Tribal Church is full of economic realities. And even though our church works closely with those who are homeless and hungry, and even though I’ve spent much of my ministry teaching children in housing projects and women in shelters, I didn’t write much about those in poverty. I wrote about the struggles of the middle class.
For many adults under the age of forty, three things have converged to cause a great strain on their finances: an escalation in educational costs, an increase in housing, and stagnant wages. Unfortunately, the way that we’ve been able to manage these huge costs, even though our wages haven’t budged, is with creative loans.
This subject matter has caused some tension, especially with progressive young adults. As one woman complained to me, “Why are we talking about this, when there is REAL poverty out there?”
It’s a good question. If some people are having a difficult time feeding themselves, why should we be concerned with the twenty-something who can’t figure out a way to pay off his student loans? And if people are living on the streets, why should we care about young families who have to file for bankruptcy? Why should we be concerned with the middle class when there’s so much real poverty out there?
There are a couple of reasons:
First, if the middle class goes away, chances are they won’t be moving up, they’ll be moving down. We’ll have more poor people. The thing I love about our country is that it has a strong middle class, and I want to keep it that way.
Second, as Christians, we need to speak out against usury. After all, it’s in the Bible quite a bit. More people have increased their ability to borrow, which is good. Especially since the increase includes minorities who have been more restricted from borrowing in the past.
But, there has also been very little regulation over how much one ought to borrow, or the interest rate attached to the loan. As a result, there has been an increase in predatory lending, and the unfair loans tend to be distributed more to vulnerable populations. Those who can afford it the least will pay the most.
We often hear about the irresponsibility and greed of the borrowers, but what about the lenders? Don’t they have any responsibility in this any longer? As the bad loans come due, people are unable to pay, houses go into foreclosure, bankruptcies are declared, the real estate bubble pops…we need to keep caring about the middle class.