The Justice of Equality: A Biblical and Postcolonial Perspective

The latest chapter of Carnival Kingdom to be profiled is written by Dr Jonathan Ingleby, former Head of mission studies at Redcliffe College.

Below are some snippets from chapter 9 of Carnival Kingdom.

‘It is quite wrong to think of the Israel of the Exodus as a tight-knit group based on a carefully guarded ethnic particularity. The ‘borders’ of ethnic Israel were extremely porous and where there was exclusion it was because there was an obvious threat to the faith of Israel. Except in matters of religious practice (you had to be circumcised to join in the Passover celebrations) aliens were treated in many ways just like Israelites.’

The New Testament church stood in a liminal position in a number of senses. The idea that Christians were ‘strangers in the world’ (1 Peter 1:1 NIV) was one. When Paul proclaimed that ‘here, i.e. in the Christian community, there is no longer Greek or Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free’ (Colossians 3:11 again) it does raise the question: if there are none of these familiar identities, what has taken their place?

When a gentile prophesied in the assembly he or she did not have to fear that all the Jews stopped listening! When a slave spoke up, even his or her master came under the authority of the message. Of course this was a very subversive process.

Primordial communities, those based on age-old tradition and sentiment, tend towards hierarchy and uniformity. The antidote is the imagined community which is ‘performed’ rather than taught and which does not contain within its founding documents (real or imagined) an immutable text. Instead it describes itself in language that is descriptive rather than prescriptive. Truth is valued, but it is assessed critically not in a naïve way, and rationality is tempered by imagination and magic.

There remains the Biblical, postcolonial challenge of a more equal and more just world. Israel by no means lived up to the vision of her founding fathers. The early church soon enough became hierarchical and authoritarian. The end of empire has not always led to societies that are just and equal in their arrangements. In church and state, we are still, all too often, confronted by privilege, patriarchy, prejudice, discrimination and the like. Yet the vision remains. ‘Another world is possible’ as the saying goes.’

Jonathan Ingleby has written extensively on aspects of cross-cultural mission, and especially on the local and global church’s engagement with postcolonialism, globalisation and contextual issues of culture and justice. He helped develop the ground-breaking Masters course, Global Issues in Contemporary Mission course at Redcliffe College, and in particular module MA2 dealing with such issues and which continues to be taught today.

Below are links to some of his recent publications:-

Beyond Empire

Christians and Catastrophe

Naming the Frame

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