Obadiah Slope: On Jubilee, a prediction, and change-making

Jubilation: We have just had a Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth. But the Jubilee in the Bible is far more powerful. The Year of Jubilee, which came every 50 years, was a year full of releasing people from their debts, releasing all enslaved people, and returning property to ancestral owners.

The Jubilee is one of the Old Testament practices that Christians often look at with longing. How can we affect its like today? And debt release was called for more often than the full Jubilee – every seven years – Deuteronomy 15.

Here’s an example of what it looks like in the US.

Two Churches and a Jewish congregation in Chicago have joined forces to release people from medical debt – a curse common in the US.

US$1.9m of medical debt has been purchased by Brightstar Church in Bronzeville and St James Church in West Pullman (both Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal denomination) and a Jewish Orthodox congregation, the Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue.

“That will translate into medical debt relief for 2,327 people in the Chicago area who either: earn less than two times the federal poverty level, have debts that constitute five per cent or more of their annual income, or have more debts than assets.” the Times of Israel reports.

The churches and synagogue worked with RIP Medical Debt which, since its founding in 2014, has erased over $6 billion in debt.

What would Jubilee look like in Australia? Maybe the return of lands to original owners would play a part.

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And because there’s been a few days to let that UK jubilee settle, it may be time for Obadiah to sound an ancient cry: “Read your Geneva Bibles”.

The Geneva Bible is what the authorised King James Bible was designed to get rid of. The KJB, Authorised you see by King James I (or King James IV if you are Scottish) to supplant the anti-monarchy version of the Bible that was common before.

The Geneva Bible, published from 1560, was the first Bible to use verse numbers and contained powerful language, especially in notes printed in the margins.

“For James, the Geneva Bible was a political threat,” writes John Mclean, vice-principal of Christ College, the NSW Presbyterian seminary, in an ABC story. “It used the word “tyrant” hundreds of times (a fault the KJB would correct entirely). The marginal notes rejected the divine right of kings and tolerated disobedience and even revolution.”

The Bible is not safe for Kings.

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Bible war: Obadiah predicts a coming Bible war with a new edition of the NRSV translation softening the language about homosexuality.

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Change, not decay: There’s been a significant change at Obadiah’s church. Mrs Obadiah is pleased with the change – which is one of those things that Christians kill many pixels over. But rather than talking about that, Obadiah wants to draw attention to her attitude – quietly waiting for this change and not shouting, not lobbying, maybe a few prayers. Just serving.

As a journalist writing about Christians, Obadiah sees many Christians disagreeing loudly. He is convinced that writing about what is going on is his calling because important things are discussed in our church councils.

But maybe he gets to paint a false picture of what’s happening. Because gentle persuasion from the pulpit or stage to the pews or chairs and back again is much more common.

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Debate: “If God had intended the church to be primarily a social action community he would not have invented the Labor Party (insert group of choice).” Discuss.