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God versus Banks, Round 1?

In a hoo-ha that started just before Christmas, the Church has decided to wade into
the debate about money and the war of words is escalating.

It
all started with the Pope speaking out against greed and the pursuit of
profit in his address for World Peace Day.  In
his statement appeared sentences such as: ""Financial activity is only focused on
itself without any consideration of the long term, the common good."

It
certainly doesn’t sound as though financial returns are top of mind: “The unbridled pursuit of wealth for wealth's sake
creates a risk that in the world the rich will live in an ivory tower
surrounded by a desert of poverty and degradation."

The Pope continued with such sentiments with
more words on Christmas Day: “Our world will certainly fall apart …
if people look only to their own interests."

The
Queen added a nod in her Christmas speech with
lines such as:

"Over
the years those who have seemed to me to be the most happy, contented
and fulfilled have always been the people who have lived the most
outgoing and unselfish lives; the kind of people who are generous with
their talents or their time.”

And it is that time of year for
some, who are of that faith, to pay respects for his teachings, which
is why the Church of England and many other churches, then added their
considerable weight to the debate today, with five leading bishops
accusing the Government of thinking that money is the answer to
everything.

Bishops of Durham, Winchester, Hulme, Manchester and Carlisle made the comments to the Sunday Telegraph.  Their
target is the policy of the current Government, but the comments
attack the heart of financial motivations and markets.

For example, the
Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, the Bishop of Manchester, states: “This
is not just an economic issue, but a moral one. It’s about what we
value,” he said.

“The Government believes that money can answer all of
the problems and has encouraged greed and a love of money that the
Bible says is the root of all evil. It is morally corrupt because it
encourages people to get into a lifestyle of believing they can always
get what they want.”

The Right Reverend Stephen Lowe, the
Church’s Bishop for Urban Life and Faith and also the Bishop of Hulme,
said: “The Government isn’t telling people who are already deep in debt
to stop overextending themselves, but instead is urging us to spend
more. That is morally suspect and morally feeble.”

And the
Right Reverend Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, said: “While the rich
have got richer, the poor have got poorer. When a big bank or car
company goes bankrupt, it gets bailed out, but no one seems to be
bailing out the ordinary people who are losing their jobs and seeing
their savings diminished.”

Strong emotions indeed.

This follows
their Christmas sermons, where these bishops attacked banks
and governments.

For example, the Right Reverend Nigel McCullouch said
on Christmas Day: “the good thing is that this collapse of the god of
materialism and consumerism is forcing us to think again … As the New
Testament aptly concludes, in a frequently misquoted verse, it is not
money itself but 'the love of money' that is at the heart of evil.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, preached that: "Christianity neither condemns nor canonises the market economy
– it may be an essential element in the conduct of human affairs.  But we have to remember that it is a system governed by people, not some
blind force like gravity.  Those who operate the market have an obligation to act in ways that
promote the common good, not just in ways that promote the interests of
certain groups.  The market economy will only work justly if it has an underlying moral
purpose."

And
these sentiments were reflected in other countries, as the German head
of the evangelical church, Bishop Wolfgang Huber, said: “a really
important lesson from this year has been that we really stop
worshipping money the way we have," and particularly attacked Deutsche
Bank’s CEO, Josef Ackermann, accusing him of ‘idolatry’ to money and
saying that “never again will a (CEO) set a target of 25 percent on
equity returns."

Mr. Ackermann is well known in Germany for setting the
goal of earning a pre-tax return on equity of 25 per cent.

Result?

Josef
Ackermann has been about the only banker to stand up against this
attack over the Christmas period, quoted as saying
that Bishop Huber’s comments were “inappropriate”.

That's not that strong a retort though, and I
am sure that Mr. Ackermann was raging at home … but then maybe, just
maybe, all of this sabre rattling is just the Church's way of reiterating the
teachings of their God:

"Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were
buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers
and the benches of those selling." Matthew 21:11-13

Casting_out_the_money_changers


The Money Changers
by Carl Heinrich Bloch (May 23, 1834 – February 22, 1890)

p.s. what was the Church talking about during the boom times?

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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