Jim Wallis: A Religious Response to the Financial Crisis

portrait_jim_wallis_200The Washington Post published Jim Wallis’s insightful and moving editorial.  Here is an excerpt:

One cold morning the week before Christmas, I found myself huddled with a group of homeowners and religious leaders on Pennsylvania Avenue, in the shadow of the White House and the Treasury building. The homeowners, who had all worked hard to buy their first homes, and most of whom had put enough money down to qualify for fixed-rate mortgages only to be persuaded into more exotic mortgages, were facing imminent foreclosure. We had come to stand with them.

I have been talking with people in similarly desperate circumstances more and more these days, as have pastors around the country. The foreclosure crisis has become both a personal and a pastoral issue for us, and we are struggling to make sense of the fundamental unfairness that underlies it. The banks and other financial institutions whose behavior is most responsible for this crisis have been saved from failure by the American taxpayers, while many of those least responsible are losing jobs and homes.

As I grapple with this contradiction, I keep coming back to the concept of grace. When the government tried to save the economy from meltdown, real grace was extended to the big banks — but now the banks seem unwilling to extend grace to anyone else, including homeowners struggling to make mortgage payments. I am reminded of one of the parables of Jesus, wherein a master forgives the debt of one of his servants out of pity for his circumstances, but then that servant refuses to forgive the debt of another servant who owes him a little money. The master gets angry and throws the unforgiving debtor into prison. The money-changers in the temples of Wall Street would do well to take note.

Clearly, the financial crisis is a structural meltdown that calls for increased government regulation of banks and other financial players. Members of faith communities, such as those who joined me in front of the Treasury building, are helping to push for this sort of reform.

Read the full editorial.