A Framework, Agenda and Strategy for Christian Social Reform
Michael Schluter & John Ashcroft (Editors)
Category: Ethics & Morality
This is probably the second best book I've ever read. If you're into reading and you're interested in the relationship between the Bible and society and if you have the means I highly recommend picking one up.
The Jubilee Manifesto outlines the biblical-social-political philosophy of Relationism.
Part 1 lays out the foundations of Relationism, noting the degradation of personal relationships associated with individualistic Capitalism (p.20ff) and the need for joined up thinking in Christian social reform rather than engagement in single issue politics (p.29). Driven by a biblical agenda (p.101) from the interrelatedness of the Trinity (eg p.51), the concept of covenant (eg p.39) and the golden rule (as a summary of the Old Testament law) (eg p.330), Relationism aims to maximise the potential for right relationships at every level of society by relational, social, economic and political reform within a democratic system. Its propagation relies on the people of God who are called 'to be a priestly kingdom and a light to the nations,' (p.27) acting as agents of right relationships on a personal, local, national and international level.
Part 2 focuses the relational spotlight on a wide range of issues from family life to international relations and defence. Part 3 goes on to outline a strategy for engagement and summarises a number of case studies carried out by the Jubilee Centre and related organisations.
The book covers a huge range of subjects, but there are a number of recurring themes in the relationist agenda for social change which flow through the whole document: family, debt and ownership.
This book steers clear of a simplistic theonomic approach whist still employing an admirable breadth of biblical material (pp.82ff). Whilst on occasions, the authors seem to overlook the differences between torah and modern law (eg Julian Rivers on p.146), the book as a whole uses the Old Testament in a remarkably uniform paradigmatic fashion (outlined in pp.86ff), not shying away from tough passages like the command to destroy the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 7 (p.264).
I was slightly disappointed by the manifesto's failure to address environmental issues, however, this omission is mentioned in the manifesto and the Jubilee centre are currently researching in this area.
In making the creation of an environment where human relationships can flourish its central priority, The Jubilee Manifesto lays out a deeply radical challenge to capitalism (and the remnants of socialism). In aiming to construct a joined-up approach to Christian political thinking, it provides a framework for social action in a wide range of areas, both for the Anabaptist prophet on the street and the Anglican bishop in the Lords (p.286). It is humble in its hermeneutics (p.82) and honest about the successes and failures of the campaigns of the Jubilee centre and associated institutions to date.
I only finished reading it yesterday (July 25th 2006), but for the time being at least this is the best book on Christian engagement in the social arena I have read — I reckon it's up there with Stott's Issues Facing Christians Today. I'm reasonably confident that it will be highly influential in my life and ministry. Am I missing some obvious errors?!
Part 1: Framework
Part 2: Agenda
Part 3: Strategy
Tom Wharin, July 2006
Review Previously Published by Gold Hill Baptist Church where feedback about the book and the issues raised would be very welcome. Reused here by kind permission.Order from www.christianbookshops.org | Order from St Andrew's Bookshops
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