Let me start with a quote by Brian Zahnd:
I have a problem with the Bible. Here’s my problem…
I’m an ancient Egyptian. I’m a comfortable Babylonian. I’m a Roman in his villa.
That’s my problem. See, I’m trying to read the Bible for all it’s worth, but I’m not a Hebrew slave suffering in Egypt. I’m not a conquered Judean deported to Babylon. I’m not a first century Jew living under Roman occupation.
I’m a citizen of a superpower. I was born among the conquerors. I live in the empire. But I want to read the Bible and think it’s talking to me. This is a problem.
There’s so much I want to say regarding this, but in a sense, I’m having trouble saying it. There’s so much in these few paragraphs that, for me, connects to so many other things.
Let me start by saying – amen.
Second, if you aren’t familiar with Zahnd, he’s been writing about the idea of empire and how Christianity is actually in conflict with the idea of empire, even though most of Christianity’s history has been within an empire of one kind or another.
We saw it in Rome. We saw it when the church was it’s own earthly empire. We saw it in the Holy Roman Empire. We saw it in the British Empire. We have seen it in the US too. Yes, Zahnd would argue that the US has become an empire. I can’t give his argument justice here – read his book – “A Farewell to Mars.”
Lastly, the question comes down to this – how are our churches reading the bible? Usually the debate is between a historical contextual way of reading the bible versus a literal reading of the bible. In either case, so often we try to do what Zahnd is saying – read it as if it were written to someone like ourselves, someone who is a part of the empire.
The bible is counter cultural to the empire. The Gospel message is in stark contrast with the empire. The gospel isn’t out promoting material well being, aka the Prosperity Gospel, but rather a message of hope for those out of power, with limited resources, and little hope for any future.
So what do we do with this? It’s a good question. One to think about and determine what needs to change. It’s a question we’ll have to think about more as go forward. It’s a question we’ll have decide what to do with especially if Americans elect a person who is more oriented towards being caesar rather than a president, focused on security rather then protecting rights and care for members of society, focused more on securing power for it’s own sake (which the front runners in both parties seem to oriented towards in my opinion). It’s a question that seems to be fast approaching.