Payday Lending: Time to Crack the Trap in Minnesota

Payday Loans vendor, photo by Steve Rhodes / Flickr.com.

Payday Loans vendor, photo by Steve Rhodes / Flickr.com.

The United States hosts more than 23,000 payday lending stores, which outnumbers the combined total of McDonald’s, Burger King, Sears, J.C. Penney, and Target stores. These payday lenders do not make conventional loans as seen in most banks, but instead offer short-term loan amounts for short periods of time, usually until the borrower’s next paycheck, hence the name “payday loans.”

While some borrowers benefit from this otherwise unavailable source of short-term and small-amount credit, the payday lending business model fosters harmful serial borrowing and the allowable interest rates drain assets from financially pressured people. For example, in Minnesota the average payday loan size is approximately $380, and the total cost of borrowing this amount for two weeks computes to an appalling 273 percent annual percentage rate (APR). The Minnesota Commerce Department reveals that the typical payday loan borrower takes an average of 10 loans per year, and is in debt for 20 weeks or more at triple-digit APRs. As a result, for a $380 loan, that translates to $397.90 in charges, plus the amount of the principal, which is nearly $800 in total charges.

The End of Bully Christianity

by Eric Austin / Flickr.com

Protestors gather during Minnesota's Senate marriage equality vote, by Eric Austin / Flickr.com

A tipping point has been reached, not only on the issue of marriage equality, but on the broader political force of bully Christianity, a pernicious brand of the faith that tells people who don't have conservative social and political views that they "aren't Christian." That model has now failed where it used to work reliably; Waterloo has been reached.

To be clear, not all of those who sought to protect traditional man-woman marriage were bullies. Many acted out of a principled and consistent sense of their own faith, and stayed away from defining the faith identity of others. I am fortunate that the same-sex marriage opponents I know best avoided that tactic and amid our disagreement never suggested that I was no longer a part of the diverse and complex body of Christians. 

Still, it is undeniable that many advocates for traditional marriage actively used the bullying tactic of asserting that there was only one "Christian" position on this issue, and that the Christian viewpoint rejected marriage equality. Unfortunately, their voices have too often been the loudest, and the ones to which the press is most attracted.  That tactic has now been exposed as something worse than unprincipled, politically: It has been shown to be ineffective in the public arena. 

Some will see this tipping point as a huge loss for Christianity, but it might instead be the faith's salvation. Bullying was always a terrible form of evangelism. 

Christians and Marriage After the Election

By Ken Kressin / Flickr

Minnesota marriage amendment signs at St Pius V, Cannon Falls, Minn. By Ken Kressin / Flickr

Minnesota, famously, has just rejected a proposed constitutional amendment which would have barred same-sex marriage. The battle raged for a year, with Christians on both sides. The Catholic diocese was a primary proponent of the amendment, but many Catholics posted “Another Catholic Voting No” signs on their lawn.  Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Methodists were also found on both sides of the battle, in leadership roles and at phone banks. Rarely did the discussion of the amendment stray too far from a discussion of faith issues, because it was faith that drove so many to either reject same-sex marriage or move to embrace it as a part of our larger community.

There were bruises and scars, of course, within congregations, families, and neighbors. To some, on both sides, it was a deeply personal fight.

Now, though, it is done. The amendment failed. Though my side won, the divisions created trouble me. As an Episcopalian working within a Catholic law school, I saw the pain of those on both sides.

Pope Benedict XVI Denounces Cultural Shift Toward Gay Marriage in U.S.

Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leaves St. Peter's Basilica February 19. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Pope Benedict XVI on Friday (March 9) denounced the "powerful political and cultural currents" that are working to "alter the legal definition of marriage" in the United States.

The pope's condemnation of same-sex marriage came in an address to a delegation of bishops from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, headed by Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Maryland legalized gay marriage March 1 and Minnesota will be one of five states to vote on the issue in the coming months. Minnesota's bishops are campaigning for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Benedict stressed that "sexual difference cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage," and called on the church to continue its "reasoned defense of marriage."

Minnesota Church Finds the High Price of Supporting Gays

Empty church pews. Photo by Tony Marinella Photography/ Shutterstock.com.

Empty church pews with heavenly light. Photo by Tony Marinella Photography/ Shutterstock.com.

A small Minnesota church is finding out the high cost of standing up for same-sex equality — as well as an unexpected lifeline from the very people it decided to support.

When the Rev. Oliver White voted in favor of the United Church of Christ's endorsement of same-sex marriage in 2005, 72 percent of his predominantly African-American flock at Grace Community United Church in St. Paul couldn't stand with him.

The UCC's 2005 vote, he said, was "the beginning of the end of many UCC churches." Predominantly black churches like his suffered the most, he said, because the black community "was, and still is, very homophobic."

Because of White's vote, his church developed a reputation of being a "gay church" and people stopped coming. And stopped giving.

Santorum's Trifecta

It was an eventful night in the GOP primary race last night, with some surprises in the results.

See the best of the reaction to what happened right here:

In The New York Times, Rick Santorum’s trifecta of victories was called “another twist to an unruly nominating contest that has seen Republican voter veering among candidates and refusing to coalesce behind anyone.”

Former Senator Santorum’s victory has been put down to the voting preferences of “evangelicals and Tea Party adherents”, who make up a significant percentage of the electorate in all three states. One pundit noted that when it comes to voting:

“evangelicals, they get out. Cold, wind, rain or snow, they get out.”

News: Quick Links

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West on poverty. The Value Voters Summit. U.S. Catholic Bishops remind Catholic voters about church teaching. Perry supporter calls Mormonism a "cult." Ron Paul wins Value Voter straw poll, with Cain in second place. Mitt Romney and religious bigotry. Ghana church says poverty "causes" homosexuality. Fox News attacks Lily the new Sesame Street poverty Muppet as "liberal bull." And Newt Gingrich says candidates are "not running for theologian-in-chief."

ICE Follies: 'Silent' Raids are Worse Than Useless

There are no whirring helicopters, law enforcement vehicles, or hundreds of federal agents swooping down on businesses as in days of old. Instead, such immigration raids have been replaced by a less overtly brutal approach: "silent" raids, or audits of work eligibility I-9 forms.

But the fear remains.

At the first whisper of an employer receiving notice from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that employees' eligibility records are about to be checked, pulses rise. Legal workers worry about being erroneously bounced out of work; unauthorized employees fear being kicked out of the country and separated from their families. Communities are shaken, business operations are disrupted, and jobs are lost. The anemic economy takes another hit.