What I think comes out of the last post is that it could be said that my denomination, when it speaks of it’s supposed “exile”, using parallels extrapolated directly from the OT, has failed to sufficiently understand itself in light of the nature and role of the church as founded in the Christ event and experienced as alive and attempting self-definition on the pages of the NT.
Exile is not an acceptable description of the church and its place in society because what Israel lost in its exile are not qualities that can be said to be continuous with the church as it was founded.
If truth be told “the exile” we are experiencing, if it is an exile at all, is an exile from society as defined by the term ‘Christendom’ – and Christendom has much to commend itself as a great mistake writ large across the face of the world from the 3rd century CE to 2012 CE.
Christendom (put both very broadly and crudely) marked the buddying up of the church and state and in this the church would compromise its true distinctiveness in prophetic and social terms – and this can be seen to be true more often than not over the last 1600 years.
The church capitulated to and justified positions of war (the Crusades and ‘just war theory’, German churches under Hitler), poverty, and racism (the Crusades again, anti-semitism, Yugoslav wars etc.) among countless other issues, and even carried them out (the Inquisition, Anabaptist persecution, the Puritans and Native Americans), as its privilege, personhood, position, and power were allowed to be defined by the concerns of kingdoms and states, Emperors and Presidents, that were (and still are) not the concerns Jesus represented and called us to (the Reformation period is an especially good one for witnessing the church become tied to political power games).
Furthermore Christendom put the church at the centre of the world – a position that seems more than implausible if we are faithful to the vision and values that Jesus insisted we follow, as his people.
“The exile” the Presbyterian Church in Ireland is undergoing is more than perhaps the failure and fall of Christendom – and it (probably) should be celebrated. We are long since past the days when church could dictate state policy as if it is the only party with a voice worth hearing. For too long have we thought being the perfunctory rubber stamp of state ceremonies (e.g. legal marriage) and agendas acceptable. For too long have we allowed various other identities – political, economic, ethnic or otherwise – to sit alongside the only identity that has a right to us. And for too long have we behaved in ways sub-Christian because of the dissonance our dual identities imbibe.
The only reason the parallel with the exiles Israel and Judah underwent works for the church is because Christendom allowed for a redefinition of the church’s privilege, personhood, position, and power in line with how these may have been imagined within ancient Israel (and even then it will only ever be a parallel). The problem, if it is not clear already, is that all of this, by in large, passes the identity Jesus gave the church with little more than a wave.