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Politics in Scripture

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Tue, Oct 7, 2014

Politics was the business of the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament. No, they did not fight to get in power, but rather to see that the people and nation were not destroyed by government policy. Those prophets whom we speak about most, like the Isaiahs, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos and Micah, were public intellectuals. They delivered their messages from God to the leaders and people of the nation in public places.{{more}} In every way, they were serious political activists and loyal to Yahweh – the Lord God – at the same time. They declared the message of Yahweh with unmistakable clarity, as well as in symbolic language, as the circumstances directed them.

THE POLITICAL CRY OF THE CATHOLIC CLERGY

When four or so weeks ago, on or about September 7, 2014, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church wrote his advisory letter in a prophetic/pastoral voice, he was taking up the political mantle of the Hebrew/Christian prophet. We must take his words seriously, because he claims to speak, not merely as the Reverend Jason Gordon, but from the highest possible authority that he knows. The Letter to the People of God explains why it was written, what it finds to be wrong in SVG and what the Catholic community should do.

What was it that stirred this prophetic/political message from the Catholic clergy? It was a mixture of shame and Scripture. “… We were convicted by God’s word and the cry of the prophets. … For a long time we, as Church, have failed to speak with a prophetic voice.” The Hebrew prophets inspired and shamed the Catholic clergy. Shame and guilt can be healing experiences. And what was the substance of their cry, these prophets today? There were seven social burdens and four religious concerns in the letter.

“A growing disrespect for the human person” was the first social issue, and “a sense of hopelessness and fear amongst our people” was the last issue. These subjective or spiritual matters were combined with observations of religious degradation, as in “the fact that people tend to put party loyalty before the truth of the Gospel” and “the resulting divisions within our Church communities….” While some of us have begun to accept these social and religious transgressions as “normal”, the Bishop tells us that they are evil, they must be eradicated, and we, like the prophets, must play our part. His letter proposes six or so steps for his flock to take. They are quite harmless, but if implemented in some coordinated programme, they can produce some results. The letter was addressed to Catholic citizens and to Catholic leaders like the Prime Minister and others. How did they respond? Did they heed the prophet’s cry of shame, of conscience and for reconciliation and peace?

A POLITICAL RESPONSE

First, let me say that even before the letter from the Bishop, I have heard Christian leaders and members speak in exactly those same words about our nation. I hope that they will now add their substance to this cry from above the partisan mix. I have heard one such voice from the Living Waters Ministry, and one contending voice from The Kingdom Life Tabernacle, which asked us to submit to the authority structures in government. We should speak to the Parliamentary Representative if we have a (social) burden. The most prominent political response has come from Prime Minister, Dr Gonsalves, in a Letter to Bishop Jason Gordon.

Rereading the letter from the Prime Minister and church member, Dr Gonsalves, I beg to suggest that Dr Gonsalves’ defence is too defensive. Near one half of his letter is a rehash of his explanation of the Government’s argument over the teachers’ issue and the “Bigger Biggs” issue. We have heard it before. The clergy have heard it before. The fact that they mention it shows that they want a different approach. They have only contempt for the edifice of argument that the Prime Minister offers. As Bishop Gordon later explained, and Shakespeare in “The Merchant of Venice” immortalized, Grace, or Mercy, tops the scale over Justice. In our case, it is especially a virtue when it is not dispensed on the basis of party or other qualification, as we notice every day, here and in the diaspora. If only you knew how much Grace you have been receiving from our people, Dr Gonsalves, you would act and think differently. I have digressed, ‘beg pardon’. Permit me to close here.

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