'99 Homes' Exposes the Pain of Foreclosure for (White) Americans

YouTube / Broad Green Pictures

Photo via YouTube / Broad Green Pictures

How do we measure our success? Matthew 6:19-21 warns us against putting our store in earthly things, which are temporary, but American capitalist culture informs us that the stuff we have — the size, the quality, and how much of it we can afford — is what determines our own worth. As Christians, we try to focus on serving God and loving our neighbors, but often it’s a moment of crisis that reveals where our values truly lie.

The film 99 Homes doesn’t include overtly religious elements, but it features that same battle at the heart of its story, a deal-with-the-devil tale set against the 2008 housing market crash. Writer-director Ramin Bahrani presents the film in an unstylized, utterly human way that explores this question from a dire perspective: how people react when everything they’ve worked hard to earn is yanked away, and they must suddenly re-evaluate their own measures of success.

'I'm on Food Stamps. Don't Hate Me For It."

Grocery store image by Katrina Wittkamp/Getty Images

Grocery store image by Katrina Wittkamp/Getty Images

I am on food stamps. This will surprise almost everyone who knows me. I have hidden it from friends, from family, from classmates.

I use self-checkout at the grocery store so I don’t have to face judgment from the cashiers. I read countless posts on Facebook and receive political emails telling me that being on food stamps makes me a degenerate, someone who is dependant and useless. I hear about how I should be kicked off of food stamps so I won’t be so lazy and will get a job.

At the time the economy crashed, I was studying to be a chiropractor. My (now ex-) husband was laid off from his good job. It took him over a year and a half to find a new job. During that time we lost our house and had to declare bankruptcy. Our marriage fell apart.

I’m now a single mom struggling to make ends meet. I was faced with the decision to quit school and go back to work and pray that somehow I’d be able to make the payments on more than $100,000 in student loans or to press on with my education. I prayed about it. I applied for aid. And through the grace of God, I received food stamps.

Radical Economic Justice: Jesus Forgave Sins and Debts

Foreclosure sign

Foreclosure sign

Alone, we do not have the power of Christ to forgive sins. But as the church, the body of Christ on earth, we do. I believe there is a seed of our faith that has been planted by the dissident occupiers, towards the forgiveness of debt that was Christ's deep desire for us, so much so that he told us to repeat it in our daily prayer. It's this way that we, by our holy treatment of our community's economic relations, water the seed of faith, until it grows into a sheltering oak, the Kingdom of God.

If our structures, our societies, do not allow us to practice Jubilee, or forgive debt as Jesus teaches, we need to work to change that. Christians must clamor for debt forgiveness. We need to be the voice, as Jesus was, proclaiming Jubilee.

But I don't believe that we are helpless. I believe that we live in an age of peaceful, nonviolent protest where we can carry the witness of Christ's radically forgiving love into the streets.

#OccupySunday: Blood-Boiler du Jour

In case you missed it...

In an OpEd titled, "What the Costumes Reveal," New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrote about a Halloween office party thrown by the N.Y. law firm of Steven J. Baum, an outfit that specializes in real estate foreclosures -- a "foreclosure mill," if you will -- where, apparently, employees came costumed as homeless and foreclosed-upon families.

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