The insignificance of the US election

Just out of a class this evening on ‘gospel. We played this Bible Project video – an outstanding explanation of the good news in terms of the Bible story.

Towards the end they say this

While it might look like the rulers of our world are in charge and can do whatever they want the good news is that the crucified and risen Jesus is the true Lord of the world, the real king of all creation

And that is very good news indeed.

This is not to say what happens in America tonight is unimportant. It is to say that Christian hope does not at all depend on who sits in the Oval Office.

By co-incidence I’ve also been reading a book about early Christianity and the Roman empire. It sits in the vein of ’empire studies’ – a branch of NT studies that sees NT writers, particularly Paul, as deliberately confronting the power of Caesar / Rome. So Romans is re-read in a dramatically different way as a polemic against Rome and a call for believers there to subvert Rome in all they do.

I remain unconvinced by this thesis. It reads too much into the text and sees ‘Rome’ behind every bush in Paul’s thinking.

I’m more convinced by NT scholar John Barclay’s take on empire studies. He says (paraphrasing here) that Paul has much bigger fish to fry. The real opponents in view are sin, death, evil powers in the cosmic conflict between God and all the forces that distort and destroy his good creation. God has won the victory in Christ.

The most counter-imperial thing Paul does is not even bother to name Caesar or the Roman empire. They are insignificant in the bigger story.

And so are Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

3 thoughts on “The insignificance of the US election

  1. I totally agree with you Patrick. While one must read the NT within its context there is a danger that we might try to put our spin into what the writers were saying.
    I remember reading one of Francis Schaeffer’s books where he said that the spreading of Christianity was the cause of the breaking up of the Roman Empire. I would say that it contributed, and I think they did it in an indirect way. The early christians never said: Caesar is not Lord, but they did say: Jesus is Lord and by saying that they were implying who was the final ruler. Until then, Rome allowed people to practice their own religions as long as they accepted the the emperor was the lord. So, in a very non-violent way they started to produce a crack within the empire.
    The reality is, that today, we go to Rome to look at what is left of one of the most powerful empires in history. We must never think that the ones that we have now are going to last forever. There is only one that will surpass all of them and we know which one it is.

  2. Good thoughts Ana, thanks. There are ‘weak’ or ‘strong’ interpretations of how Christianity related to the empire. I like the idea of ‘implicit subversion’ – its by living another way to another story that the story of empire is disempowered.

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