What would Jesus do? Forgive student debt, according to Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, a former president of the Chicago Theological Seminary.  In an opinion piece on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog, Thistlethwaite advocates for the forgiveness of student loan debt, approaching the issue as a moral one:

Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) Forgiving debt is a moral issue. Forgiving some of the worst of this student debt is crucial literally to save this American generation.

She notes that President Obama has attempted to ease the student loan burden by executive order, but that is not enough; legislation is needed to deal with outstanding student loan debt, which is rapidly approaching $1 trillion dollars.

So what can students do?

One thing she advocates against is defaulting en masse, which is the aim of the Occupy Student Debt Campaign.  The campaign seeks student debtors to pledge to default once their number reaches 1 million. Right now the campaign is about 998,000 supporters short of that goal.

Instead, Thistlethwaite argues that loan forgiveness legislation is the way to go, largely echoing Robert Applebaum’s calls at ForgiveStudentLoanDebt.com.

The problem is that forgiving student loan debt is not going to come without a fight. The most indebted in society–students and recent graduates–are also the most politically powerless. It will take the guts of a leader to make these changes. President Obama has already let us down, and there’s no hope in the Republicans. I’m doubtful this will ever happen. The most that I think we can hope for is for federal loan funding to be cut off and for tuition to return to more reasonable levels.

Assuming the economy recovers in a reasonable time frame, student debtors will be able to repay their loans. Of course, if the economy continues to struggle and recent graduates are unable to make it into the job market, they may have no choice but to default en masse–involuntary members of the Occupy Student Debt Campaign.

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