Thursday, 19 September 2019

Past has a vote but not power of veto

HOW democratic is our faith?

Have you noticed a curious issue facing people of faith over the Brexit issue?

Whether you are for or against leaving the EU, everyone agrees that it has to be a democratic decision... and yet democracy is not a value that is rooted in the Bible!

On the contrary, it is often the few who are right and the majority who are wrong, such as Noah and his family standing out from the rest of the population and being the only ones to be saved.

Then there is Abraham leaving his own homeland to cross to the Promised Land, when he can set up a new type of faith that differs from the paganism that surrounds him.

In fact, in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, it is not even human will that counts, but the will of God. We do not have the Ten Suggestions or the Ten Points-Up-for-Debate; it is the Ten Commandments and no option for any dissenting opinion.

Of course, over time, religious views have changed, as they have done on so many other issues, such as over slavery and women’s rights, while today’s rabbinic courts and Church synods decide matters by majority votes. But there can still be a tension between what sacred texts say and what religious leaders feel, as we have seen in current arguments over gay marriage or female clergy.

What is notable is that there has been exactly the same divide within the Jewish community as that within the Church — and with exactly the same arguments by those for or against! I suspect that reflects the fact that some religion is down to human assumptions rather than eternal truths.

It begs the question of what has greatest authority — ancient texts with a divine vote of One, or modern insights according to today’s understanding?

It is a religious debate that is parallel to the political one and can be just as sincere and just as toxic.

Personally, I reckon that each generation has to interpret the will of God for its own time and not rely solely on tradition. To put it in political terms, the past has a vote, but not a veto.

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