Pharyngula

Banking with Jesus is a bad idea

Integrity Bank in Georgia decided to build their business model on Christian principles.

Integrity’s employees regularly prayed before meetings or in branch lobbies with customers, while the bank gave 10 percent of its net income to charities.

“We felt if we prayed and obeyed God’s word and did what He asked, that He would help us be successful,” the bank’s founder, Steve Skow, told the Journal-Constitution in 2005.

Chalk this one up to another example of how religion fails and we really ought to base our decisions on reality: the bank failed. You really can’t rely on that God fella, you know.

Perhaps one contributing factor was their obedience to that other Christian principle, greed.

CEO Steve Skow earned $1.8 million that year, while senior lender and executive vice president Doug Ballard earned $847,222. A typical community bank CEO, banking consultants said, earn roughly $300,000 per year.

And say…isn’t there something in the Bible that prohibits lending at interest, too?

Comments

  1. #1 Claudia
    August 30, 2008

    I know I shouldn’t be surprised…but that is frightfully disgusting. I still marvel at the stupidity and hypocrisy of religious organisations.

  2. #2 CalGeorge
    August 30, 2008

    If the bank failed, they must not have done what God asked.

    Therefore, God exists.

  3. #3 Reginald Selkirk
    August 30, 2008

    while the bank gave 10 percent of its net income to charities

    Is that gross income or net income? And were two of those charities named Steve Skow and Doug Ballard?

  4. #4 Blake Stacey
    August 30, 2008

    Well, they also have the problem that God kills people who are not good Communists (Acts 5).

  5. #5 Sili
    August 30, 2008

    Ah, but that was just one of those silly little things that were superceeded by the new covenant. Duh. Like pork and shellfish and lying and throwing-the-first-stone and so on.

  6. #6 BriansAWildDowner
    August 30, 2008

    “Integrity’s employees regularly prayed before meetings or in branch lobbies with customers”

    Um, have they actually read the Bible?

    From the book of Matthew.

    6:5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

  7. #7 Norman Doering
    August 30, 2008

    Chalk this one up to another example of how religion fails and we really ought to base our decisions on reality: the bank failed. You really can’t rely on that God fella, you know.

    Beliefs have consequences:
    http://normdoering.blogspot.com/2008/08/consequences-of-belief.html

    This story might get more interesting:

    The FBI, which investigates possible financial crimes, is looking into the situation, said agency spokesman Stephen Emmett. The “FBI is working with the FDIC” on the case, but it “is not prepared to discuss Integrity Bank at this time,” he said.

  8. #8 TSC
    August 30, 2008

    hahahahahaha!

  9. #9 DB
    August 30, 2008

    After the ultimate prayer failure for the Obama speech, it is a wonder people keep trying this crap.

    @6: That’s one of those lines they choose not to take literally. Instead, they take some of the more asinine parts literally.

  10. #10 HidariMak
    August 30, 2008

    CalGeorge said…
    If the bank failed, they must not have done what God asked.

    Therefore, God exists.

    Sure, unless God didn’t want the bank to succeed. That would mean that the bank failure was god’s will, so god exists. But if the bank succeeded, it would be because of praying to god, meaning that god exists.

    And christians wonder why everyone else refuses to see the proof of god’s existance.

    BriansAWildDowner quoted…
    6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

    So if the bible instructs people to pray frequently, that would make a lot of “coming out of the closet” necessary to being a good christian. So why are they aghast when others come out of the closet?

  11. #11 Geb
    August 30, 2008

    The most hilarious bit is the original reason why lending at interest was considered blasphemy. Money was a creation of man, not of god, and interest was too similar to creating a self replicating entity for the christians at the time. It was challenging god’s sole right to create life.

  12. #12 SC
    August 30, 2008

    Integrity Bank

    I know it’s gonna be good when the first two words make me burst out laughing.

  13. #13 watercat
    August 30, 2008

    Here we just convicted God’s investment councilors. You really can’t rely on that God fella—but the victims are still sticking up for these guys who scammed them out of $80,000,000.

    http://www.godlesscolumbia.org/2008/08/dont-let-jesus-be-your-guide.html

  14. #14 June
    August 30, 2008

    Skow and Ballard got exactly what they prayed/preyed for.
    So I plan to open the Jesus Saves Bank of California.

    “We guarantee you’ll get your money back in Heaven”.

  15. #15 Tim
    August 30, 2008

    Reminds me of the story of Annanias and Saphira in Acts chapter 5, if there is a god, they are so screwed. Of course it’s one of those stories that gets a LOT of interpretation, so they can say it doesn’t mean them, like the kosher rules. It’d be rude to remind believers of this, so don’t do it , unless you really want to ;-).

  16. #16 Rey Fox
    August 30, 2008

    Another data point for staying away from Christian businesses.

  17. #17 Gary J. Bivin
    August 30, 2008

    …isn’t there something in the Bible that prohibits lending at interest, too?

    This is why many Jews became bankers and got rich making loans to Christians. They didn’t have that prohibition, and evolved to fill the empty economic niche.

  18. #18 Holbach
    August 30, 2008

    They should have had under the main sign,”Banking On Insanity”. Of course the relgionists would not give it any heed, and would rely on their god for continued solvency. Oh, the abject uselessness of imaginary intercession! I would love to have stood on the sidewalk when the depositors exited with their reduced funds, and express so pitifully, “where is your god?” This type of appeal to nothing will only persist, and yet nothing will be learned. And they wonder why we ridicule their irrational beliefs.

  19. #19 Nelson
    August 30, 2008

    Ha! Ha!

  20. #20 pcarini
    August 30, 2008

    SC @ #12

    Integrity Bank

    I know it’s gonna be good when the first two words make me burst out laughing.

    My thoughts exactly. Operated on Christian Principles or not, I’d stay far, far away based solely on the name. Any time a company puts something like that in its name, you can be assured that they don’t possess exactly that quality. I wonder if the same doesn’t apply to the Catholic practice of naming their children after virtues (Faith, Hope, Charity, Chastity, etc.)

  21. #21 BCREason
    August 30, 2008

    I would be suspicious that the whole thing was a scam.

    In business dealings when some one says “You can trust me I’m a Christian” that’s when I start counting my change.

    Anyone can profess a deep abiding faith and Christian values that doesn’t make it true. Most times it’s dodge to get you to trust with out good reason.

    It maybe the bank was set up to attract Christians to invest and deposit thinking that it was run by highly moral people when they may have been con artists.

  22. #22 pcarini
    August 30, 2008

    I can’t be the only one who instantly got Frank Zappa’s Heavenly Bank Account stuck in my head, can I?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdIh8sLg_X8 (skip to about 5:40, sorry I couldn’t find a better link)

  23. #23 Kryth
    August 30, 2008

    LOL!

    Economic survival of the fittest. I guess you weak-ass god lost.

  24. #24 jeff
    August 30, 2008

    We felt if we prayed and obeyed God’s word and did what He asked, that He would help us be successful,” the bank’s founder, Steve Skow,

    A fine example of the selfishness inherent in Christianity. But a more fundamental example is: How many Christians would there be if their religion did not promise them eternal bliss? The desire for immortality is an expected consequence of the survival instinct mother nature gave you (along with other animals), but religion shamelessly twists it to serve it’s own ends. At least evolution seems more honest.

  25. #25 JStein
    August 30, 2008

    Is anyone really surprised that there’s corruption in Christian banking?

    Honestly, there’s corruption in the Family First Movement (or, as we like to call it out here, Leave-it-to-Beaver Club) and the Papacy.

    If there’s a body of religion that’s squeaky clean, I’d be really impressed. Simply put, that’s not the case. If you drag big daddy Jesus into something, chances are you’re doing it to cover up your shady racket.

  26. #26 craig
    August 30, 2008

    Rapture Bank®. “Why not take it with you?”®

    It can’t fail.

  27. #27 craig
    August 30, 2008

    Well… maybe Revelations Bank® would be a little more subtle… and bank-sounding.

  28. #28 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    August 30, 2008

    There was a bank here in Minnesota that worked kind of the same way. I think it was Riverdale Bank, or something like that. I saw a news blurb on it several years ago. The loan officers would pray with applicants for loan approvals for cars, mortgages and personal loans.

    What I couldn’t figure out is what they expected God to do if they have bad credit. Was God supposed to blind the judgment of the underwriters to make bad credit decisions? It seems like a bad way to run a bank, and if the underwriters don’t pray hard enough, the bank could end up like IndyMac. Unless the underwriters also pray that God inspires people to deposit enough funds to cover bad loans, they would be sunk.

    Or more likely, a turndown would be the opportunity for the loan officer to say “God is sending you a message that you need to straighten out your finances before borrowing. See Luke X:xx-xx.”

    All this banking stuff can be done without bringing God. My employer doesn’t use prayer for approvals or increased deposits and it is the only AAA rated bank in the US, even though we are risking the wrath of God by extending benefits to same sex couples.

  29. #29 jimmiraybob
    August 30, 2008

    Another Faith-Based Failure?©®*
    *Pending

    This should make me rich in the coming years and should come in especially handy if McCain/Palin/Rove 2008 actually pull it off. I have my crack team of attorneys working on licensing agreements as we speak.

  30. #30 SC
    August 30, 2008

    I wonder if the same doesn’t apply to the Catholic practice of naming their children after virtues (Faith, Hope, Charity, Chastity, etc.)

    That reminded me of some lines from an episode of The Simpsons:

    Homer: Aah, listen… since all the other fun stuff is out of bounds, how ’bout a little bible-thumping in the crows nest? What do you say Miss….
    Marge: Constance Prudence Chastity Goodfaith.
    Homer: Do’h!
    Marge: My friends call me Marge.
    Homer: Ooh.
    Marge: Marge Obedience Temperance Sex-won’t.
    Homer: Do’h!

    http://www.tv.com/the-simpsons/the-wettest-stories-ever-told/episode/691657/trivia.html

  31. #31 Susan
    August 30, 2008

    I saw this story on Atrios’ blog this morning and knew immediately you’d have it covered. You’d think once the details of compensation and incompetence leaked out, there would be some anger– but somehow that stage always seems to get skipped and the believers hobble immediately from denial to acceptance.

  32. #32 raven
    August 30, 2008

    Sounds like another affinity group scam. These are so common that they even have their own name. Mostly Xian, of course.

    One long running scam in Tennessee involves a car that runs off of a perpetual motion machine.

    A lot of the victims never catch on, even after the perps end up in jail. Because they said they were xians.

  33. #33 Dan B.
    August 30, 2008

    I’m amazed by how many devout Christians gloss over this New Testament gem: “t is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

    Maybe they have a very creative idea of what ‘rich’ means?

  34. #34 Mike
    August 30, 2008

    I hear Edward G. Robinson in The Ten Commandments and Chief Wiggum intoning “Where’s yer messiah now, nyaah!?!”

    On the other hand, WTF is up with this, Gary J. Bivin?

    [The New Testament prohibition on lending at interest] is why many Jews became bankers and got rich … They … evolved to fill the empty economic niche.

    Yeah, you know, we Jews are so crafty and clever, we can manage to accelerate our sub-species’ rate of mutation in very precise ways. ‘Cos, you know, there’s a nickel in it for us. On the other hand, all those pogroms really did help with the ol’ natural selection… The big noses were not intentional, though… pure spandrel.

  35. #35 JoJo
    August 30, 2008

    I’m reminded of Nelson Algren’s Rules for Living:

    * Never play cards with any man named “Doc”.

    * Never eat at any place called “Mom’s”.

    * And never, never, no matter what else you do in your whole life, never sleep with anyone whose troubles are worse than your own.

    There should be a new Rule:

    * Never deposit money in a financial institution with a name like “Integrity Bank”.

  36. #36 Stanton
    August 30, 2008

    So if the bible instructs people to pray frequently, that would make a lot of “coming out of the closet” necessary to being a good christian. So why are they aghast when others come out of the closet?

    Wrong closet: there are, or, used to be, different closets for different purposes, i.e., clothes, prayer, shame, food, etc.

    Either that, or one wasn’t supposed to leave, period.

  37. #37 Claudia
    August 30, 2008

    SC, that episode came on a few weeks ago and I don’t know why, but the “Sexwon’t” portion of her name made me giggle til I piddled a little! Sexwon’t!

  38. #38 Fernando Magyar
    August 30, 2008

    OT special request

    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4468#comments_top

    [-] Prof. Goose on August 30, 2008 – 11:55am Permalink | Subthread | Comments top

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    [-] ptoemmes on August 30, 2008 – 11:13am Permalink | Subthread | Comments top

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    FWIW,

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  39. #39 Senecasam
    August 30, 2008

    Why do I suspect that the aptly named Xtian huckster Creflo Dollar was some way involved with this institution?

    Must just be my skeptical nature.

  40. #40 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 30, 2008

    Somewhere Nelson Muntz is warming up.

  41. #42 Duvenoy
    August 30, 2008

    Sad really, that people lose out by forgetting that ancient, atheist adage of: “Pray in one hand and piss in the other, then see which fills up first.”

    That one’s even more effective than: “Have faith, but verify.”

    doov

  42. #43 alcari
    August 30, 2008

    “Dear lord,

    Please create a large pile of cash in our vault, to compensate for our bad business practices.

    amen”

  43. #44 David Marjanovi?, OM
    August 30, 2008

    Aaaah, but I’m sure they piled up immense treasure in Heaven… :-}

    The most hilarious bit is the original reason why lending at interest was considered blasphemy. Money was a creation of man, not of god, and interest was too similar to creating a self replicating entity for the christians at the time. It was challenging god’s sole right to create life.[citation needed]

    What the Bible forbids is “usury”. The Muslim and the traditional Christian interpretation is that all interest is automatically usury; the Jewish consensus already disagreed in the Middle Ages…

  44. #45 sailor
    August 30, 2008

    “Integrity’s employees regularly prayed before meetings or in branch lobbies with customers”
    That is plain creepy.
    On second thoughts hows about we have a streetwalkers bank…

  45. #46 Donovan
    August 30, 2008

    He hath disgraced me, and hindered me 1.8 million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a CEO. Hath not a CEO eyes? Hath not a CEO hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Customer is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a CEO wrong a Customer, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Customer wrong a CEO, what should his sufferance be by Customer example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.

    Irony… It’s funny!

  46. #47 Mold
    August 30, 2008

    Verily, they didst follow the most hallowed of KKKristian pinciples…fleece the flock. Many of our business fans want the riches found in being the religio-crazy minister. No regulations and all the little boys or girls you desire. Yet, they forget that most jurisdictions have these things called laws that contradict their business plan. Yep, “gawds laws” take precedence over Man’s Law. Until the sheriff shows up.

  47. #48 Paper Hand
    August 30, 2008

    As I understand it, the issue of interest was interpreted by medieval rabbis as only applying to their fellow Jews, and not to Gentiles.

    The explanation I’ve heard for the original reason for that law was that, in an pastoral or agrarian society, such as the one that the Bible was written in, loans were generally only needed to cover emergencies, such as crop failures, and that in such a situation, it was considered cruel to demand repayment greater than the original loan, which does make some sense, but is rather irrelevant to modern society.

  48. #49 Sili
    August 30, 2008

    Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT | August 30, 2008 2:37 PM

    Warming up?

  49. #50 carey
    August 30, 2008

    I need to get this straight, so I can formalize a business plan.
    The idea is to start a bank, sell all your pious friends and businesses on your obvious integrity (look at that fish on my car!), then pay yourself (and your friends) buckets of money until it all runs out? Is there a ‘reserve fund’ I need to set up in an offshore bank?

    Sometimes faith is not enough. Sometimes you need an auditor and some government regulation.

  50. #51 Moses
    August 30, 2008

    I’m not surprised. I have clients in the both the Country Music industry and the Christian Music industry. The people in Country are, by-and-large, honest (this doesn’t include the RIAA who are shit stains).

    The Christian Music industry, OTOH, is a fucking greed fest and screwing over everyone else because we are doing this “in the name of Jesus.” “In the name of Jesus” means: make HALF what you should, frequently ‘do not get paid’ and otherwise screwed royally while hiding the fact the false-pious bastard is making millions while screwing all of their employees, contractors, etc.

    I have, over the years, substantially pared the Christian Music segment of my business. Most of what I do have comes from a business manager I work with. So far this year, of the dozen or so clients I’ve done work for, three have stiffed me. Which is about par for the course.

    My secular clients, OTOH, pay their bills on time and in full. I haven’t had a bad secular client in nearly two years and he paid half his bill before he went out of business.

  51. #52 Benjamin Franklin
    August 30, 2008

    I thought that it was JESUS SAVES,

    not Jesus supports sub-prime lending.

    “Get thee to an auditor!”

  52. #53 Quiet Desperation
    August 30, 2008

    I heard the penalty ofr being late on a loan payment was 30 pieces of silver. If you overdrew your checking account, you had to wear a scarlet “O” for a month.

  53. #54 Umm al-Hul
    August 30, 2008

    I can’t get past the idea that a bank is hyping it’s “Christian values” and charging this kind of interest:

    0.00% for the first 6 billing cycles2. Thereafter:
    Signature: 8.99% to 19.99% variable
    Travel Rewards: 8.99% to 19.99% variable
    Platinum (Alternative Pricing): No Introductory Rate. From account opening, 10.99% to 21.99% variable

    If he has exacted usury Or taken increase — Shall he then live? He shall not live! If he has done any of these abominations, He shall surely die; His blood shall be upon him. (Ezekiel 18:13)

  54. #55 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    August 30, 2008

    Moses (#51)- I have a friend who is a website designer. He will take downpayments and Payment on Delivery for all businesses except for churches and religious non-profits. He was stiffed too many times by preachers who wanted to get a break at the time of delivery and not have to pay the final payment “because we are doing God’s work, after all.”

    I had the same experience at a body shop. We restored a preacher’s old Lincoln that he had inherited from a parishioner. He came to pick up the car, and while he was inspecting it I went to the office to get the final bill so he could review it. He tool off, and owed us the final two thousand for two months. When I threatened to call a collection agency, he said “But, I am a minister!” He forgot that two weeks before the car was going to be done, he had shown me a $6000 diamond ring he was going to give to surprise his wife with on their anniversary.

    I just hate being an atheist. I could really use the money that religion brings.

  55. #56 Tim Fuller
    August 30, 2008

    And say…isn’t there something in the Bible that prohibits lending at interest, too?
    ——————

    Every time I get a call from ANY bank or credit card company I make sure to let the person calling know they are doing the devil’s work and make sure they are making enough money to offset the fact that they are selling their souls to the devil.

    I let them know right off they’re going to Hell, and regardless of the fact that I concur with God on the issue, it’s not my scorn or ridicule that moves me to impart this information to them. It’s God’s law and I am just his humble messenger.
    I tell them I am very concerned for them and do not want to have to think of them burning in hell for the rest of eternity.

    I remind them that the bible is quite explicit on the subject of usury and I just wanted to let them know I care about their souls in case their pastor forgot to mention it in the last couple years or so (what with all the gay bashing and reproductive rights subjugation they spend so much of their time on)

    Sure I could just go on the DO NOT CALL list, but then I would miss out on so many great opportunities to act as a Christian witness for these lost souls. One way to move folks AWAY from religion is to constantly remind them what the rules REALLY are.

    Enjoy.

  56. #57 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 30, 2008

    Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT | August 30, 2008 2:37 PM

    Warming up?

    doh

  57. #58 Wowbagger
    August 30, 2008

    As I understand it, the issue of interest was interpreted by medieval rabbis as only applying to their fellow Jews, and not to Gentiles.

    I pointed out the usury prohibition in the bible to a christian I work with; her response was that the ‘real’ interpretation is that you shouldn’t lend money to your friends. It’s okay to do it to anyone else.

    This reminded me just how convenient it is (for christians) that you can take the bible to mean pretty much anything you want it to mean on nearly any topic. Makes it kind of pointless as the source of a moral framework, though – which could, of course, be said about it even if you weren’t casual about the meaning…

  58. #59 Gary J. Bivin
    August 30, 2008

    Mike #34: I was using the term “evolved” in keeping with the overall subject matter of PZ’s blog; I of course did not imply any causal link between financial acumen and nose size. That is left as a thesis subject for some aspiring graduate student.

  59. #60 Mike
    August 30, 2008

    Thanks, Gary. You never can tell with some of the wingers that show up to “post” on PZ’s blog! :-) (Plus, I woke up on the wrong side of the gene pool this morning.)

  60. #61 Wowbagger
    August 30, 2008

    If we’re really lucky there’ll be some sort of power struggle with a resultant schism and the subsequent sects will do their darndest to wipe each other out before they bother anyone else. The thing I’ve found with religious believers is that many of them are more concerned about other groups with minor variations on the the belief structure than they are true unbelievers.

    One place I worked at I used to talk religion with a Greek Orthodox and a Romanian Baptist; they spent more time arguing with each other over whose version of ooga-booga was the more valid than they did trying to convince me atheism was wrong.

  61. #62 Toddahhhh
    August 30, 2008

    Jesus Saves (But charges points and closing fees)

  62. #63 Wowbagger
    August 30, 2008

    Er, crap. That last one (post #61) was meant for the Be Afraid thread. I guess my trip to the gym melted my brain.

  63. #64 Wayne Robinson
    August 30, 2008

    I love this story. I thought about setting up a similar bank in Australia, but I think the regulators would object, and I would like to think that Australians wouldn’t be so stupid… (After all, we did get rid of Ken Ham to you, because he couldn’t get enough support for his Creation Museum in Queensland). Just one question to Rey Fox; is that an alias or were your parents of a mischievous disposition, with the allusion to Reynard Fox?

  64. #65 JohnnieCanuck, FCD
    August 31, 2008

    If you think the Jewish and Christian attitude to the usury prohibition is weird, do a little Googling on the methods Islamic banks employ to allow their clients to earn or pay interest.

    Boggling.

  65. #66 Eric Paulsen
    August 31, 2008

    Ah. Religion as ponzi scheme, how original.

  66. #67 khan
    August 31, 2008

    If you think the Jewish and Christian attitude to the usury prohibition is weird, do a little Googling on the methods Islamic banks employ to allow their clients to earn or pay interest.

    Boggling.

    Jews, Christians, and Muslims all go through strange mental contortions to ‘follow the rules’ in a modern society.

    In Iran, they get around the prohibition on betting on horse races buy setting up ‘businesses’ where everyone pays money to ‘buy’ the horses, because it’s okay to bet on a horse if you own it.

    Kitchen appliances with ‘kosher mode’.

    The cracker really is Jebus, the miracle is that it still appears to be a cracker.