Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Covenant Key to Civilization and Communion Future

Give a certain tendency in our church to oppose the Covenant, it is good to see signs of support wherever they occur. Wellington's recent "Yes" is most welcome. So is this article by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks entitled "How to Reverse the West's Decline" and published in Standpoint (H/T a correspondent who pointed me to Taonga's link to it).

First, Sacks has some excellent things to say about the decline of Western civilization, drawing on the writings of Ibn Khaldun and his conception of asabiyah or "social cohesion." I commend the article to you purely and simply on the grounds of my concern (also posted about below a few days ago) that the West is in decline, soon to end.

Secondly, the article has some very interesting things to say about Covenant! In the specific context of Sacks' thesis about reversing the decline in the West, his reflection on Covenant is the role it plays in social cohesion. But what he says seems to me to be very relevant to the future of the Communion as it engages with the possibility that its asabiyah will be enhanced by the proposed Covenant. Read on,

"It is a peculiarity of the Abrahamic monotheisms that they see, at the heart of society, the idea of covenant. Covenantal politics are politics with a purpose, driven by high ideals, among them the sanctity of life, the dignity of the individual, the rule of justice and compassion, and concern for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the stranger. G.K. Chesterton called America a "nation with the soul of a church". Britain used to be like that too. In the 1950s there was no television at certain hours on Sunday so as not to deter churchgoing. Sundays helped keep families together, families helped keep communities together, and communities helped keep society together. I, a Jew growing up in a Christian nation, did not feel threatened by this. I felt supported by it — much more than I do now in an ostensibly more tolerant but actually far more abrasive, rude and aggressive society.

What is unique about covenant is its seemingly endless possibility of renewal. It happened in the Bible in the days of Joshua, Josiah and Ezra. It happened in America between 1820 and 1850 in the Second Great Awakening. It happened in Britain at the same time through the great Victorian social reformers and philanthropists. Covenant defeats the law of entropy that says that all systems lose energy over time. It creates renewable energy. It has the power to arrest, even reverse, the decline and fall of nations.

None of us should be in any doubt as to the seriousness of what is at stake. Europe today is pursuing the chimera of societies without a shared moral code, nations without a collective identity, cultures without a respect for tradition, groups without a concern for the common good, and politics without the slightest sense of history. Ibn Khaldun, were he alive, would tell them precisely where that leads."


Bryden Black said...

One of the curiosities of recent history, to my mind: Communism sought to destroy the family, knowing it to be a rival for human allegiance, even love - yet it failed, notably in places like Poland where the Church knew its enemy and outwitted it; consumer Capitalism on the other hand has destroyed the family institution like no other - by seduction and greed, and supremely down-right individualistic selfishness. And what has the western Church done to counter this? Privatized religious choice and entertained the religious masses.

Someone once said something about “salt becoming foolish ...”

Father Ron Smith said...

"..cultures without respect for tradition" - Bryden Black -

I suppose this charge could have been levelled against Jesus in his day, by the Scribes and Pharisees.

Father Ron Smith said...

Oh, dear me! The words I critiqued in Bryden's posting (above) seem to have been removed! (or am I being paranoic?)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Unless you have posted two comments, there is a comment of yours critiquing Bryden Black's comment above.

I have not (knowingly) removed any comments of yours.

Lucy said...

The rabbi is making some hugely important, and self-evident, comments. Are we on our knees?

Father Ron, perhaps Jesus only opposed traditions that obscured the life and truth of God ... the greatest source of social cohesion. I don't think the Rabbi is advocating keeping tradiion for the sake of itself, rather isn't he asking us to abandon the illusion and folly of beleiving we have a society and a future when all we have left is ashes?

Lucy Eban

Father Ron Smith said...

Precisely, Lucy. Jesus did oppose tradition that obscured the mercy and love of his Father - for all his children - not just those who thought they were righteous.

I have no argument with Rabbi Sachs. My argument is with any system of religion that, again, obscures the mercy and love of God for ALL - no matter what their race, culture, gender or sexual-orientation.

The Jews had thought that salvation was available for them only, but Jesus opened up 'the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers; no matter what their race, culture, gender or sexual-orientation. There is no evidence that he excluded LGBTs.