I attended a meeting today to get our community organized to fight the ill effects of predatory lending.  The problem has become practically epidemic in recent years.  Predatory lenders are those who prey on low income and vulnerable families.  They take many forms, from rent-to-own stores, to subprime lenders, instant refund tax preparers, to pay day loan stores.  On the one hand, I think, “How could people be so gullible?”  Then I realize that people are gullible because they so want to believe that they can have the American dream. These predators feed them a line that they probably know in their heart of hearts is too good to be true, but they believe it.  Sure, they can afford this house they want so bad.  Maybe the payments are a little steep, or the interest will change next year.  But that’s a long time off, and maybe the raise will come through, or a new, better job will come along, so it will be fine then.  But it isn’t.

They believe that by getting an instant refund on their taxes instead of waiting 3 or 4 weeks like the rest of us, they will be able to pay off some bills.  They don’t realize that paying bills a few weeks early robs them of money to pay even more bills if they could just wait. Or save for their kids’ education, or a new home, or some other dream.

They simply believe.  I think people tend to believe other people tell the truth.  When someone tells them not to worry about the fine print, or that it’s okay to sign that blank document they’ll fill in later, they believe they are honest, not trying to harm them or their families. How sad for them, and for our society, that there are so many would would prey on the poor, the elderly, the uneducated, the vulnerable.  Are the rest of us powerless to help, or are the ones who would take advantage able to do that because we don’t speak up to end this horrible industry?

A drop in the bucket

There is this new museum near to my home, I am ashamed to say, called the Creation Museum.  I haven’t been, nor will I go, but it depicts how the earth was created from the literal Biblical accounts – seven days, you know.  It tries to debunk that supposed ‘myth of evolution’ by depicting Adam and Eve hanging around with the dinosaurs.  The scientists are up in arms, as are a lot of other people. But  a lot of folks are rather impressed with the museum, support it, plan to take all their out of town guests there. To each his own . . .

But I can’t help thinking about the millions of dollars that were spent to portray one side of an old and tired debate – creationism vs. evolution. I think I remember seeing $29 million in the paper. 

And I am thinking about that phrase that was popular a while back, “What would Jesus do?”

I think Jesus would have said to stop the debate and get to work helping people.  What if that $29 mil was spent providing safe, decent, affordable housing for low income families? Think what a difference that would make for those families.  They would probably not stop and worry, “But wait, someone is not getting the message about the literal intrepretation of the Bible!” They would appreciate that their children were warmer, safer, better prepared to learn. 

What if that $29 mil went to educating families about the dangers of predatory lending, and to shutting down the lenders that are trying to take advantage of those who think they have few choices.  Or if it went toward raising the minimum wage to a living wage.  Granted, $29 million would be only a drop in that very large bucket, but it would at least be a start.

Or what would $29 million do to lower our use of fossil fuels to slow the global warming crisis? Another drop in the bucket, I’m afraid, but it is a drop we must add, and soon. Instead of fighting about whether this environment we have was created or evolved, it’s time to get together to save it instead.