Wednesday, 21 April 2010

some thoughts on the election: part 2

Let me draw some things to your attention that you may have not noticed or perhaps forgotten.

There are two contrasting covenants referred to in the Bible. The Sinai or Old Covenant is very conscious of territory and nation and state. In fact that covenant served as a kind of tenancy agreement for the ancient people of Israel. Keep the tenancy and you keep the land; break the tenancy agreement and you will be evicted. That covenant created what is known as a theocracy; the state and the religion of the people were inseparable. It was God's people and God's land. The religion of the what we call the Old Testament is, in the main, intensely territorial. Anyone who touched God's people or his land came under summary judgement. There was no distinction between crime and sin for all the laws were God's laws. The nation and the state and 'the church' were one.

And then there is another Covenant, usually called the New Covenant and its key document is the New Testament. This Covenant has, apparently, no interest at all in territory. A man or woman might be accused of being a Christian and found guilty but there was a distinction between crime and sin. It was no sin to become a Christian but for some it was a crime. In the New Testament there are no nation-states because its background is the Roman empire of which all were subjects in one way or another. There are ethnic groups but no nations in the modern sense of the word.

The way the New Testament looks at the state and our involvement in it is very different from the Old Testament perspective. In the Old Testament men and women were required, as part of their covenant to be an integral part of the whole social and political life of the nation. In the New Testament the underlying metaphor is of the stranger and the pilgrim. "This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through"; no Israelite could have sung that song but it has been the marching song of the Christian for two millennia.

Where shall we get our patterns and principles?