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Banks Learn to Depend on Character

Do you remember Pogo, Walt Kelly’s famous cartoon strip? I do, and perhaps this dates me a bit! The lead character, Pogo, uttered a statement that has become a part of our popular culture: “We have met the enemy,” Pogo said, “and he is us.”

Pogo knew instinctively something that a lot of us in the West have forgotten -- that our biggest wounds are often self-inflicted.

This is certainly true when it comes to the Great Recession. As I’ve been saying for over two years now on BreakPoint and elsewhere, the nation’s economic collapse was the result of an ethical collapse. According to the federal Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, the responsible parties were to be found in Washington, on Wall Street, and on “Main Street,” as well. As the Washington Post noted, the report “spares virtually no one in assigning culpability for the worst financial calamity in generations.”

Truly, we have met the enemy, and he is us.

The good news is that this realization is starting to sink in at a growing number of banks nationwide. The Wall Street Journal reports that some financial institutions, in responding to loan applications, “are digging much deeper than a potential borrower's credit score or business plan.”

The modern, high-tech measures employed to determine the  credit-worthiness of potential borrowers (which did little to prevent the bad loans that contributed to our economic meltdown), are beginning to take a back seat to old-fashioned notions such as the choices a business made to keep itself afloat and pay its bills on time.

In a word, lenders, particularly at smaller community banks, are looking at the character of loan applicants. And we can learn a lot about people’s character by the choices they make. As Jesus said, a tree is known by its fruit.

At long last, the financial industry is starting to check out our ethical fruit once again. They have a financial incentive to do so. Bob Seiwert of the American Bankers Association told the Journal, “Somehow character had been lost. Now all banks are taking a second look at this.” Good!

This back-to-basics, relational approach to banking is yet another example of the truth that economic and moral issues go hand in hand. We simply cannot have a healthy Gross National Product for very long if we are not healthy morally and ethically.

That’s why I’m so excited by our new, six-part video series from the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. This series is called “Doing the Right Thing,” and it focuses on restoring ethical decision-making in our morally confused society. “Doing the Right Thing,” which comes out this month, features Dr. Robert George, Brit Hume, and many other key thinkers on this vital topic.

I think you’ll agree that this is a bracing and desperately needed agenda for such a time as this.

That’s why I’m urging you to go to and sign up for our soon-to-be released, six-part video series, “Doing the Right Thing.” You can use it in your church or small group. Or you can recommend it to secular friends, businesses, and schools. “Doing the Right Thing” uses natural-law arguments that make sense to believers and non-believers alike.

Pogo was right. And it’s time to face the enemy within.

This article published on April 1, 2011.

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

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