I have always found it an interesting contradiction that some of those who oppose empire building also oppose the great document in world history that is anti-empire, namely the Bible. It is also just as contradicting that many who say they believe in the Bible are promoting empire. Something seems out of whack here.
All great literature has a narrative that drives its theme. The theme of the Bible is basically about a small band of people called the Hebrews that through thick and thin have survived and outlasted empires. From the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires, the Hebrews are still around and the empires are gone. The Hebrews of the Old Testament theme was one of not just survival but freedom. “Let my people Go,” was their cry. Or as we say in rock and roll, “Let my people GO-GO”.
In the New Testament under the leadership of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah, many Hebrews found their freedom through an inner transformation. “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you,” was their cry. And this brought them martyrdom by the Roman Empire because they rejected the violence and bondage of worshiping Caesar. O.T. theme: survival. N.T. theme: inner freedom. Thematic commonality: resistance to empire.
In regards to imperialism, Nesbit pointed out that the fall of Rome, “Sharpened the imagination of the 5th century Christian intellectuals and the 16th and 17th century neo-Pagan intellectuals.” Since imperialism morphed into the forms of the French Zenith, the British and American Empires, it seems that the modern notion of progress as Lasch points out has become “askewed”. What once was sharp has now become dulled. Why is this?
There seems to be some kind of amnesia, deliberate or not, in regards to the Biblical example to resist empire. Could this be because we live in a very Biblical illiterate society? Maybe. Therefore, many progressives by ignoring this most important document (or misunderstanding it), have seemed to have fallen into the trap of actually supporting imperialism as if it is very progress itself. Those hyper-religious Bible-bangers that are as ignorant of the Bible as the secular progressives in question, call for more military intervention and empire extension, regardless of the fact that the Messianic mandate out of the mouth of Jesus Himself forbids such acts of violence and oppression that empire bring.
As the Modern Age bleeds into the Post Modern, like any empire the next to collapse is the American one. The sun has set on every empire since China in 5,000 B.C. all the way to the British. It is interesting to note that the Book of Revelation is a preview of what is to come in regards to the final collapse of all empires and completes the theme of the Bible. When Saint Augustine was a witness to the fall of the Roman Empire, he said, “The city of man has fallen, but the city of God remains,” (De Civitate Dei), he was referring of the culmination of two different cities, two different ways of thinking; one was imperial, and the other was spiritual. Just minutes before his conversion he had come to terms with the Bible that woke him up to this fact when four words came to him. These four words were: “PICK UP AND READ.” It would not hurt us to do the same.
Bruce Cockburn: Use Me While You Can (1999)
tarkineWild on Jun 15, 2008