COMMENTARY: How did we get off track?

INDIANAPOLIS (RNS) How did we go from building the interstate highway system to not doing anything unless it benefits us? How did the party of Eisenhower degenerate into would-be demagogues defaming anyone who stands between them and power? How did a nation that fought totalitarianism spy on young adults just for questioning Wall Street? By Tom Ehrich.

COMMENTARY: Grandiose claims about God poison the common good

(RNS) When people make grandiose claims about “God's will” and “American values” and demonize others who hold different views, we haven't just channeled a tragic yesterday and its wars and pogroms. We have poisoned the well of community on which our nation depends today and made a mockery of God and faith. By Tom Ehrich. About 700.

RNS photo by Vicki Brown

Religious groups stand against payday lending practices

(RNS) People of faith are trying to rein in loan practices they believe take advantage of borrowers often least able to pay. They point to people like Amanda of Jefferson City, Mo., who took out a short-term loan—often called a payday advance—to pay a bill. She ended up taking out another loan to cover the first. She soon found herself juggling three loans and spiraling further into debt. “The faith community has been really instrumental in predatory lending reform, first calling attention to the abusive nature of predatory lending and then in leading the effort to stop it,” Rachel Anderson of the Center for Responsible Lending said.

Many still struggle with payday loans

Payday loans are often easier to obtain than traditional loans. Lenders either do not perform a credit check or have fewer restrictions to qualify. The Durham, N.C.-based Center for Responsible Lending estimates 12 million people get trapped in debt every year because of high interest.

COMMENTARY: Freedom in God’s economy

(RNS) This year's Holy Week pilgrimage will have unusual irony, for the centralized institutions that took control of the Christian message and tried to rule the world now find themselves under assault by the same decentralizing and freedom-seeking that Jesus expressed. By Tom Ehrich.

Food pantry’s prayers violate federal rules

SEYMOUR, Ind. (RNS) After a court ruled that prayers at a food pantry violate federal guidelines, a food pantry here is faced with a Solomon-like choice: Stop the prayers or give up truckloads of free food provided through the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program. By Tim Evans.

RNS photo by Sean Locke/iStockPhoto.

Report says church giving on the rebound

WASHINGTON (RNS) Churches may have suffered financially for the past three years due to the recession, but the fourth annual “State of the Plate” found strong evidence of a rebound in 2011. By Annalisa Musarra.

The Donald trumps The Bible on financial advice

WASHINGTON (RNS) When it comes to financial advice in these tough economic times, more Americans today would rather take advice from business mogul Donald Trump than from the Bible, according to a new survey. By Annalisa Musarra.

RNS photo by Sean Locke/iStockPhoto.

Nonprofit groups oppose Obama’s change in charitable deductions

WASHINGTON (RNS) For the fourth year in a row, President Obama is proposing lower tax deductions for the wealthy on donations to churches and other nonprofit organizations. And for the fourth year in a row, nonprofit groups say the change would lead to a dramatic drop in charitable giving. By Annalisa Musarra.

RNS photo by Sean Locke/iStockPhoto.

Yes, Mormons tithe, but most others don’t

(RNS) Across the religious landscape, tithing is often preached but rarely realized.  Research into church donations shows a wide range of giving, with Mormons among the most generous relative to income, conservative Christians next, followed by mainline Protestants and Catholics last. By Bruce Nolan.