Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thinking in God and Empire

There is a lot of thought coming through research by Christian scholars that seem to have pretty good evidence for something termed "God and Empire".

There are many people promoting this thought, including N. T. Wright and John Dominic Crossan.  Crossan even wrote a book called "God and Empire". Recent historical and archeological research tends to back this thinking up.

What is God and Empire thinking?  It is the belief that, during the time Christ, through the time of the early church, the Romans had a greater influence on the outcome of events than we give them credit for.  Generally, the thought goes something like this...

Four hundred years before Christ, the Israel was captured and sent into exile.  This exile was not only a physical exile but also a spiritual exile.  When they returned seventy years later, they were able to rebuild the walls and the temple (Nehemiah & Ezra - these are one book in the Jewish Bible) but they were not given the control of the government back -- something which is factoring into the look forward for a Messiah.  This page gives an historical view of the prophesy in Daniel 11 which talks about these future events.

That said, according to the "God and Empire" research, a few years prior to the birth of Jesus, the Caesars had turned the government from a republic and had started a Caesar cult, forcing the worship of Caesar as God.  Fearing a general uprising from Israel, however, they were given some latitude in their belief of God.

This belief that Caesar was God, however gained strength as Rome forced their "Pax Romana" (Roman Peace) on their people.  Now (as I have said before) when you read Romans 10:9, for instance, it will take on a new meaning.

What started me thinking about this is a discussion that we had at the flyball tournament about North Korea.  One of the people had seen a documentary of life there and commented how they thought of Kim Il-sung as God.  He is the one who provides their meager living and is the center of their thoughts.

So our question should be, what is the center of our thoughts?  Who provides us with our needs?   Is it God or our own empire (in my case, the United States)?

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