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The Word on the Week

Shoring up Mammon

Using various financial devices different countries have had to come to the rescue of the god mammon this last week. Mammon has been successful in creating the biggest wealth gap in human history as his devotees scaled hither undreamt of financial summits. How has it been done? The New York Times wrote in 1999, “Fannie Mae, the nation’s biggest underwriter of home mortgages, does not lend money directly to consumers. Instead, it purchases loans that banks make on what is called the secondary market. By expanding the type of loans that it will buy, Fannie Mae is hoping to spur banks to make more loans to people with less-than-stellar credit ratings” little did they realise how effective their spurs would be! Unbridled lending made many rich people richer. Americans are growing angry over the “golden parachutes” that protect business executives even if their companies fail. After serving eighteen days as the chief executive of Washington Mutual before the bank collapsed on September 26, Alan Fishman stands to receive a $19 million severance package. That is the equivalent of $1.12 million for each day he led the company—a company that subsequently imploded, no less. In the Bible and the Koran it is forbidden to use money to make money, i.e. to take interest — our entire modern western economy, and now more or less the global economy, is built on that system. Some European countries have quietly made provision for Muslims to ‘do business’ in different ways so they can keep (a version of) their laws. Nobody has suggested making similar provisions for Jews or Christians! What is the remedy for mammon worshippers? Those who have stolen from the poor to make the rich richer? The Bible advises, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need”. (Ephesians Chapter 4 verse 28) Governments may have a duty to shore up the system but only the power of the risen Christ in a life will break the link with mammon.