In September of 2019, Jubilee Baptist began a practice of regularly paying down debts held by church members and friends and comrades in our community. Once per month during worship, we give someone a check to pay off the entirety of a debt they owe. We do this because we know that the powers of our world have forced most people to take out debt they can't repay just to get by. We do this because God calls us to live against the pattern of this world. We do this because we believe we have to work together to see each other's liberation. Recognizing the struggles of inequality and instability caused caused by capitalism, many churches today ask "How can we help people get out of debt?" Jubilee Baptist says, "We’re all in debt and have only each other."
We began with a credit card debt of about $4,500 owed by a church member, Amy. That credit card had a 29% interest rate, and Amy and her partner paid $315/month on it. In total, they have about $70,000 in debt and pay about $1,600/month. When asked about how she got into debt, Amy wrote, “While I have a good full-time job, I have always had medical bills each month for supplies for my diabetes. My parents helped me with that and money for groceries. After my dad passed three years ago, I have used various credit cards to cover moving expenses, medical expenses, and getting married.”
At Jubilee we know that Amy’s situation represents that of not just millions of Americans, but most within our congregation. Capitalism creates situations that leave us no choice but to take out loans just to get by. It forces us to make to take on debt that no amount of will-power, budgeting, and cost-cutting can overcome. As a church, we believe that we can’t face these problems on our own, and that our only hope is organizing lives and our money differently towards the liberation made possible in the life shown by Jesus. In addition to our Debt Liberation Grants, we are starting Mutual Aid Teams in which a small group of people pool their resources to pay off one another’s debts faster than they could have on their own.
Our church currently has $20,000 budgeted to go directly to pay for our Debt Liberation Grants. We want to give others a chance to contribute as well. We hope to have 200 people give $9/month for the next six months or a one-time gift of $50. That will raise about $10,000. Every dollar given will go directly to paying off people’s debts. By the end of 2020, we hope to have paid off $40,000 in debt plus thousands more paid off through our Mutual Aid Teams collective work. We would greatly appreciate your support as we begin this ministry. If you’d like to support our Debt Liberation Fund click here.
At Jubilee we know there'll come a day when no one needs to take out debt for medical expenses or education, school supplies or rent. We know a day approaches when the mighty will be thrown down, and the lowly lifted up. And until that day comes in full, we commit to the work of liberating one another as if it were already here.