Forgive Us Our Debts | Sojourners

Forgive Us Our Debts

Based on recent developments in federal legislation,

Based on recent developments in federal legislation, I propose that we tweak the Lord’s Prayer uttered by American congregations each and every Sunday. The words "Give us our daily bread" are as relevant as ever. It’s the subsequent request that needs some updating: "Forgive us our debts, Lord, for surely no one on earth is willing to forgive them."

Debtors, you see, receive scant mercy in America today. Congress made sweeping changes to bankruptcy laws this past March, setting strict rules that block individuals from wiping out their debt.

Chapter 7 long has been a refuge for people who are so deep in debt they have no prayer of repaying what they owe. Under Chapter 7 standards, debtors turn over to the courts all but their essential assets (their shelter, for example, is off limits) in exchange for a clean start. But the new legislation dramatically narrows the gate to Chapter 7 protection, and pushes many debtors into Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead. In Chapter 13, debtors pay off their debt under a stringent schedule, and typically their wages are garnisheed well into the future.

No one wants to see irresponsible spenders rewarded, of course. If my neighbor buys plasma screen TVs and spends winters on a Caribbean isle, I don’t have much sympathy for his or her credit card woes. No question, financial discipline is in order for those individuals whose consumer appetites outpace their personal assets.

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Sojourners Magazine July 2005
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