Why I Love Credit Unions

I finally “moved my money” from Wells Fargo to Lafayette Federal Credit Union. It’s local. It’s half a block from work. Charlotte, the branch manager, already knows my name.

Mind you, I never actually opened an account at Wells Fargo to begin with. I opened my account 20 years ago with a regional bank. But it was bought by Bank of America. I then switched to another regional bank. But it was bought by Wachovia. Last year, Wachovia was bought out by Wells Fargo. I’ve never been a big fan of the mega-money institutions. But ever since they drove our economy into a ditch and did it, in part, by taking the homes of poor people and minorities, I felt the biblical prophets giving me a kick in the pants. Hence, the next stage of my financial pilgrimage.

Credit unions, as we know them today, originated in Europe in the 1800s as financial self-help cooperatives among small business owners and farmers in particular locales, geared toward providing for and protecting their economic sovereignty. Eventually credit unions came to be organized around seven principles: 1) voluntary membership, 2) democratic governance, 3) member control of capital, 4) autonomy and independence, 5) education of members and public in cooperative principles, 6) cooperation between cooperatives, and 7) concern for the local community.

“If love is wise,” wrote Pope Benedict in his 2009 encyclical Charity in Truth, “it can find ways of working in accordance with provident and just expediency, as is illustrated in a significant way by much of the experience of credit unions.”

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