'Rolling Jubilee' Cites Bible in Project to 'Forgive' Anonymous Debts

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  • The Rolling Jubilee Project, organized by the Strike Debt Committee, seek to relieve
    (Photo: Screenshot/Strike Debt Promotional Video)
    The Rolling Jubilee Project, organized by the Strike Debt Committee, seek to relieve anonymous debt using donations.
By Katherine Weber, Christian Post Reporter
November 16, 2012|4:52 pm

The Rolling Jubilee project, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, is following the Bible's example of forgiveness by offering an early Christmas present to those throughout the country who are suffering debt from medical expenses, credit card bills, or college tuition fees.

A brainchild of the Occupy Wall Street movement's subgroup, the Strike Debt committee, the Rolling Jubilee is a volunteer-run debt relief project with a simple goal: to use donated money to absolve the debt amounts held by collection agencies.

As the project's official website states, the word jubilee "comes from many faith traditions including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. A jubilee is an event in which all debts are cancelled and all those in bondage are set free. It worked in Biblical times and it can still work today."

"Rolling Jubilee is a Strike Debt project that buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it," the group explains.

"Together we can liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal," it adds.

After a highly successful gala event in New York City on Nov. 15, which included performances by comedian Janeane Garofalo, "Daily Show" co-creator Lizz Winstead, and a variety of musical performances by members of Sonic Youth, Neutral Milk Hotel and TV on the Radio, the project has managed to raise nearly $300,000 in donations, which, according to its official website, will absolve nearly $6 million in debt.

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As event organizer Astra Taylor told New York Magazine, the project's endeavor is to buy the debts held by collection agencies, which are often sold by banks and credit card companies at discounted rates.

The project then forgives the debt instead of continuing payment.

One important aspect of the project is that it does not relieve individual debts, but rather relieves anonymous amounts from the debt collection agencies.

The grassroots campaign is reportedly using its first batch of donations to settle medical debt, and it will then move on to credit cards and school tuition.

"As we've seen on the East Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we, the people, are the ones who are best equipped to provide the help that damaged communities need," Strike Debt stated in a recent press release.

"For years, all kinds of communities have been facing down a debt crisis that has stretched their resources and made them especially vulnerable to sudden shocks. (Seventy-six) percent of American households are in debt, and 15 percent are being pursued by a debt collector. People shouldn't have to go into debt for basic necessities like groceries, healthcare and education. Though the banks got bailed out, the people are still waiting for their turn," the press release added.

As the Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite writes in a post for The Huffington Post, the Occupy movement is "operationalizing" what Jesus taught Christians in the Lord's Prayer through Rolling Jubilee.

"Jesus starts his ministry (Luke 4:16-19) by standing up in the synagogue and reading from one of the key texts of his Hebrew scriptures on the biblical 'Jubilee.' The biblical 'Jubilee' is a time of debt forgiveness," the Rev. Brooks writes.

"Rolling Jubilee is exactly what Jesus was talking about and doing something about throughout his whole ministry," she added.

Although the endeavor behind Rolling Jubilee has been congratulated as being elegantly simple and profound, economic critics argue that the process isn't as easy as it looks.

"Technically, the project is feasible. Still, even if Occupy's moles do manage to buy a lot of distressed debt, the nation's multi-trillion dollar debt burden won't be much affected," CNN Money contends.

"And as for the industry, the two largest publicly traded credit purchasers are expected to spend nearly $1 billion in distressed debt per year," the opinion article adds, arguing that a few million dollars in donations from the Rolling Jubilee will hardly make a dent.

The Rolling Jubilee project is currently accepting donations on its website, and promises more fundraising events similar to Thursday's kickoff event in the near future.

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