This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations I serve.

Friday, June 17, 2016

BDS and Sabbath.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, one way to look at Sabbath is as a practice of intentional non-participation in the economy in order to give glory to God.  That is, in Sabbath the people lift up God’s mishap (justice) and shalom (peace) by stopping for a period of time all economic activity, or “work.”  It embodies the Lord’s statement that we cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24), by carving out periods of time when money is explicitly not to be served.  Perhaps it is also a time when we render to God what is God’s, as distinct from the other times when we are compelled to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar (Mark 12:17).  

In addition to the weekly Sabbath, every seventh year was also a sabbath.  (See Leviticus 25.)  Even the land got a rest from economic exploitation.  And the sabbath of sabbaths, after 49 (7x7) years, was the Jubilee.  The Jubilee was a way to press the “reset” button to in effect reboot the economy. Debts were remitted, and property reverted to the original family of ownership.

All of this was a way of socially and economically practicing Psalm 24:1, 
“The Earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof, 
the world and all who dwell therein.”

Thus the sabbath is, in a sense, a “boycott” of the whole economy, like a controlled and regular system of general strikes, designed to apply a brake to the pervasive demands of economic existence.  It was a release valve intended to relieve the social pressure of economic injustices, which invariably build up in an otherwise unregulated economy.   

In the Jubilee, the whole society intentionally “divests” from economic demands and domination; this corrects the longer term corrosive effects of economic predation and “growth.”  Those who accrued wealth in the previous half-century are required to give back a portion of their gains so that balance may be maintained.  

We might also understand the sabbath/Jubilee system as involving “sanctions.”  Commercial interests certainly would have felt sanctioned by sabbath and other religious brakes on profitable economic activity.  The prophet Amos notices this (Amos 8:4-6).  The main opposition to sabbath and Jubilee would have been from those who stood to lose the most: the wealthy and “successful.”       


Put another way, 
boycotts, divestment, and sanctions 
are simply selective and targeted applications 
of the sabbath/Jubilee principle.  
Instead of being applied according to a regular schedule, 
we resort to them 
when we perceive the need arising 
in particular situations
of injustice, abuse, and inequity.  

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