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Is The Queen’s Jubilee A Real Jubilee?

Er, no, it isn’t. Not to the Christian, anyway.

I bear Her Majesty no malice. Take your pick between monarchies, republics and theocracies: all have serious weaknesses which I’m not going to explore here. And yes, I shall go to our street party and enjoy myself with our friends and neighbours.

But let me defend my opening. Because The Real Jubilee is so much better.

Yesterday, Mark got home from school with a homework project for half-term to research The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. All the usual stuff about what’s going to happen, what the children are going to do and so on. So he finds the official website and started typing away.

“Hold on a minute,” I said, “do you know what a Jubilee originally was?” I knew he wouldn’t have a clue, and I explained simply the Old Testament origination of the fifty year intervals at which slaves were released and land returned. With the incentive that surely no other child in his class would know about this (and probably not his teacher, either) he added this to the beginning of his project. Never have I found Leviticus so useful with a child.

It is put in a more sophisticated way by Nick Spencer in his article The Other Jubilee, posted at Theos yesterday. There, he explains the heart of the problem. We have confused Old Testament Jubilee (from the Hebrew ‘jobel’) with Latin ‘jubilo’, meaning ‘to rejoice’. Hence we have the incongruous notion of a Jubilee without justice. A party (which is fine) but nothing else. How glad I was, then, to see my friend Sally Coleman post a link on Facebook to the Jubilee Debt Campaign’s Jubilee For Justice petition. Now, I know signing a petition only goes so far, I know that it’s easier than ever online and it becomes a substitute for getting our own hands dirty if we’re lazy, but it’s a start. I like the aims of the campaign:

Cancel the unjust debts of the most indebted nations

Promote just and progressive taxation rather than excessive borrowing

Stop harmful lending which forces countries into debt

I’ll put my name to those. And I just wonder whether, with all the talk we’ve had of churches getting involved with Diamond Jubilee Beacons we might have had a more effective witness by grass roots action for something in the spirit of a biblical jubilee. But then I’m a church leader and I’ve been far too slow to connect with what a jubilee originally was. I’m just catching up rather too late, thanks to my son’s homework.