I was pleasantly surprised and thankful when I read in the July/August issue of Christianity Today that Evangelical groups are attacking (their word) loan sharks. The article went on to say: “Opponents of payday lending have a new ally in the fight against predatory lenders: the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).” The advocacy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is part of the newly formed Faith for Just Lending coalition. Other members are the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the National Baptist Convention USA, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, and the PICO National Network. Faith leaders in Kentucky, Alabama, and South Dakota have asked state legislatures to cap the loans, which come with interest rates of more than 300 percent. What a great witness by the Southern Baptists and a great way to stand in the prophetic tradition of the Christian faith calling out those who oppress the poor.
I was also shocked by a similar ethical business practice in the pricing of prescription drugs. The latest July/August Bulletin of AARP has an article written by Peter Jaret, an award winning health and medicine writer living in California. High prices of brand drugs have always been with us because as the drug companies assert, “When a new drug is released, pharmaceutical companies can charge whatever the market will bear to recoup their R&D costs and make a profit.” Because brand-name drugs reap such huge rewards, pharmaceutical companies have begun to resort to controversial ways to protect their monopoly. One way is to change the formula to a time release version that remains under the same patent. Another is dubbed “pay for delay”. "This is when brand name drug makers pay generics not to enter the market," explains Geoffrey Joyce , an associate professor of pharmacy at the University of Southern California. These price spikes, or gouging, are becoming critical in the health of many to the point that some patients simply cannot afford to pay and therefore do not take their needed drugs and develop more critical and expensive diseases.
Christian organizations such as ERLC and the SBC are not experts in drugs and may find it difficult to engage in ethical discussion on this topic. But let us make no mistake, ethical principles are operating here and they are not necessarily Christian. Christian doctors, pharmacologists, CEO’s of drug companies and others in the know are qualified to speak. Hopefully they will. I do wish our Reformed Church assemblies (WCRC, Naparc, CCC, CCT-USA, Justice For All, etc,) or our social justice committees would speak to the ethics involved. If Baptists and other evangelical Christians can do this why cannot we Reformed? What another opportunity for (Reformed) Christians to speak truth to power in our culture all for the glory of God and the coming of his Kingdom.
Other large industries today are facing governmental investigations on fraudulent business practices, and or price collusion with their so-called competitors. One need only think of recent news reports on the airline industry.
To conclude, Christian ethics in business is a fertile field which needs far greater engagement by Christian churches, organizations, societies, individual Christians and Reformed ethicists.