Wednesday, December 31, 2008

America and Empire

"Americans, however, don’t want to believe the United States is an empire. That reluctance was underscored in a 2003 debate sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, between British historian and journalist Niall Ferguson and neoconservative foreign policy advisor Robert Kagan, a founder of the Project for a New American Century and a leading advocate of the American invasion of Iraq. Ferguson, author of the book COLOSSUS: THE PRICE OF AMERICAN EMPIRE, argued the affirmative, saying, after a brief survey of American military, economic, and cultural power, that from a British perspective 'the only thing that is really quite remarkable about the American empire s the fact that [t]his is an empire in denial. It is an empire that refuses to acknowledge its own existence.'

"Kagan accepted Ferguson’s description of the vastness of American power but rejected the word 'empire' as a description, preferring 'global power.' 'Colonies are the touchstone of empire, he said, and he argued that while America had an imperial past, 'as American imperialism diminished, American power grew.' There is a difference between being the world’s greatest power, he suggested, and 'a country that seeks to exercise dominion over others, which is what the true definition of empire is.'. ."

". . . Richard A. Horsley argues in several books that Americans are uncomfortably discovering their country’s role in the world is not unlike that of the Romans. 'Many Americans are beginning to sense a serious discrepancy between prominent strands in their historical identity and the realities of their current position in the world,” he writes in JESUS AND EMPIRE: THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE NEW WORLD DISORDER. Indeed, some Americans “cannot avoid the awkward feeling that they are now more analogous to imperial Rome than they are to the ancient Middle Eastern people who celebrated their origins in God’s liberation from harsh service to a foreign ruler and lived according to the covenantal principles of social-economic justice.'

"Horsley, who has also edited IN THE SHADOW OF EMPIRE: RECLAIMING THE BIBLE AS A HISTORY OF FAITHFUL RESISTANCE, a collection of essays on how to read the Bible as a reaction to empire and a call to oppose imperial power in every age, observes that despite the unease Americans feel about the United States as an empire they cannot grasp Jesus’ message as it is directed to that empire because Jesus has been domesticated and his message depoliticized by generations — indeed centuries, stretching back to the early church — that have, in the interest of survival or power, compromised with empires. Further, he argues, since the Enlightenment they have cooperated in severing the religious from the political and economic, making of them realms that have little to do with one another, a separation that would not have been understood by or even conceivable to Jesus and his first followers"

From the article God and Empire by David E. Anderson, November 19, 2008.

1 comment:

Ted Michael Morgan said...

From the article:

"For Crossan, empire and civilization are essentially equivalent. Civilization itself, he writes, “has always been imperial — that is, empire is the normalcy of civilization’s violence.” America and the Rome of Jesus and Paul are not that different from one another. “As the greatest pre-industrial and territorial empire — just as we are the greatest post-industrial and commercial empire — Rome was the expression, no more and no less, of the normalcy of civilization’s violence, first-century style.” Violence is the defining characteristic of civilization and thus of empire."

RE: Jacques Ellul


In this my personal Christian blog, I hope to be discursive and now and then critical. What I write here is tentative and tensive. I post thoughts, feelings, and observations somewhat randomly and often in immediate response to current events and posts on other blogs.

"Serendipitous Creativity" from Gordon Kaufman

"I suggested that what we today should regard as God is the ongoing creativity in the universe - the bringing (or coming) into being of what is genuinely new, something transformative; …

"In some respects and some degrees this creativity is apparently happening continuously, in and through the processes or activities or events around us and within us(…) is a profound mystery to us humans(…) But on the whole, as we look back on the long and often painful developments that slowly brought human life and our complex human worlds into being, we cannot but regard this creativity as serendipitous …

"I want to stress that this serendipitous creativity - God! - to which we should be responsive is not the private possession of any of the many particular religious faiths or systems …

"This profound mystery of creativity is manifest in and through the overall human bio-historical evolution and development everywhere on the planet; and it continues to show itself throughout the entire human project, no matter what may be the particular religious and or cultural beliefs."

Gordon Kaufman, Mennonite Life, December 2005 vol. 60 no. 4

Melville is a rational man who

"Melville is a rational man who wants God to exist. He wants Him to exist for the same reasons we all do: to be our rescuer and appreciator, to act as a confidant in our moments of crisis and to give us reassurance that, over the horizon of our deaths, we will survive." (John Updike)

And that is a problem for me.

Fragmented Notions

Fragmented Notions
Copyright © 2007 Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt University

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