‘Thank the Lord for pray-day loans’

in BT.com

Britain these days is largely a secular country. Thank God. For most non-believers, the occasional appearances of the Church of England’s big beasts on the front pages normally signals nothing more than another round of hand-wringing about gay marriage or whether women should be allowed to do a spot of bishoping.

For many of us not among the two million or so who go to church regularly, the Church’s views on many of society’s issues feel outdated or simply irrelevant (and that’s without even considering the whole PR disaster on paedophilia).

So it was a refreshing change to read that the Archbishop of Canterbury has taken up the cudgels against payday ‘loan sharks’ Wonga.

The Archbish, showing admirable Christian forbearance, chose not to attack the company’s dreadful advert campaign with the ‘hilarious’ elderly people puppets and their sub-Carry On smut, but instead focused his righteous anger on the firm’s core business.

That core business is making it easy for people who are poor, reckless, desperate or all three to get short-term loans at crippling rates of interest.

But better yet, rather than just sounding off on what would undeniably be solid moral grounds, the Most Rev Justin Welby had a message for Wonga boss Errol Damelin in a language Damelin could understand: we are going to put you out of business.

By making Church infrastructure and premises available to credit unions (which offer far more reasonable interest rates) and small independent lenders, they will be able to offer loans that compete with and undercut the likes of Wonga.

Payday loan companies’ big advantage is the speed and ease of getting a loan, so the credit unions will have to raise their game on that front, but even if this Church-backed action does not succeed in wiping Wonga off the map, it should at least force it to offer less exorbitant rates.

An unlikely ally for the Church’s stance comes in the form of Newcastle United player Papiss Cisse, a Muslim who has refused to wear the club’s Wonga-sponsored shirt because his faith forbids profiteering from loaning money.

This is probably the first alliance between religion and a Toon centre forward since Alan Shearer prayed nightly to the baby Jesus for Ruud Gullit to get the sack, but Newcastle number nines aside, hats off to the Archbishop for using his influence, and his organisation’s might, to help rid society of a genuinely harmful cancer on the despairing and vulnerable.

Now, if only he could have a word with the Big Man Upstairs to strike down the people who made those adverts…

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