Strike Debt! is one of the latest movements of Occupy Wall St. Strike Debt! is a push for a dialogue as well as action concerning debt culture in the United States. Perhaps this movement has gained so much traction because debt is such a familiar topic for Americans. Daily life in our society has become anxious and precarious. Some of us live paycheck to paycheck; others live nervously anticipating movements of the market. How long can we continue? Will we get sick and not be able to work? Will we experience another devastating market crash? How long can we keep up on our monthly payments? Strike Debt! strives to create networks of support and withdrawal from debt culture. Certainly, these are activities that are important for a large portion of the social body, but what about Christians? Can Christians Strike Debt?
The Christian church we hear about in acts is one that shared things in common. This is a radical network of support that Christianity has lost. The church has lost its radical community to family life centers, zumba classes and Christian bookstores. Detractors of anarchism and communism often cite that the early Christian church lived in such a way because they were waiting for the end of the world and the return of Christ. Though, is this much different from the way we live, don’t we live expecting some apocalyptic event? Every Sunday we pray for the coming kingdom; we anticipate the end of the world. Michael Hardt and Toni Negri explain this apocalyptic tone in contemporary politics saying,
“…the predominance of violence to resolve national and international conflicts not merely as last but as first resort; the widespread use of torture and even its legitimation; the indiscriminate killing of civilians combat…This vision of the world resembles those medieval European renditions of hell: people burning in a river of fire, others being torn limb from limb, and in the center a great devil engorging their bodies whole.”(Negri and Hardt, Commonwealth, Pg. 3)
How can the Christian community prepare for the end of the world? Can Christians strike debt? Can they take revolutionary action? Perhaps, instead of striking against debt and other types of refusal, the Christian approach to the precariousness of everyday life is to forgive debts. The forgiveness of debts is not simply the refusal of participating in debt culture, but the extinguishing of destructive and violent energies. To forgive is to unbind one’s love upon another, blotting out one’s sins.
There is a strong precedent in the Christian church to spiritualize the Lord’s Prayer; perhaps one of the most oft said prayers in the Christian church. Though, it is in this prayer we ask:
“ Your kingdom come
Give us each day our daily bread
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.” (Luke 11:4 NRSV)
As God forgives our sins, we are to forgive “everyone indebted to us.” If our belief and actions are to be anchored by the Christian faith then the debt culture and the violence of financial capitalism must be wiped away. Forgiving debt is a much more radical move than simply withdrawing or striking. The Forgiveness of debts imagines new relationships between individuals and capital. If we are to be subjects of Christ, as Joel said in his previous post, it requires an erasure of our capitalist subjectivities.
Perhaps, to parse this transformation out in a more radical way we can use the language of Deleuze and Guattari. In the essay Capitalism: A Very Special Delirium, Deleuze and Guattari explain, “There is no ideology, there are only organizations of power.” This is to say that Capitalism is a certain organization of power and to counter this power new organizations must be implemented. In using this logic we find the means of the erasure of our capitalist modes of desire and production. Changing the organizations of power changes the way one desires. We must re-purpose our social organs toward a new becoming, becoming-Christ. To forgive debts is to transgress against the capitalist organism.
Parenthetically, a temptation here might be to call for conformity toward what Paul in First Corinthians calls the body of Christ. Paul’s vision of the Body of Christ is one body with many members, assemblages of members performing the duty of organs. Thinking hierarchically, the church certainly is a dominating organization of power, but hierarchy and rigid organizations of power must be exorcised from the church. Can we imagine the church as a radical community of support and care? There is merit to Paul’s words, but the image of the body of Christ, that is the hierarchy of the church, is far too stratified and fixed. Paul’s body allows only for a narrow outpouring of the multifaceted desires of the Christian body.
Becoming-Christ is a repurposing of our machines of accumulation into machines of forgiveness and hospitality, our machines of hierarchy and stratification into machines of support, mutual aid, and democracy: the organs of Christ and the church must be organized into machines of kenosis, which is to say machines of self-emptying. Instead of acquiring wealth and extracting labor we must construct they machines of love and forgiveness. Private property has no place in the kingdom, for there is enough to go around. What is a debt anyways? Debt is a semiotic agreement, but Christ frees us from our debts and in turn we must free each other from debt. Not a year of jubilee, but a world turned on its head.
A rigid grid ought not be fixed to the kingdom of God simply because love is not rigid. Forgiveness is hard; especially when we are required to forgive that which capitalism makes us cling to. Christian love is often transgressive against capitalist machines of accumulation. Property, exchange and capital hold no bearing under the logic of Christ who instructs us to forgive and love wastefully. In the face of precarity and capital let us freely love and freely forgive.