Monday 28th October
The State We’re In…Imperial Nostalgia
Deuteronomy 7: 1-5
When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you—the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations mightier and more numerous than you — and when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. But this is how you must deal with them: break down their altars, smash their pillars, hew down their sacred poles, and burn their idols with fire.
It can be dangerous to step out of the present and go in to the past when looking to the future. The risk is that in doing so we apply the filter of nostalgia, which distorts our remembering and subtlety leads us to a sentimental connection to and longing for all that was good and better but is no more.
Much of the debate prior to the European Referendum applied this filter when concerns about potential adverse implications on trade relations with our European partners were raised. Claims were made that there were other trade opportunities with reference given to the Commonwealth, old colonies and past dominions.
As a filter of imperial nostalgia was applied, the power abuse, destruction, injustice, killing and evil of the past failed to register. Indeed, it was such trade relations that built the grandeur of some of our cities and in particular busy thoroughfares in Glasgow such as Jamaica Street and Virginia Street. Imperial nostalgia is dangerous because is prevents us from seeing Empire for what it is, the costs it brought and the people, groups and organisations involved, including the Church.
Ancient Israel had imperial ambitions and believed they had authority from God to do all it took in order to dominate and control the people and land around them for their own gain. Such passages from Deuteronomy have been used as justification for many horrific experiences at many times and in many places. Yet we know that God always shows a preference for the weak, the poor and the oppressed, even when sadly, God’s people are the oppressors.
Applying a filter of imperial nostalgia carries many dangers as we look from the present to the future, and discern God’s guidance and will.
God of all time,
forgive our past actions.
Forgive our past understanding.
Make us learn from what was;
recognise what is;
and discern your will for what is to be.
The Rev’d David Scott is the Minister of Duke Street in Leith and Saughtonhall in Edinburgh.