It can come as a shock to Christians today to realise that the banking system is built on a practice that has been condemned by the Church for most of its history. We have to ask ourselves what constitutes usury today. Is all lending at interest wrong? Or only if it’s at excessive rates and, if so, what is excessive? Should we support banking systems that avoid usury, such as those that have appeared recently due to the rise of Islamic finance? Perhaps we should apply the word usury more broadly, to refer to making money out of money?
Whatever our conclusions, we are all to some extent complicit in the problem, because we participate in the financial system. It would be impossible not to do so, even as we work to change it.
The way in which we use our money is a key part of any attempt to change things. The money that we put into a bank helps it to do its work. That’s why increasing numbers of people are concerned to ensure that their bank will use the money in a way that reflects their values.
Putting money into – or taking it away from – a bank can also be a form of economic activism. In the US, over ten million people have moved their money from major banks to local institutions since the financial crash. On one occasion, 40,000 people left the banks in a single day. In the UK, the organisation Move Your Money is encouraging people to take similar action and the number of people using “ethical banks” is at an all-time high.