Past time for a Rolling Jubilee

Musing about that billionaire guy who said, more than once, that rich people in general — and business-people in particular — are not job creators: Indeed, in the video, he talked about what great undeserved privileges the wealthy already have.

They sound like the people portrayed in the satirical I am a job creator: A manifesto for the entitled. Just one of many good quotes: “I am entitled to a healthy and well-educated workforce, a modern and efficient transportation system and protection for my person and property, just as I am entitled to demonize the government workers who provide them.” Yet they talk about terms such as moral hazard, without seeming to have any sense of their own immorality of greed.

Indeed, my wife noted recently that she got just a taste of the relatively good life right before we were married. She was working for an insurance company for a couple years making more annually as she would for her first two years teaching. She got a company car, so by selling her existing vehicle, she could bank that money. Her mileage reimbursement to the company for personal trips was far below the going rate. She could afford to travel, but now she was raking in the airline mileage points on business trips to boot. The fact that she didn’t enjoy the job WAS a downside.

By contrast she reported listening to some radio program about some sociologist not only studying the poor, but living as a poor person. The sociologist concluded that the cause of poverty was being poor. That sounds cheeky and/or redundant, but here’s what meant. You want to get a decent apartment but you can’t come up with the first and last month’s rent. So you stay in some weekly place, even though it costs more over time. Processed food is cheaper and more available in poor neighborhoods than fresh food. It’s a cycle from which it is hard to break free. You end up taking out payday loans, which, BTW, the Church of England has decided to take on.

When I read in about the Occupy Wall Street people doing their Rolling Jubilee, a “Strike Debt project that buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it,” I was astonished. This is a largely secular organization doing precisely what the Bible has instructed. The book Jesus for President reiterates the economic, spiritual and justice efficacy of forgiving debt, or jubilee. I also loved the fact that Richmond, California sent a letter to 32 banks announcing a tentative plan to buy out the debt of the more than 600 of its residents’ mortgages. Using its powers of eminent domain…

OK, you non-Christians, you may leave the room; I’m going to proselytize, to the Christians, now. Be very wary of the “prosperity gospel.” Jesus is not saying to you, “You’ll be rich in material things” if you follow Him; rather, you’ll be rich in the Spirit. You know that phrase, “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”? That means that, if you believe that Christ died for you – thus forgiving your debt of sin – the very LEAST you can do is to forgive your financial debtors. I mean, it’s only money, marked with Caesar’s image. Don’t be the money lenders in the temple whose tables Jesus was compelled to overturn.

4 thoughts on “Past time for a Rolling Jubilee”

  1. Am I a terrible, awful cynic if I’m a little worried about the Church proposal?

    Microfinance was considered a Nobel-worthy idea, but now people are starting to realize it’s just another form of predatory lending.

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  2. I see only a few places in the four official Gospels where the genuine Jesus of Nazareth comes through. The Render Unto Caeser story is one of those, As time goes on I find more and more to learn from that story.

    The point, as I see it, is this. Money is a game. If you want to play the game, then you have to follow the rules laid down by the people who run the game. If you don’t want to play by the rules, opt out. And yes, even if you yourself don’t see any alternatives to the game, The Man Himself says there’s at least one good alternative.

    I see Rolling Jubilee as playing inside the money game. It is a creative way to use the rules. But to play the game like that, to turn the rules of the casino to one’s advantage (and to the advantage of one’s neighbors) one first has to understand that one does not have to be beholden to the game and to the people who run it. But first one has to be aware that there are alternatives. That’s where the Render Unto Caesar story comes in. It’s a liberating story, powerfully subversive.

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  3. I’m not a follower of the Prosperity Gospel. There’s too much evidence contrary to it’s premise. But I’ve always found Jesus’ phrase to render unto Caesar a bit of a double entrendre…since, as a Christian, I believe everything belongs to God! What a wonderful way to answer that question; placing the person’s priority squarely back on their shoulders. But, when we look at paying taxes to our corrupt “Caesar” (the government) we don’t think we have many options. Interesting.

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  4. the Scripture lesson I’m reading this Sunday at church
    Scripture Reading, Sunday, September 8, 2013
    Old Testament Lesson: Leviticus 25:8-10, 13-14, 35-42

    You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years. Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh month—on the day of atonement—you shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family. In this year of jubilee you shall return, every one of you, to your property. When you make a sale to your neighbour or buy from your neighbour, you shall not cheat one another.
    If any of your kin fall into difficulty and become dependent on you, you shall support them; they shall live with you as though resident aliens.Do not take interest in advance or otherwise make a profit from them, but fear your God; let them live with you. You shall not lend them your money at interest taken in advance, or provide them food at a profit. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God.
    If any who are dependent on you become so impoverished that they sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves. They shall remain with you as hired or bound labourers. They shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. Then they and their children with them shall be free from your authority; they shall go back to their own family and return to their ancestral property. For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves are sold.

    Leader: The word of the Lord.
    People: Thanks be to God.

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