A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast

Episode 29: Texas Anti-Abortion, September 11th & Student Loan Debt (It's a Faith Issue Y'all!)

September 16, 2021 Simon Doong and Lee Catoe Season 1 Episode 29
A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast
Episode 29: Texas Anti-Abortion, September 11th & Student Loan Debt (It's a Faith Issue Y'all!)
Show Notes Transcript

Questions for the Week:

  • Recently, a law was passed in Texas banning most abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy. I know abortion is a politically divisive subject. What are your thoughts on how to understand this law and why it is (or is not) troubling? 
  • This past weekend, we remembered the events of 9/11. Each of us has our own memories and experiences with regards to this tragedy. What are some of yours? | 

Special Guest:
Melonee Tubb, Associate, Financial Aid for Service, Theology, Formation & Evangelism, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Guest Question:
Why is it important for the church to address issues of educational and student debt? How is it a faith issue? Further, what opportunities are there to seek debt assistance through the PC(USA)?

Resource Roundup:


00:03 – Simon Doong

Hello, and welcome to a matter of faith a presby podcast, the podcast where we respond to your questions and comments on issues of faith, social justice, and church life. Don't be afraid to write in and ask your question. Because if it matters to you, it matters to us. And it just might be a matter of faith.

 

00:21 – Lee Catoe

Whether it be faith in God, faith and others or faith in yourself. We are brought to you by the Presbyterian peacemaking program and unfound, the interactive journal on Christian social justice for the Presbyterian Church USA. I am your host, Lee Catoe

 

00:38 – Simon Doong

and I'm your host Simon Doong.

 

00:41

Without further ado, let's dive into today's questions.

 

00:47 – Simon Doong

Well, hello, everyone, welcome to a matter of faith. I don't know if anyone knows this, but sometimes saying presby podcast is really kind of a tongue twister. So sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we don't but we carry on.

 

01:05 – Lee Catoe

It's always the P. The sound. Yeah.

 

01:09 – Simon Doong

Ah, well, Lee, how are you doing? Hopefully you're not as Tongue Tied as I am.

 

01:14 – Lee Catoe

I'm always tongue tied. I'm good. Simon. We are just coming off, you know, Labor Day holiday weekend. And yeah, all this stuff will be this. So if we should put a time thing. It's always complicated with podcast. So you never know where people are at when they're recording. But we have just come off Labor Day while we are doing this. So we are fresh off of a holiday and it was really busy. We ate a lot. We saw a lot of great people willing, I went up to Baltimore and we went on little water taxi, which was awesome. I love the water and got to see some of the sights in Baltimore and ate some really good fried seafood, which I have been looking forward to for a very long time. So it was nice.

 

02:00 – Simon Doong

Nice. Yeah. So for folks that don't know, I'm originally from the Maryland DC area. And we are known for our crabs and Old Bay. Did you either have crabs or Old Bay ever in your life? 

 

02:13 – Lee Catoe

Well, we almost so we almost had crabs. So all of us that ate got like a fried seafood platter, which I didn't really look and see what was involved in that I just sell platter. And like a mix of seafood. And I was like, I'm just gonna get this. And so they gave us our platters and they dropped like literally like 20 crabs on our table. And we were all like, I don't think this is ours. Like there were just so many of them. And it turns out that it was not our crabs. And we had to like make a switcheroo. We had to grab the brown paper and take it to the other table. It was a whole thing. So I didn't have we didn't have crabs. I did have a great crab cake, which was wonderful. 

 

03:04 – Simon Doong

Also very good crab cakes in the Maryland area. Well, hopefully at some point, you'll be able to have those crabs with Old Bay and you know, you take the little hammer and break open the crab, mash it up. Get the meat out. Yep. Yep. Well, speaking of bringing the hammer down. Our first question today is about it's a bit political. It's a little divisive, but it's important to talk about. So our first question is about the recent abortion law that was passed in Texas. The question reads, “recently, a law was passed in Texas, banning most abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy. I know abortion is a politically divisive subject. What are your thoughts on how to understand this law? And why it is or is not troubling?” What are your thoughts Lee?

 

03:57 – Lee Catoe

They asked two men. Yeah, I think it's very disturbing and troubling. And, and we and we will say that there is policy in the Presbyterian Church that that is a pretty pro choice and and when it comes to reproductive rights of women, but also reproductive rights of anyone who can carry a child, I think that's something we all need to, to try to think about when we're talking about reproductive justice and abortion. It kind of spans gender, and there are people who don't identify as women, a woman or female that can also carry a child and so I just want to throw that out there. And also, of course, Simon are male identifying and so this is something that and this decision was pretty much made by a bunch of white man and so I do think that that we should say that up front, but I do think it is very scary. And because a part of this law is kind of this, and I'm trying to think of that, like a vigilante kind of law that people can report people, and there are websites out there that can like tip off if someone is going to get an abortion, and yeah, I do think it is very scary that that is something that is happening right now. And it is also abortion has always kind of been the one issue that flips a vote or, and and to make a decision on that. And then ignore everything else that's something stands for is it's just very, also very troubling. But I think from like, I think it is very hard for people if they want to talk about abortion, and reproductive rights, because there is this conversation of life and this conversation of, you know, all these types of things that come up. But I do think that I think that abortion is so nuanced that people don't want to have the conversation. And there are choices and decisions that people make that alter their lives, that are very hard to make, that are more nuanced than anybody could imagine. And I do think that in many ways, this law has come from a very like on nuanced way of thinking because theirs is exempt from like incest or re and so I do think it is very sad. And it is very scary for people who are who need this health care. And it's not just abortion, it's about receiving health care, that can be life saving for individuals who can who need this type of care. And so me and understanding the law that it is very much uninformed. It is very misogynistic. It is also has a has a has like an undercurrent of racism and white supremacy because many individuals who who seek out reproductive care, like in Planned Parenthood aren't many of them are people of color. Because these places can provide good health care at lower cost. And so yeah, I think it's I think it's very problematic. And I think it's very troubling. And I do think that being an ally of individuals, of all genders, that can that can carry children. I think that's very important for us as male identifying, and for people who are trying to figure out how to be in solidarity or be good allies. But yeah, it's pretty simple. It is very misogynistic, and it is very problematic. 

 

08:00 – Simon Doong

Yeah, and if we get really into the details of what is called Senate bill eight in Texas, one of the major sort of more problematic parts of it is that women may not even know that they are pregnant in the first six weeks. So it removes any agency or control that women have over their own bodies, essentially, because they might not even know if they're pregnant in those first six weeks. So that's like one hugely sort of troubling aspect of of the bill. And if we get it more into the nitty gritty, the bill bans abortions after whenever an ultrasound can detect what lawmakers defined as a fetal heartbeat, which could be as early as six weeks of pregnancy. I've read that some medical and legal experts say that that term is misleading, because embryos don't possess a heart at that developmental stage. So in choosing in a somewhat arbitrary time, that doesn't, it doesn't even make sense necessarily to say, Oh, this is when we would, you would know that you are pregnant. That doesn't make sense. The other thing that's the other sort of two bits to this are that this includes cases where a woman was impregnated as a result of rape or incest. Which is, and there is an exception for medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest. And actually, the governor, Governor Abbott of Texas, very recently, I think it was yesterday. As of the time we're recording this podcast, straight up said the abortion law doesn't need to cover rapes because Texas will eliminate them. Like they're gonna find a way to don't make every effort to eliminate rape. So that that just isn't Is it an issue? Yeah. And that's it and take that for what you will, folks?

 

09:53 – Lee Catoe

Yeah, and that's also like, it goes back to that kind of whenever there was like the war on drugs or the war on crime, it is also bringing back that very racist undertone of that. And so I fully expect that kind of rhetoric to come back when there's like we're getting rid of the rapist, obviously in there, I couldn't futuristically see this being very much targeted to people of color, including immigrants. And so it is kind of like a domino effect when it comes to that kind of stuff. And we are a podcast that is produced by the church, but there is policy on this. And I do really want to kind of push that because we are a part of a church that has always been very upfront about reproductive rights and reproductive justice. And, and I know that could be surprising for people. And I know that in the trajectory of where religion is in this country, and is specifically Christianity, you people think you can't be pro choice and be a person of faith. But you can. And there are, there are so many policies that we have that really talk about that. But I do think also was what you were saying, Simon about the law is that I always tell people like a lot of the things that we're seeing right now, there's no way you can logically make it make sense anymore. And I think that it's so hard to make something make sense that is so illogical. And, and and I think that's where we are, I wouldn't say us in particular, but I think a lot of the rhetoric that we're seeing, like in the media last week, when Rich was on, you know, we're just talking around in circles to make to try to figure out what's happening logically in the in the minds of people, and that if you just can't, you just can't logically explain certain laws or just downright I mean, Texas just passed a, I mean, just sign the restricting all these voting laws, and there's no way to make logical sense of it other than they don't want you to vote. And they're just trying to suppress it. And there's no way to logically kind of wrap it around in a law or whatever. And so I do think this is important for people of faith to start talking about, and there are so many great people out there doing this work, and their ministers, and they're like, this is what they do. And so I hope, maybe we can put in some links to some people that we know in the show notes, and we might do that, for people to get connected. But but I do think it is very, very important that abortion and reproductive rights and reproductive health care is going to be affected by this. And I think people are very scared of what could come up it because so many people get their health care through certain certain clinics and certain organizations that specialize in reproductive care. And so, yeah, I'm very troubled and very worried for the health care of those who are who are trying to make decisions that are very, very difficult and doing it safely. And that is what I also don't think people understand is this is for the health of people who are trying to make decisions, and if they can't, it's so worrisome that to do it unsafely, it is terrifying.

 

13:31 – Simon Doong

Yeah. And to what you were saying earlier about the sort of, almost like sort of vigilante enforcement that this law provides for just to give some clarification for folks, the law says that instead of having the government enforce this law, the bill turns the reins over to private citizens. So private citizen can sue an abortion provider, or anyone who helps someone get an abortion, that person does not have to be connected to the person who got the abortion or the provider to sue. So it just allows anyone to pursue to sorry to sue anyone who performs or aids in an abortion. And that is a very, very slippery slope. Because once you start handing and I'm not saying that people shouldn't have rights for accountability, but this is not the type of accountability and justice that that we're talking about here. And that's a slippery slope. And it makes me wonder, okay, what next? What else will people suddenly have the the right or ability to do that target specific groups of people?

 

14:43 – Lee Catoe

And, and this the same people that are anti mask, using the rhetoric of this is my body and my choice, I'm not going to wear a mask and yet women and people who are who need reproductive care have been saying my Body my choice, because it is and that they're using the same rhetoric, one is using it to literally get everyone else it and could potentially cause death of others. And the other one is actually using it for help and care of their own bodies. And so it is very it is it is sad. And it's interesting. And I also don't know how you could live your life as a person of faith, being in constant judgment of someone else. And being in a space that for me as a person of faith, to see someone as, as someone that is constantly going against the law, like looking for every flaw in somebody like tracking someone down, using your fellow like child of God as a pawn and all these kind of political statements. And using your fellow child of God as a way to be politically like on the higher ground and all this kind of stuff, to put them in jail to get money from them. It turns it into just kind of like the Hunger Games. And and it is scary. And as, and many of these people are back and say there are people of faith. And yeah, we are literally arming people with a law that says you can take, you can destroy someone else's life in a heartbeat. And to me, that is not that has nothing to do with fate that has all about to do with power and idolatry, which is sin. And so it is very interesting. And I hope people of faith can have constructive conversations about it.

 

16:48 – Simon Doong

Yeah. So we send we we are praying for those who are going who are impacted or will be impacted by this. I know that there's a lot of folks who are like, Okay, well, I guess I have to go somewhere else and make it out. Now something that was already a stressful and difficult choice is made that much worse of an experience, because you have to go out of state pretty much know to go do something that is already hard.

 

17:15 – Lee Catoe

Many people can't do that. So yeah, sending prayers to everybody. And yeah, we'll try to put some links, to get more educated about it and connecting people if you want to. But also on this the week after this podcast comes. I mean, the week that this podcast does come out September 11 would have happened. And so so September 11, which was a few days ago, we'll just say. And we did get a question in about September 11. “This past weekend, we remember the events of 911. Each of us has our own memories and experiences with regards to this tragedy. And so they want to know, what are some of our memories and experiences with September 11?” We were, how different in age are we in a Simon?

 

18:09 – Simon Doong

You're just I think you're only a couple years older than me. So you would have been either What's about this time? Yeah, yeah. So because I was in third grade, when the 911 attacks happened. And I remember that very specifically, because my third grade teacher, her husband was a firefighter in the Maryland DC area. And she was so worried that her husband was going to be called to New York. And it was just this look of sort of just anxiety that I hadn't ever seen on this, frankly, very strict, tough teachers face. And we didn't really know what was going on. They turned on the television in our classroom, so that we could see what was going on. But it wasn't, it wasn't really made clear to us what was happening. I remember originally thinking that, oh, there must be some really terrible traffic accident. And they want to make sure that all the kids can get out. Back home. And that's why they're sending us home early. There wasn't a lot of communication about what was going on. It wasn't until I got home and saw what had happened on TV and you know, talked with my parents a bit that I like, started to sort of understand the gravity of what was what was actually happening and what I was witnessing. What about you?

 

19:35 – Lee Catoe

Yeah, so this will this will be the 20th anniversary, which is hard to believe so I was 13 No. Yes. Maybe. I know I was I think I was in like the eighth grade maybe. But I do remember. And I remember Yeah, our teachers also turned on the TV and like the whole day like The whole day just kind of shut down. And we were all at school, some some people were kind of scared, you know, I remember that. And I remember being in the library watching it. And I think they did let out school early that day, and going home and seeing the TV and being from like rural South Carolina. And I mean, I could feel the impact of it, you know, you could feel like it was something because I mean, the country had never kind of experienced that before. But I did. I did come to know other people that lived closer to New York City, but also closer to Washington. And it made like a, it was such a huge impact, because pretty much a lot of people were connected to someone that were in the building, or, or something like that. And so my experience was, it was it was almost like a movie, I remember it, but not feeling very real, but it was real. And that, I just remember my mom, like, being very worried about, like, you know, all the people. And then when we saw the buildings go down, it was like, yeah, this is, this is real. But then it was like, a week or so later. Like, I could really yeah, I could really feel like the change. And, you know, after 911 that's kind of when like police departments and fire departments and like, things like that became more, you know, kind of, you know, uplifted more and romanticized a bunch. And, and, and I'm not discounting the work and the lives of policemen and firefighters, but, but years later, you can kind of, you can kind of see where that was, because they did sacrifice a lot. And they did, they were the first ones to get there. And then you started hearing and the blaming, and like, the war in Afghanistan, and all these kinds of things. I just remember every, I just remember more of that coming out of it than I do this personal connection, which is kind of sad, for me, that that is what I remember coming from it and not the people and not like, you know, having this this visceral reaction because it was people who were killed and died in tragic ways. And I just remember like, from my family, just hearing like the automatic, like, Islamophobia coming out, like the automatic like blanket ness of it. And that consumed everything in my experience and like so for me looking back on it, it is it was very sad, not only for the grief and the loss of people, but it was sad that you know, like you couldn't grieve people because there was so much else that came out of it. But I do remember going to college and meeting a lot of people who are directly connected to folk and and you could any really sense that like personal connection to it. But it It is amazing to really think what that moment what happened like afterwards. People are still grieving from it. So

 

23:22 – Simon Doong

Yeah, growing up in the DC, Maryland area. I mean, security is always tight around DC, but I remember it also being so much more so. And I feel like you could even feel it in the in the suburban communities like where I was growing up just the the intensity. Because it's like, we don't know what we don't know. And because we don't know, we must be ready. Yeah. And that and that is understandable. But it also perpetuates anxiety and fear in ways that still linger. 

 

24:05 – Lee Catoe

Yeah and this and intensified like this like Americanism, like nationalism, I think, too, because we had this idea that nothing could be nothing can happen to this country. And when it did, I think I think it did take people back, but then it was also like, No, you can't do this this country. And then yeah, like you were saying, it just intensifies that even more, and we're seeing that more than ever now. And because I don't think that there was a lot of space for people to actually grieve about anything. And there wasn't a lot of space. Nobody, and nobody had the like, unless you were like Muslim unless you were like a religion professor or like someone like everybody had this idea of what it meant to be Muslim. They And they're like, Oh, this is it. And it's like, there, there was no way there was no like, way to think about like, this was extremism. And that happened in Christianity too. And like it still happens is happening right now, like all these kinds of things. I just think like, there was no space to hold communal grief, individual grief, like it was just. And that's what happens when you don't deal with grief, anyone, you don't have space for it, you turn to fear and hate and an automatic like war that, I mean, we just ended it. Like it just ended, kind of, and now, people are suffering again. And so it's like a cycle that will that has continued to repeat itself. Because for me, I didn't, there was so much grief that wasn't attended to and, and kind of processed, which is sad.

 

26:02 – Simon Doong

So living in New York now is also interesting. If folks ever come to New York, I do recommend going and visiting world one, which is the memorial to the World Trade Center. It's a very, it sounds weird to say it's a well done Memorial, but it is a well done memorial and the 911 Memorial, they're very impressionable. I'll say that, but hearing from folks who were here during 911, and 2001, is really interesting. I've heard some folks say the only other time that they've heard the city be sort of quiet, maybe even more so than 911 was the day the pandemic, everything shut down for the pandemic in 2020. Yeah, but in a different way. Because obviously, different circumstances. I also know that there are folks here who who were here in 2001, anytime they hear a loud noise, like a plane flying overhead for something that sounds like something very loud approaching, they sort of get this Twitch, and they instinctively look around. Yeah. Because of that fear from what they either heard, or what they perceived, or just from as a result of the experience from that day in in 2001. Yeah. And it's, it's, it's, you know, it's really sad. So, yeah.

 

27:39 – Lee Catoe

Yeah. And I yeah, and like me, and there are like police, people and firemen, and people who work in like, you know, fire response, and like, EMTs, who are still suffering from, I mean, they still have health issues from all the stuff that happened and 911 going into the building and like, yeah, it's interesting to think about, how kind of this like romanticization of specifically the police happened afterwards, and in some ways, because we did see them, you know, in this space and sacrificing so much and, and, and still dealing with a lot of the things that they are that from health issues from it. And, and coming out of that kind of place, like now we're seeing like the blue Lives Matter thing and things like that. So it is kind of a balance that I hope we figure out that like, and I think 911 had a lot to do with that. It's when you romanticize something, you don't keep it accountable, you don't hold it accountable. And and I hope that we can kind of learn from that too, and yet, really walk with our, with our first responders, because I do think they got, like a lot of like accolades outwardly, but dealing with their trauma and their health. I know people who are getting denied things, and I know people have not had the adequate care that they need. And so when I hear that, that's when I know, you know, it's all about the surface level. But when it comes down to it, how are we like, always seeing how to treat people holistically. And that to me goes all around like now we're hearing about defund the police and things like that, like how do we hope holistically treat people who are experiencing trauma? Instead of you know, this romanticization kind of way of dealing with it, and saying, like, Oh, thank you, I'm gonna give you all these accolades. It's like, No, we need to deal with their trauma. We need to deal with their health. We need to we need to really invest and And so that's, that's kind of like, the experiences I have now with it is really trying to figure and process like, all the things that came up with it because it changed this country drastically afterwards.

 

30:17 – Simon Doong

Yeah. And so, again, related to prayers, we pray for the victims of 911. We do pray for the brave people who served on that day and in the aftermath to assist to rebuild. And those who, you know, were not recognized, but who did a lot to help others try to not move on, but move forward. And we know that there still is much to be done in that aspect, as you were saying lead to help people recover and process things that that even though they happened 20 years ago, they still very much live with us today.

 

30:55 – Lee Catoe

Yeah. And relive with that every time it comes around. But yeah, and it's generational, too. So yeah, sending prayers, and I hope we can continue to find ways to Yeah, to walk alongside people in it.

 

31:17 – Simon Doong

So joining us today, we have very special guests. Joining us is Melonee tub, the associate for financial aid for service, which is in the area of theology formation and evangelism for the Presbyterian Church. Do I say, Mel, thanks for being with us on the podcast.

 

31:35 – Melonee Tub

Thanks, Simon. I'm a big fan. I'm really excited to be here. 

 

31:37 – Lee Catoe

Yeah, welcome Mel. We're so glad to have you. And we have a question for you sent in from our wonderful listeners out there that is talking about student debt. It says, “Why is it important for the church to address issues of educational and student debt? How is it a faith issue? further? What opportunities are there to seek debt assistance through the pcusa?” 

 

32:05 – Melonee Tub

Oh, boy, okay. So this is a really huge question. And I've been like pondering it for like, two months, maybe Simon asked me a long time ago to do this podcast, and I started freaking out, like, how am I gonna answer this question? So I'm not a theologian. But the things I do know about are student debt. And what I see when I see student people with student loan debt is one of the most underappreciated justice issues that we face in this country. student debt affects people of color women,

the folks who we are called to create equity for in width, I should say. And, and that's where the situation is really dire. I think it's really easy as people like me as a white person who comes from a middle class background, to get sucked in to this idea that the problem with student loan debt is that it is hard to make payments for me that I have to I have to sacrifice something to make these payments. And it's a pain and it's a lot. And I say I have a lot of student loan debt. I went to seminary, and I graduated with more than $85,000 in student loan debt. So I say this as a person who's coming from understanding the reality of that weight. But when you come right down to it, my life is not negatively affected in in almost any way I have to put some things off, there's some things that I'm doing differently. There's some programs that I can talk about later that are helping me. But the real problem was talking about student loan debt is for people who are struggling and all the other ways. There's new research coming out around how student loan debt is affecting the racial wealth gap. And it's probably not surprising to some of you, but it's huge. It's becoming more and more of a factor in understanding why we have such economic disparity in this country. The funny part about that is the so the majority of student loan debt is actually held by the richest people. And it makes a lot of sense when you think about it, because they go to the Ivy League colleges, like they have the finance, financial support to be able to get loans to go to these colleges, and then they pay their loans off. So the problem comes with people who take out a smaller amount of debt, and then don't complete or go to a for profit school and then don't have the education that they thought they were going to have when they complete. These folks are really struggling and in the low income people. I've got some statistics for you here. So let's do this is my favorite one. Studies show that white men have paid off 44% of their student loans. 12 years out of college, black women, oh 13% more than their starting ballots. So 12 years out of college, a white man is is basically done, and black woman obor and you can take that and spread it out as much as you want to and there's so much more data out there. But I think that just shows you like that there's a difference in our struggle, right? So there's a difference between my struggle and someone who's struggling to put to put food on their plates and to pay their rent. And student loans are going to be something that they that they easily let go. So why is this a faith issue? I think it's a faith issue, because we are called to dismantle systems of oppression, which is, this is one of the big ones, what education system in our country is, is oppressing people is theirs, it's not equitable. People don't have the same access to education. The student loans are not the problem in themselves. The idea behind student loans is that they're supposed to increase equity, you should be able to take out a loan, any person should be able to take out a loan, go to college, pay off that loan in a reasonable amount of time, and move on with their life. That is not what's happening. Another reason is that we're called a release the captives in proclaim the year of jubilee. And as I was kind of looking through some of the like theological stuff around debt, it was really interesting that it felt like the situation that Jesus was in around people who are holding debt was very similar to what we're experiencing now. So you know, back in the day in the Bible, after seven years, there was a year of jubilee and everything was forgiven. That was let go, because that's who's in August for, it's not good for wealthy landowners. So it's not well for people in power, because they weren't able to keep getting those interest rates and the things that we're dealing with right now. So the reason that we know when we hear these debates in Congress and some of our past leaders, our past education leader was saying exactly the opposite, that it would be morally reprehensible for us to forgive student loan debt. And that comes from such a misguided, puritanical, like, just all the things that are wrong with with our country is kind of like summed up in that statement, like we are called to release that, not to stack it on, we're not here to collect people's interest rates. We're not here to make people's lives harder. So as a church, we have to be the voice to say, to sit back and be like, it's not about money, we need to put people's lives over money. That's what matters. And there's people who are really suffering because of this. It's not it's not just about, you know, oh, the millennials, they need to go have another cup of coffee, so they can't pay off their debt. That's just wrong. And it's also offensive. It's, there's so there's so many more deeper issues around why people can't pay off their debt. The other thing is that we believe in forgiveness, and we believe in redemption. And in my job, I talked to a lot of people who have student loan debt. And it is an issue that people are not happy to talk about. There's shame, there's guilt, there's avoidance, all these things that we feel deep within ourselves, because we're told so often by society, that having all of this debt that you can't pay off makes you morally inferior. You if you were a upstanding member of society, and you were going to follow Jesus, you'd be paying off your debt, you just need to sacrifice more, you need to work more hours, you need to do more and more to pay this off, you're not worth our time. Why would we help you pay off this debt? And if you can't see why that idea is completely counter to the teachings of Jesus.

 

38:14 – Melonee Tubb

It's so obvious to me, that we are called to create wholeness, we're calling to bring peace, we're called to bring people to a place of abundance, you know, that there is enough for all of us. And if the church isn't saying that if we aren't speaking, through, using Jesus as our example of working to release people from these from captivity and bring people freedom from this Wait, then order, then who is going to be doing it? I think that I think this is the church has to get on board with this. And I think there's smart ways to do it. We can talk about policy later if you want to, but I think I'm really just want to get right down to it, people are more important than paying back a debt. Help people being able to experience life as a fully functional human being and having the things that they need to survive and thrive is more important than than paying back an interest rate or in making money. I think that that's when you get right down to it. That's the simplest way. And then the last one is Jesus sides with debtors. And Jesus calls us to do the same thing we say it you know, if you're if you go to a more traditional church, so you may say that prayer every, every week, you know what, you know, I just went blank, of course, how many times I've said it, but forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Right. It's in there. Like it's just there. So we say so much. So I think that's another reason like Jesus was on the side of the people who had the debts, and we need to find ourselves in that same place. You know, the Matthew 25 that we've been doing with with the Presbyterian mission agency is broken it down into three parts that I think all three, you know, work right into these ideas of why student loan debt is a faith issue. We've already talked a little bit about The dismantling system systemic racism. And there are so many stats, I mean, 86% of black students taking out federal loans to attend four year colleges, compared to just 59.9% of white students, students. So the black students are taking out more debt than white students. And then the, the young black adults take on 85% more educational debt than their white counterparts. And that disparity compounds by 7%, each year after the borrower's leave school. So it's not just about what happens while you're going to school, it's about what happens to your debt after you leave. And what that means is that you can't if you can't pay at first if you have to keep putting your loans in forbearance, and that balance is going to go up, up, up, up. And then when you finally find the job, and we all know you guys, I think you've done a PA, you all have done a podcast before about some of the struggles with finding jobs. But it's it's harder for people of color to find jobs. And so by the time they get to the job, there's their debt is already gone up by however many 7% compounding interest rate they have. It's while eradicating poverty. So this is what I think is really important too, when you start talking about default. So the lowest income 40% of households hold just under 20% of the outstanding debt. And they only make 10% of the payments. So what that means is that the lowest income people are not able to make their payments. They just can't. And that's not surprising, right. So that's why we get into this default, the default conversation, Pell Grant recipients are the most likely to default, which means that if you're not familiar familiar with the Pell Grant, the Pell Grant is what helps lower income folks go to college, I got a Pell grant to go to college, it was super helpful for me. And so but it's the people who are the lowest income for those that are going into default. And there's a lot of stuff around that around why it's hard to get out of default, there's no if you even the income driven repayment plans, you have to cure, you have to cure your loan from default before you can take advantage of an income driven repayment plan. So that's like a really good policy thing. If you want to go talk to your Congress people that silly, you should be able to use income driven repayment to cure your default. That seems obvious, right? So and the last one is congregational vitality. And I think this one really relates to the leadership and especially in the pcusa. Unless we deal with this student loan problem, we're gonna struggle to recruit black leaders and leaders of color, because you can't afford to work. You can't afford to take any amount of pay cut or to do something that's outside of the mainstream, where you can make a lot of money to be able to do this work. So we have to figure out how to better support our black leaders and our leaders of color. And we have to figure out how to get more leadership and to remove these barriers. And I think there's gonna talk later about some of the ways that the denomination is doing that right now. But we can get to that later. So I know I kind of I might have lost you a little bit in the middle. But I think that's basically my answer for you about that question. I hope it's helpful. Maybe Lee and Simon can help us dial down a little bit.

 

43:12 – Lee Catoe

Now that was that's really helpful. And I know so many people that, you know, feel that shame and fill that weight. And I think a lot of it, in many ways, it is kind of No, it is. It's also like a generational thing. And he mentioned that, like many, many people who are in this situations that are millennials, like we are millennials and, and there's such an awful stereotype that, you know, like laziness, or like, the non committal or something. And I always tell people, it's like, I've had like, 20 jobs already, I'm 33 years old, and I worked four of them at the same time. And that's not because of anything, like it's because of paying back loans and trying to figure it out and doing all these things. So I'm glad you mentioned that, and mentioned about the shame part because it is something within the culture of, of like this country, I think or like, and this idea that like you can't a certain group of people can't owe another group of people something even though there are billionaires that we know of who are extremely in debt and pretend that they have all this wealth then they are many times they are white man and are in big leadership roles. Call the presidency and are like you know, in massive amounts of debt, but there's a different connection there. There's a different way and like students to to to want an education and to try to do better or to follow what you are called to do like that, like money should not be in the way of that and so I think that's going to be very helpful for people that are listening specifically people in the pews Church folks that may not connect this with their face. So, yeah, I think that's great time and you have any comments?

 

45:09 – Simon Doong

Yeah, sorry, hitting mute button is hitting unmute is sometimes harder than hitting mute.

 

45:15 – Lee Catoe

And I'm like, I'm like scratchy. I think we've been talking too much. Just wait.

 

45:19 – Simon Doong

Yeah. Yeah, you know that podcast life? Yeah. Mel, something that you said that I just, I think it's so important, just to reiterate to folks is that when you think about debt, compounds on debt, which is compounding on top of the other issues and challenges that people face, in their lives due to systemic injustice that already exists, and it's so easy to forget, if you yourself don't face some, or any of those challenges that they exist, you know, we we always talk about, sometimes people talk about dead as like this, you know, this physical burden that they are literally walking around with all of their lives trying to get rid of. And if we were all walking around with this heavy backpack, and there were things that were and things in our lives, were just making it heavier and heavier, even as we are trying to take things out of it, that is just a really hard thing to live with. And that's something that it's very easy to forget,

 

46:20 – Melonee Tubb

I love the backpack, one for Simon, because I think it's really perfect to think about compounding interest inside of a backpack. You know, it's like if you put two rabbits in a backpack, and then you like, open the backpack, and there's 100 rabbits in there. That's silly rabbit. But, but that's what it feels like, you know, and it's all it's the same, it's the opposite of how, when you, when you become rich, you know, even a little bit rich, it's very easy to become a lot rich. And when you're poor, it's very easy to become a lot poor, there's really a line there where you cross it, and you is a hard road to come back. And if we can't figure out how to ease that burden to come back. And then we get mad at people because they're poor. And you know, that's a whole other thing you all like, we don't know how to deal or talk about or be with people who are poor. Yeah, it's so like, how do we, there's something about it that makes us all feel ashamed, and weird and awkward. And that's part of this, you know, Jesus was with the poor Jesus was wasn't just with the poor Jesus was poor. So I just don't think until we have a better ability to really connect in that way. And to see ourselves as poor and to be in that same position, then we're not going to be able to have the empathy and the and the ideas and the things to be able to move this forward. It's not about them. It's not about those people who have a lot of debt, it's about us. And it's about that about the society that we want to make and the community that we want to live in. And why on earth would we want to live and and create a community where some people are just completely crushed by these, this debt, which isn't even about what you pay back, because that's the part, you know, this is the part that makes me so mad about people who go on and on about how the public service loan forgiveness program isn't fair, because people won't have to pay off all their debt. Most people who get there after their 10 years, and they qualify. And if they're making the 10% of their income payments, like they're supposed to, they're gonna pay off every dollar that they borrowed. It's not about not paying off your debt, it's about the interest rates and the compounding interest and the fees. If you go into default, it's all this stuff. It's not right, it's not fair, there's so much there that just isn't right. And that's not the community that I want to live in, I want to live in a community where we take care of each other, and we forgive things and we like can let things go and we can build something together and we can share so that when you get right down to it, that's what this is about, you know, it's about relieving that burden of something that isn't even real, you know, it's not, it's not about it's not real interest, interest rates are extra, you know, it's, I just makes me so mad. So,

 

49:08 – Lee Catoe

It's, it's really, it's really funny, you said that because my partner will always says that like he works in money and like finance and things like that, he was like, interest is not real, it is time even like like it is just time that has been made. That has been put like a financial value to and so, yeah, it is such a it is such a unfair system. And what you said about us and I see this a lot in a lot of progressive circles as well, that that that we are not good at being with poor folk and and and now and I say that because many people that are listening to this podcast are our progressive Christian like Christians that listen but I hope they hear that and I hope you hear that that that there is in many ways some kind of like I don't think We've talked about class enough and like some like elitism enough and academia enough in the church either. And I think all these things kind of intersect that, that we have to find a way to be grounded and to be able to be with people who, yeah, people who are poor, I grew up pretty kind of poor people down the street, we're very poor. And to disconnect from that, and to not know the ways in which, you know, money and finance and everything plays into somebody's sight perspective. Yeah, we have to guess we have to get familiar.

 

50:40 – Melonee Tubb

Yeah, that's really soon forget. And I was talking to my wife a few weeks ago about how easy it is to forget how, what it feels like to be poor. You know, like, I remember, yeah, trying to, like, look for $1 to pay for gas to put in my car so that I could go to work and get another dollar to put in my car to do the next thing. You know. And, and now, you know, I just fell in my tank, you know, and it's a this is such a disconnection. So it's just Yeah, I don't know why that was helpful. But that's where my brain went?

 

51:15 – Simon Doong

Well, I think it again, it just speaks to, as Jesus says, empathy, and trying to understand and we say, you know, amongst denominational employees as part of our Matthew 25 initiative, where did I see you? And so we can't see people, if we aren't trying to understand. But we also can't understand if we're not trying to see people. So we've got to, yeah, so we have to, we have to do both. And part of that is understanding the situation they're in and the challenges they face. And there are things that can be done. And like you said, No, it's not about us. It's about them. And it's about the society we live in, and whether we want to come together as that community of faith. So I really appreciate everything you said,

 

52:03 – Melonee Tubb

Well, can I just say one more thing? I have to say this, I'm just a message to anybody who's listening. If you have student loan debt, you're not alone. You're not a bad person, you can deal with it. You really can, there are resources to help you, you can understand it. And I hope I think Lee and Simon will probably get my information out after this. But I really hope that you'll call me and talk to me, send me an email, where he I'm here to help you with this issue. So don't you know, and just just because you haven't acted in the past, if you haven't been able to face it, that's okay. Those feelings are very legitimate. I felt it. We've all felt it. But that doesn't mean that you can't act in the future. So so please reach out, please try to find some help. And then you know, your beautiful, wonderful person who was created by God to be on this planet and to be part of our community. And I just want you to remember that that is the truth.

 

52:55 – Lee Catoe

Well, amen Mel. And thank you, we are going to transition a little bit to talk about the ways people can reach out and what programs and resources that the denomination has. And so we're going to transition now to our resource Roundup, and Mel is going to stay with us mail, we would love for you to just drop all the things that you know, onto.

 

53:23 – Melonee Tubb

Yeah, sure. I love this part. So I also hope that with the resource Roundup, you'll have a great little sound effect that sounds like horses or a rodeo or something. So just a little idea, we might we might not make that work, we might.

 

53:38 – Melonee Tubb

I hope so. Okay, so the the denomination has resources for pastors and people who are doing some sort of service in the church. So the two programs that my office runs the one the first one is for pcusa ministers who are serving in small churches, part time temporary designated calls. So if you are doing a yoke thing, or if you are working as an interim or anything like that, anything that's not quite full time called installed, then we can offer you up to $25,000 over five years to just go straight to your student loan debt. So that's, that's our program for pastors. The second one we have is for folks who are members who are ruling elders who are certified ready to receive a call folks who are preparing for ministry, anyone. So basically anyone who's a member of the pcusa church serving in a pcusa organization of some sort of that can be a camp and Conference Center. It can be anything that a school that's related to pcusa, a congregation any pcusa organization, and that program is up to three or $3,000 for one year of service directly to your student loans and that can be renewed up to two times depending on which of those things you fall into. The other thing we offer is coaching for both of those programs. It's a new relationship we have in the company called people joy that they'll talk to you and talk to you about your what payment plan you're in, and what payment plan you should be in. And how fast you can pay off your loans and whether you should try to pay them off faster if you look in something like the public service loan forgiveness program. So I want to move into now the public service loan forgiveness program. This is a program that's offered by the federal government, the Department of Education, and it's been a hot mess. For the past ever since it went into effect there. There's a lot of news stories about people who saw they're going to qualify didn't qualify and didn't get forgiveness. The it is administratively awful right now. I believe from the bottom at the very bottom of my heart is going to get better. And I also believe that it's the law and it has to get better. So there's, there's no reason to not keep doing the things that you need to do to prepare for the future of it being better. And what that program is, is it will forgive every penny of your student loan debt tax free, after 10 years of serving a nonprofit, or a public service entity. So anybody who's working in the prison to revision agency, we qualify. The another cool part about that also, so nonprofit that qualifies, if you're working for a city government, something like that also qualifies any sort of public service, and there's a list. But if it's a 501, c three basically qualify. The cool new thing that happened very recently is that they just opened this up to ministers. So previously, before July 1 of 2021, this program was You are not allowed to participate if you were doing three things, worship, leading proselytizing or religious instruction. And that is our pastors. Right. So the pastors were left out. So now they've opened it up, they removed those three things, and said that pastors will qualify for the same reasons to working on a 501 c three. Now that gets a little sticky with Presbyterian ministers. Because Are you self employed? Do you work for the church? Do you work for the presbytery? There's a lot of questions there. But the otas doing a little bit of work, right has done some, some opinions in the past that say that you do actually work for the congregation, technically, according to the law, all these things. So there's a lot of legal things to look into with that. But basically, now's the time to start gathering your documents and get those sent in because it never ever, ever hurts to submit your documents. If you're told No, that's okay, be told no. But the upside is you can have all of your student loans forgiven. So look into it, do it, even though it's in the end, don't get me wrong, the paperwork is hard, and it's annoying. And you'll have to talk to people and it's administratively terrible, which as we talked about in this podcast before, like, that's the Justice problem too, because you guys know like the, the less spoons you have, the less likely you are to be able to fill out all the paperwork. So when we talk about advocacy, we need to figure out how to make that easier. There are many ways that could be happening, but you know, the government so here we are. Um, the other thing is to make sure that you are in an income driven repayment plan if you need help making your payments and right now that's zero if you have federal loan debt, because of the the payment and the interest rate stoppage because of COVID, which has been awesome. So if you have been able to take advantage of that and start dumping money into your student loan debt, now, now's a great time to try to lower that balance. So when that compounding interest comes back, it comes back on lower balance, which is always always good. So you want to try to get that balance as low as you possibly can before that starts back and January 31. If you can, if you can't, like I said before, you're a lovely person, and we love you and you do what you have to do. But I definitely recommend looking into income driven repayment. That's part of the problem with this with the fact that the low income folks are less likely to be in one of these programs, because of UBI don't have the capacity to be able to do all the paperwork. So if you need help, find some help, give me a call. And I can point you in the right direction, have some some folks that can help. So that's our programs. The board of pensions also has programs if you're a pastor, and you're the person whose participation plan, it's very similar to ours. So if you're a pastor in this denomination, you should be able to get help from one of our two offices. And if you don't, then we need to figure out how you're missing out and what crack you've fallen into. So that we can change our programs to make sure that you're covered. That's so please, please let me know about that. Um, I think that's it. I am sure. Let's see, where's my notes? Yes, I think that's it.

 

59:26 – Simon Doong

That's great. Mel, thank you so much. We'll be sure to put links to the resources that you mentioned in the show notes. We appreciate you coming on the podcast and sharing those with us and for just being a great colleague.

 

59:39 – Melonee Tubb

Thank you all this was very fun. I appreciate you. I know what you're doing here. I love this podcast. Thanks, man.

 

59:48 – Simon Doong 

This has been the matter of faith podcast brought to you by the Presbyterian peacemaking program and unbound. If you would like to submit a question for discussion. You can do so at faith podcast at pcusa.org. We look forward to hearing from you. See you next time.

 

1:00:04 – Lee Catoe

See you next time, y'all.

 

1:00:24 – Simon Doong

Hey everyone. Thanks for listening to Episode 29 of a matter of faith a presby podcast. Don't forget to subscribe, follow or like on your preferred podcast platform.

 

1:00:35 – Lee Catoe

And don't forget to leave us a review and preferably five stars and just leave us a little review. It doesn't take much time so don't forget to leave a review

 

1:00:45 – Simon Doong

And if you have a question, don't hesitate to write it in to faith podcast at pcusa.org we hope to hear from you soon.