Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) argued, “Democrats’ student loan socialism is a slap in the face to working Americans who sacrificed to pay their debt or made different career choices to avoid debt.”

“‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,’ is more than a line from the Lord’s Prayer that children memorize in Sunday school,” Barber and Wilson-Hartgrove wrote.

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“For practicing Christians, it is a regular reminder of the Jubilee tradition that Jesus embraced in his first sermon in Luke’s gospel. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,’ Jesus declared from the prophet Isaiah, ‘and has anointed me to proclaim… the favorable year of the Lord.’ As his 1st-century hearers knew, Jesus was referring to the debt forgiveness laid out in Leviticus 25, which prescribes a regular social practice of clearing debts in order to correct for the accumulated injustice of an unequal distribution of resources in society,” the two explained. “The idea doesn’t come from Karl Marx, as McConnell suggests, but from ancient Scripture.”

The two explained the biblical history of debt forgiveness.

“While the Jubilee is a clear command of Scripture, biblical scholars have debated how often it was actually practiced in ancient Israel,” the two wrote. “But the economic historian Michael Hudson, who has directed a decades-long study at Harvard’s Peabody Museum, argues in his book …and forgive them their debts that the notion of Jubilee wasn’t simply an ideal for ancient Israel, but rather a practical lesson learned during the Babylonian exile. Ancient Mesopotamian societies had learned from experience that crippling debt was an inevitable consequence of lending at interest (what the Bible calls ‘usury’). For the good of the whole, a practice of ‘Clean Slate’ debt forgiveness emerged to keep society functioning. The children of Israel came to understand this practice as God’s design.”

Barber and Wilson-Hartgrove argue the GOP’s talking points have exposed hypocrisy.

“For decades, Republicans have claimed to champion biblical values, and MAGA enthusiasts like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene have more recently embraced the goal of a “Christian nation.” But nothing exposes the hypocrisy of Christian nationalism more than Republicans’ knee-jerk reaction against debt forgiveness,” they wrote. “As Christian pastors, we know that the false promise of a ‘Christian nation’ has persuaded millions of Americans to support policies that hurt God’s people. In a multi-faith democracy, we don’t need our faith to be privileged by state power. But every faith can and should inform our vision for our common life. The tradition of debt forgiveness, which is shared by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike, offers a powerful vision for a way forward from the historic inequality that currently harms our economy.”

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