What the hell happened?

There was a time when being a money lender was akin to being in league with the Devil.

Our worship of wealth and accumulation wasn’t always as coveted as it is now as this wonderful bit of writing near the beginning of DEBT: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber explains—

“The Catholic Church had always forbidden the practice of lending money at interest, but the rules often fell into desuetude, causing the Church hierarchy to authorize preaching campaigns, sending mendicant friars to travel from town to town warning usurers that unless they repented and made full restitution of all interest extracted from their victims, they would surely go to Hell.

From Melville House

These sermons, many of which have survived, are full of horror stories of God’s judgment on unrepentant lenders: stories of rich men struck down by madness or terrible diseases, haunted by deathbed nightmares of the snakes or demons who would soon rend or eat their flesh. In the twelfth century, when such campaigns reached their heights, more direct sanctions began to be employed. The papacy is­ sued instructions to local parishes that all known usurers were to be excommunicated; they were not to be allowed to receive the sacra­ments, and under no conditions could their bodies be buried on hal­lowed ground. One French cardinal, Jacques de Vitry, writing around 1210, recorded the story of a particularly influential moneylender whose friends tried to pressure their parish priest to overlook the rules and allow him to be buried in the local churchyard:

Since the dead usurer’s friends were very insistent, the priest yielded to their pressure and said, “Let us put his body on a donkey and see God’s will, and what He will do with the body. Wherever the donkey takes it, be it a church, a cemetery, or elsewhere, there will I bury it.” The body was placed upon the donkey which without deviating either to right or left, took it straight out of town to the place where thieves are hanged from the gibbet, and with a hearty buck, sent the cadaver flying into the dung beneath the gallows.
Cecco del Caravaggio

Looking over world literature, it is almost impossible to find a single sympathetic representation of a moneylender-or anyway, a professional moneylender, which means by definition one who charges interest. I’m not sure there is another profession (executioners?) with such a consistently bad image. It’s especially remarkable when one considers that unlike executioners, usurers often rank among the richest and most powerful people in their communities. Yet the very name, “usurer,” evokes images of loan sharks, blood money, pounds of flesh, the selling of souls, and behind them all, the Devil, often represented as himself a kind of usurer, an evil accountant with his books and ledgers, or alternately, as the figure looming just behind the usurer, biding his time until he can repossess the soul of a villain who, by his very occupation, has clearly made a compact with Hell.”

So, what the hell did happen? It makes one wonder what it is that we really worship. As is mentioned in the bible,

“Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” — Jesus

Of course, many Christians choose to ignore this, instead choosing to use wealth and accumulation as a sign of their favor in the eyes of God.

What a crock of shit.

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