Are You a Neo-Roman or a Subverter of Empire? Quote to Ponder: R. Horsley

I have had to take a break from blogging for the past several weeks.  1) I have moved to a new city for a new and exciting ministry opportunity 2) I am in the middle of researching the Roman Empire and Luke’s Gospel.  I have not adequately interacted on my prior “atonement” post, but will come back to the subject after my life slows back down.  I wanted to post a “Quote to Ponder” that I just came across from Richard Horsley about Jesus and politics (both ancient and modern) to hear your thoughts!  I can’t promise to be back to the blog very much over the next few days, but will attempt to check in as much as possible.  :-)

From the perspective of the past several years in the early twenty-first century it may seem remarkable to us now that the “historical Jesus” of the twentieth century managed to remain remarkably apolitical throughout a century of unprecedented political turmoil…  Only after the United States blatantly asserted its “hard” power in the Middle East, in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, did more than a handful of biblical interpreters begin to question the received wisdom.

Neoconservative intellectuals have been insisting that, since the United States in an empire, it should use its imperial power more blatantly in preemptive invasion of the Middle East. This has led many to a reluctant recognition that America has indeed been acting like an imperial power. Historians are reminding us of how deeply the sense of being the New Rome, as well as God’s New Israel, is embedded in “America’s” collective identity. These recent developments are now leading many Christians who feel uncomfortable about their role as the New Romans to inquire about the relation of the original Rome to the ancient Middle East and in particular about that figure whom the Romans hung on a cross as an insurgent. Richard Horsley, In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance (p. 76-77)

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  • Jason

    Interesting quote kurt… I do not know the context of the above quote but I do see how Americans have historically identifed with both Rome and Israel depending on the situation.

    Ironically, Rome persecuted Israel (and then Christians).

    I think that we do need to re-evaluate America’s role in the Middle East and around the world (for those of us that are Americans) and ask the question “Are we like Rome the oppressor?” The problem is that every culture views their own as right and ordained by their own gods… unfortunately many Americans follow a god that is only American. (Side note: if you have not checked out this new “bible” coming out, the American Patriot Bible, do it… it is scary! Greg Boyd talks about it in his blog… check it out.…)

    Anyways… we (Christians in any nation) need to stop being ethnocentric. And, be careful to not re-write our histories to only focus on the good and not be honest about the bad.

  • Dan Martin

    Right on, Kurt! I would only add that there’s a minority who has seen this imperial tendency for a while. . .growing up as I did in a Mennonite household, with two uncles serving in Vietnam with Mennonite Central Committee during the war, our imperial behavior as a nation was made clear to me since my youth. I’m relieved to hear more people coming to this realization.

    Jason’s point about the “New American Patriot’s Bible” is disturbingly relevant, however. I fear as more believers recognize the subversive nature of true Jesus-following, that the consumers of the PB may well become the empire’s oppressors and enforcers.

  • Graceshaker

    im wondering just how many ways american christians crucify the historical jesus on a regular basis..

    • Kurt Willems

      I am with you on your quesiton about how often we crucify the historical Jesus. On one side we tend to remove Jesus from the historical gospel accounts and on the other end we forget how much jesus actually spoke to the culture of his day ie Roman Empire. We need to be less conditioned by our American culture and more conditioned to the way of Jesus!