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Jubilee Manifesto Jubilee Manifesto
A Framework, Agenda and Strategy for Christian Social Reform

Michael Schluter & John Ashcroft (Editors)
ISBN 1844740749 (9781844740741)
IVP, 2005

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.

The idea of the family as the primary unit of society is a recurring theme (eg p.155). Families are seen as potentially much greater providers of social care (eg p.182ff) and stability in the UK (eg p.170). Consequently, a highly mobile workforce is seen as undesirable (eg p.171). Whilst I find little to argue against in this emphasis, the focus on the 3-generational family of Old Testament times as an ideal (p.159ff) doesn't really deal with the question of whether this specific arrangement is God ordained, or simply a coincidental feature of ancient near eastern rural society.

Unsurprisingly, a Leviticus 25 / Deuteronomy 23:19-20 centred focus on debt remission and reduction is at the heart of the personal and institutional economic policy outlined in the chapters on finance and the economy. Lending at interest is viewed as the root cause of much personal financial struggle, posing too great a risk for borrower at no risk to the lender and hence as a denial of responsible relationship between lender and borrower. Limited liability companies are also singled out for criticism in their reduction of risk (and hence undermining of relationship) on the part of the investor. These chapters advocate equity shares as a safeguard against irresponsible investment and a national investment fund, against which which individuals can borrow at zero interest as an alternative to personal loans.

Community and corporate ownership is promoted in most areas of life by the manifesto. Investors need to own and be responsible for both loss and profit in their investments. Communities should own welfare provision (pp.183ff) and community regeneration (pp.253ff). It is also argued that the waging of just wars should be owned by local communities members of which should be called up rather than voting at arms length (pp.267ff). The net result of all these 'ownerships' is a proposed decentralisation of power and empowerment of local communities.

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?!

Full Contents
1. A new framework for the social order - John Ashcroft and Michael Schluter

Part 1: Framework
2. Christianity as a relational religion - Graham Cole
3. Relationships in the Christian tradition - Jeremy Ive
4. The ethical authority of the biblical social vision - Christopher Wright
5. The biblical agenda: issues of interpretation - John Ashcroft

Part 2: Agenda
6. The relational dynamic - John Ashcroft
7. Nationhood - Julian Rivers
8. Government - Julian Rivers
9. Family - Michael Schluter
10. Welfare - Michael Schluter
11. Finance - Paul Mills
12. Economy - Paul Mills
13. Criminal justice - Jonathan Burnside
14. International relations and defence - Jeremy Ive
15. A relational and coherent vision - Michael Schluter

Part 3: Strategy
16. The potential for Relationism - John Ashcroft
17. Case-studies - Michael Schluter
18. Epilogue - Michael Schluter

Tom Wharin, July 2006

Tom Wharin is a graduate of London School of Theology currently serving as Associate Pastor (18s-30s) at Gold Hill Baptist Church, Chalfont St Peter, Bucks.

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.


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