"I Cannot Eat Your Prayers": How Student Debt Changed One Woman's Mind on "Christian Charity"
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I meant that figuratively, but seriously: I cannot eat your prayers, and it’s a struggle to buy food these days.
I want to turn the “shame” machine back on you, and I want to invite others like me to come out and stand up against your paternalism. You are not helping me. You do not speak for me. I am the new poor. I wasn’t supposed to be. I did all the right things, but we’re seeing the systematic erosion of the bourgeoisie here in America, after all. It started with home foreclosures.
Now, it’s student debt. Occupy Student Debt just released a video suggesting that one in five new graduates will default. One in five. We have no bankruptcy protection, usually meaning that our credit is ruined for life. And credit is tied to everything in this country. In some states, you can actually lose your driver’s—or professional—license for student loan default. We’re talking about a large segment of our generation losing our future.
And we’re being blamed. We had so many opportunities. How could we squander them—and then turn around and blame our lenders? Without them, we could never have gone to school! And we shouldn’t have, in any case, if we couldn’t afford it. We’re thieves! We’re irresponsible! I think these kinds of insults reaffirm our certainty that these awful things could never happen to us. One of my goals here has been to show you that they can. They are done to us by others.
If you feel that this is solely my fault, that I should have known better, and that the predatory lenders in question bear no responsibility, I invite you to stop calling yourself my “friend.” Which you won’t like, because evangelicals really love that word, “friendship.”
Here’s the thing: I almost never experience you as people who understand what real-world friendship is about. Friendship, true friendship, doesn’t come in the form of paternalistic charity from the powerful to the weak. I don’t want crumbs from your share of the non-profit industrial complex charity, I want you to fight with me for a world where I don’t need charity.
So stand up and join the class war, please, or get out of my way. Do not expect me to be grateful for your prayers. I have survival to worry about, literally.
Kristin Rawls has a useless MA in ethics and international relations and an even more useless one in philosophy. Her work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Religion Dispatches, Bitch Magazine, Global Comment, and elsewhere online.