Being the Church in the Midst of Empire

Karen Bloomquist, editor, Lutheran University Press, 2007

In the past ten or so years the concept of “empire” has emerged as a hermeneutical key to biblical texts. Our scriptural texts were written, edited and shaped by a people living in and under the great empires of history: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome. Vocabulary that was political has by out time become domesticated and lost the shock value that the Hebrew and early Christian communities experienced. For example, the titles we use for Jesus (Saviour, Lord) were the official titles of the Roman Caesar. “Empire” refers to the massive concentration of power which “permeates all aspects of life . . .. Empire seeks to extend control as far as possible; not only geographically, politically and economically . . . but also intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, culturally and religiously . . . with top down control. . . to domesticate Christ and anything else that poses a challenge to its power.” Being the Church seeks to identify the concepts of “empire” as embedded in current history and values, and what this entails for daily faithful living. Essays by contributors examine these ramifications, e.g., a theology of the cross rather than prosperity theology, the need for the church to concentrate on community rather than on power. The essays reflect the basic orientation of the contributors who are Lutheran, and whose theology of the cross articulates and focuses well the message of the biblical text.

—Vern Ratzlaff, pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada