of which we are supposed to produce and create and thereby imitate the goodness of God. Usury is the anti-art: it produces nothing substantial; being just a set of multiplication games with money, and therefore does not really contribute anything to 'earning one's way and furthering humankind'. It merely gives the illusion of doing so and is therefore a sort of mockery of both human reason and divine providence — indeed, a sort of universal violence against neighbor, God, and one's own reason, an extraordinarily efficient form of violence by which you do the most damage with the least effort. Dante on Usury
Interestingly, Dante lived during the last 50 years of 250-year period of extraordinary prosperity in Europe known as the High Middle Ages, or The Real Renaissance. While the kings and feudal lords dealt in gold and debt the people during that period were issued coinage, collected, and redistributed annually minus a tax. However, this was a period when innovations increased, farm production increased along with hydro-powered production, the first universities were founded teaching abstract sciences such as mathematics. The caloric intakes were so high that the tallest Europeans lived during this time and the population of Europe doubled. During this time women enjoyed a more prominent role in society perhaps due to the worship of a female deity, the Black Madonna, common during that period. Because the tax on their money functioned as a demurrage currency does, where the dynamics of net present value shifts people’s thinking from short-term to long-term, this was the period when a thousand Great Cathedrals were built by small villages using their own money. That is how prosperous and forward thinking they were. The Great Cathedrals were built to seat 3 times as many people who lived in the village with the idea that they would attract pilgrims to their local economy well into the future, and they have to this day.
The period ended when the local currency systems were replaced with money issued only as debt from the moneychangers. This made money scarce for the people and plunged Europe into such a deep depression causing hunger, suffering and degraded living conditions such that they led to the plague which killed half the population of Europe.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:10
Our economy is host to a debt parasite, a monetary system that systematically extracts wealth from the economy and concentrates it to the wealthiest, it is the primary cause of economic inequality in our nation and the world, and it extracts from the bottom up. Nearly 50% of the cost of the things we buy is due to interest, profits for banks, on the loans required at every step of the way from obtaining raw materials to production and distribution.
The world is rife with injustice and lack of public policy support for working people and their needs. Money can resolve those issues and make them go away but we see that our Congressional and Executive representatives have no interest in providing the funding to do these things and yet have provided trillions of dollars for wars, corporate bailouts, and subsidies to the wealthy, just in the last few years. This corruption has been so normalized that there is no public outrage. Corruption runs on money.
A Princeton Study found that from 2009 to 2014, the 200 most politically active companies in the U.S. spent $5.8 billion influencing our government with lobbying and campaign contributions. Those same companies got $4.4 trillion in taxpayer support — a 758% return on their investment.
So, what would be a Biblical approach to economic justice? Jesus reportedly delighted in enriching the impoverished, strengthening the weak, and loving the rejected in society. We can all do that to some degree, it is a good example for human behavior, but we are up against a systemic injustice that good deeds cannot touch. Even in Jesus day it was challenging that systemic injustice that got him killed.
The root of that systemic injustice is the usurious money system. Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers who were practicing usury and chased them out of the temple with a whip. I think it was the only time in the Bible where Jesus got violently angry. The system has not been too kind to those who challenge its usurious money game, this includes whole nations. Assassinations and economic sanctions are also tools of war.
“In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables.” John 2:14
Our current monetary system is institutionalized usury. The banking system creates and destroys what we use for money and because the system is based on debt it is inherently unstable and crashes every 10 years or so. When the commodity, gold, was used to back the money the depressions occurred more often and lasted longer. In the current system this happens when loan payments (money destroyed) exceed loans being made (money created) or the banks can just quit lending. Interest is charged and compounded so that there is over 3 times more debt than there is money. In a system where all money is created and issued as interest-bearing debt, how could it be any other way? Within such as system it is impossible to eliminate this debt thus the borrowers are slaves to the lender. Private banks have held a strangle hold on the American economy for over 2 centuries because money is the governing factor.
A Biblical approach to social justice then would be to ban usury, to ban banks from creating money as debt for profits and make government responsible for issuing permanently circulating asset money into the real economy. This would be chasing the moneychangers out of our sacred temple to democracy and would allow democracy to flourish for the first time in our nation’s history. It would allow a debt burdened society to pay off its debts and prosper. It would be changing the money system from being debt-based to being asset-based, from a profit-motivated first cause to a care-motivated first-cause which would have profound positive psychological consequences for society. We need a leader with a spiritual commitment to justice who understands how hegemonic power operates on the money and is committed to changing it.