I read this and wonder, what about usury?

UPDATE 20 July 2017: But, reasoning in the comments persuades me that the situations aren’t parallel in important ways.


7 Replies to “Usury”

  1. With ursury, the original sense is still forbidden– going “I’ve got you over a barrel, I’m going to milk it for all that I can.”

    We’ve just managed to get to a place where folks do reasonably have a choice between paying interest and not taking advantage of an opportunity.

    1. That sounds reasonable, but some liberal Christians argue similarly that homosexual activity today (in the context of a “loving committed relationship,” yadda yadda yadda…) differs from the homosexual activity in classical Athens that Paul condemned. Sarah Ruden argues this in Paul Among the People. There’s a similar mode of interpretation, at least among protestants, that we may ignore this part here because Paul is speaking to a particular cultural context, but we may not ignore that part because here he’s speaking to everyone.

      1. That doesn’t hold water even granting the basis for argument, because it was far from uncommon for men to not keep their lover-boys– the modern day hook-up culture is quite possibly worse than their “homosexual activity,” although not quite as bad as the current Middle Eastern “dancing boy” culture.

        Not ignoring the assumptions for the sake of argument, though, Paul’s comments aren’t the only reason to oppose the variety of different sexual actions (there is an entire philosophical school involved!), and the culture of Rome had a lot more than homosexual hook-up culture to comment on.
        A lot of the stuff is understandably not even mentioned in schools, but… well, I’ll try to dance around a subject with an example from campaign claims:
        One politician talked about how his opponent used nursing infants in the bath for sexual gratification.
        The problem, from their point of view, is that he was too indulgent because there were several of them and he was really into it– not that he was using freaking babies for stimulation. Sort of like how we might regard a drunk, while not minding drinking in moderation.

      2. *sigh* First line should be either “it was far from common for men to not keep” or “it was extremely common for men to keep.”

        1. It comes down to whether or not homosexual activity is intrinsically wrong. Ruden might argue (I’m working from memory) that in 50 A.D. Rome it could be nothing but evil, and Paul was correct to warn Christians to stay away from it. Today, Ruden et al. might say, homosexual relationships can be as loving and God-honoring as heterosexual relationships.

          Charging interest, any at all (the argument goes) was thought to be intrinsically wrong in 1100, but now we see that interest is not wrong in itself, but only if abused.

        2. Very true– and to judge that, we’d have to look at how it was treated.

          Starting point– was homosexual sex, or even sex outside of marriage, OK it it was with someone not of the brotherhood/ingroup?

  2. Good point. As I understand it, Jews in medieval Christendom weren’t subject to laws against usury, and apparently Jewish law allowed them to lend money at interest, at least to non-Jews. It would be inaccurate to say they were subject to vice laws, but their own rules prohibited sodomy.

    So the conclusion might be that charging any interest at all was never wrong in itself, but only wrong because of the social and economic conditions in which people were living then. Over time those conditions changed, and charging interest became okay, and paying a fair rate of interest became a moral obligation. The parallel with usury is not sodomy, but something like champerty.

    Maybe the parallel with sodomy is something like divorce. Or maybe it’s without parallel.

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