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Imagining the Lectionary: wholeheartedly faithful (proper 27C / Ordinary 32C)

Reflection accompanying image The Bible - a rough guide to political oppression

Image: ‘The Bible - a rough guide to political oppression’

Sipping a Latte in Costa Coffee in Hull's Waterstones I looked across to the shelf of travel books adjacent to where we were sitting. Scanning the titles I suddenly became mindful of the hidden histories behind so many of these seemingly innocuous covers. Centuries of violence, conflict, inter-ethnic rivalry, political domination and economic exploitation mean that these books are in fact stories of power: printed with ink but dictated in blood.

Just looking at the geographical spread of countries arranged on the shelves is to get in touch with our own imperial past and that of the other empires which have left their mark on human history. The surging forces of political ambition and military might , of conquest, triumph, tragedy and defeat, have shaped these narratives every bit as much as natural forces and processes have shaped the landscapes the guide books describe.

This is equally true when we come to the Bible. Here too the narratives are woven into a context of stories of national and regional power: they are also printed with ink and dictated in blood. In so many ways the Bible offers us a rough guide to political oppression and, significantly and unusually, this is very often from the point of view of the victims.

The story of the returning exiles trying to rebuild their lives and their faith in the ruins of what had once been the thriving city of Jerusalem is so powerful in this regard.

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