Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Imperial Christianity?

I just looked back at my earlier post about "Constantinian" Christianity. In my comment to a reader, I lamented the construction of a sort of edifice of "anti-imperial" Christianity (popular in post-Evangelical and emerging circles). The important part of that comment is the parenthetical remark that wonders what that means in our current context.

So, here's a question. How do we live a kind of Christianity that is subversive of Empire if there is no emperor? I mean, an Empire is a political system ostensibly directed and in some ways constituted by the necessary component of the emperor. Without an emperor what do we have? Either anarchy (which is certainly not the case currently--indeed, even the early church couldn't countenance anarchy [I shouldn't have to mention the authority of the apostles in the early church]), or some other form of government--oligarchy, democracy, etc. Now, we Americans live in a democratic republic of sorts, not an actual empire. So, it seems, the language of Empire is extended to the so-called 1st-world West--the colonial powers. But the late-capitalist system (that a great many of us agree is a problem) has grown beyond such powers and has taken on a trans-national character. In other words, if it is an empire, it is an empire without a (visible) emperor. Indeed, it seems to be anarchy--or perhaps better, feudalism between competing corporations. So what are we to do? We cannot assassinate the emperor. I'm wondering if a better solution would be to use the political system against the (currently) unjust economic order. Instead of conflating the two in America, I think Christians might do well to recognize that the political sphere is still malleable (as I think, ironically, the Tea Party has shown), and this is a remarkably fertile place to stage resistance to this faceless "empire." I'm not saying it would be easy. I'm saying it might be more responsible. "Shoplifters of the world, unite and take over."

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