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Is America an Empire?

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : January 22, 2008

greatseal.jpgRecently, in the comments of Mike Cline’s excellent article Christians: Haters of Humanity, a reader (jazzact13) responded negatively to the insinuation that the USA is an empire. He listed a bunch of criteria from dictionary.com. While I hardly think of dictionary.com as an authority for the definition of “empire,” it could be EASILY argued that America fits the bill under the first definition on the list:

a group of nations or peoples ruled over by an emperor, empress, or other powerful sovereign or government: usually a territory of greater extent than a kingdom, as the former British Empire, French Empire, Russian Empire, Byzantine Empire, or Roman Empire.

Am I being overly cynical here, or does indeed the USA exercise powerful sovereignty over a group of nations? This works on at least two levels:

  • Uh…we still rule over a number of territories and a plethora of indigenous peoples. And this doesn’t include those nations over which we have profound influence (though not legally).
  • The 50 STATES are each separate STATES ruled over by a central, government. This argument doesn’t work for me, but it might if I were southern.

But the USA is an empire in other ways:

  1. Though we are not currently in an era of vast territorial expansion, we have, historically, used military means to expand our boundaries, often citing “manifest destiny.” And we currently use our military might to police the world. Perhaps this isn’t a traditional definition of “empire,” but it makes the US at least a “neo-empire.”
  2. We are in an age where influence seems to advance through global consumer-capitalism. I think our understanding of “empire” should be revised to include emerging economics. To use a nerdly example: are the Ferengi an empire because of military power or trade? Now, it isn’t fair to point the label of “empire” at America alone in this. Many nations contribute towards the current global economic climate; but it is fair to say that the USA is still the primary power-broker in international trade.
  3. Besides having military and economic influence, the US has huge cultural influence. The USA has helped shape the imaginations of many in the world. We have exported our aesthetics, our definition of the “good life,” and our religion.

Not just leftist “America haters” use the word “empire.” Conservatives have begun to use the word as well. After all, the word “empire” isn’t necessarily a negative word.

I’m not using the word “empire” just to rip on America. And, in fact, I think we should cast the net wider when we use the word “empire” so that we include our consumer/cultural allies. I mean, Britain has had a role in all of the things that qualifies the US as an Ampire.

Why do we throw the word “empire” so much at Jesus Manifesto? It is helpful for us to realize that the anti-imperial flavors of the NT (especially Revelation) can still speak into our current context. Just as Paul and John and Luke, etc. pushed against the narratives and practices of Rome, we too can push against American narratives and practices. Books like Colossians Remixed, Unveiling Empire, and Mustard Seed Versus McWorld are all great books to read to delve into this further.

By naming America as an “Empire” we name the reality that the USA is not the Kingdom of God…and that it isn’t even an ally in the Kingdom of God. It is, in fact, an enemy to the Kingdom of God. Before you start quoting “render unto Caesar” and “submit to the governing authorities” let me remind you that (even if I thought that these passages argue for support of government) Paul called Rome an enemy in Romans 12. He names Rome as an enemy right before he argues that we ought to submit. I’ve already written about this, so I don’t want to belabor the point.

So, I’m convinced that America is an empire. And I’m convinced that it is the enemy, but it is an enemy I’m called to love. I don’t struggle against the flesh and blood residents of the American Empire. But I will name and resist the Powers of America.

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of JesusManifesto.com. He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.


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    Amen, Mark. Jesus told us to love our enemies because he loves them and wants them to follow him, too. Naming our enemies calls us to love them more, to love them to Jesus.
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    We certainly need to pray for our country and our leaders. Here are some facts:

    1. The United States has over 700 military bases around the world.
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/articl...

    2. The United States spent more on military than the next 14 nations combined in 2005. http://www.globalissues.org/Geopolitics/ArmsTra...

    3. And here's a photo of a Marine perched atop Nebuchadnezzar's rebuilt tomb in Babylon. http://architecture.about.com/library/bl-babylo...

    .
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    "a reader (jazzact13) responded negatively to the insinuation that the USA is an empire...."

    As a colombian I am, I don't know if I should laugh or if I should cry. When USA supported panamian independentists in 1903, it wasn't because Teddy Roosevelt was a man with a big heart; it was because this was the way how USA could take control of Panama canal (imperialism). When USA stole Texas to mexicans, it was pure imperialism. And I could say a lot of more examples of why USA is en empire..., but it could take so long.

    Blessings from Colombia
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    I've warranted my own hit piece. I'm flattered. Someone's toes must be smarting.

    --While I hardly think of dictionary.com as an authority for the definition of “empire,” --

    When in doubt, shoot the messenger.

    --Not just leftist “America haters” use the word “empire.” Conservatives have begun to use the word as well.--

    Well, considering that I am conservative and I've used the word here, point taken, though I've used the word for other reasons.

    But let's see--I've don't recall hearing or reading the word being used to describe America by any conservative on radio or in print. You could easily prove me wrong on that, as I don't get to listen to radio all that much. I think I have heard on a few occasions responses to this "american empire" rhetoric, but that's about it.

    However, what I do see and hear is that there are such, as yourselves, who use such rhetoric, particular in regards to Iraq.

    --let me remind you that (even if I thought that these passages argue for support of government) Paul called Rome an enemy in Romans 12. --

    http://bible.christianity.com/mybst/default.asp...

    Well, there's the chapter at least. Perhaps you can show us the verse where Paul tells us "Rome is the enemy", preferably in so many words. I'd hate to think you're just read your own conclusions into the passage.

    --So, I’m convinced that America is an empire. And I’m convinced that it is the enemy, --

    I give you this much, at least your an honest liberal. Now, if only Hillary were so honest. Heck, I'd be satisfied is McLaren and Wallis were this honest.
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    Well, I think Paul's writings, of all NT writings, has greatly influenced our desire, as a Christian community, to be complicit in governmental affairs. However, I am not sure we should read from Paul and go backwards.

    In fact, I think we should look to the life of Jesus, which I assume is the position here at "Jesus" Manifesto, and then move forward through the thoughts of Paul. And when I do this, I cannot help but notice Jesus' desire to confront the political system of Rome, deconstruct the mindset of the times and then offer a radically different alternative. In fact, one could even consult the writings of Paul, especially Philippians, where Paul utilizes Greek words which found their basis in political circles, and then he applies them to Christ. For instance, in chapter 2, Paul is directly confronting the idea of the emperor when he denotes the nature of Christ -- "who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped."

    The gospel message, even in historical context, is political, and Jesus was confronting an "empire." In today's world, it's hard to see how USAmerica is any different than an "empire," regardless of what political pundits say.
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    Yeepers JazzAct13, no need to be smarmy. You seem to have lots of loaded assumptions. Let me try to address them:

    1) You are not being "hit"...you have raised a great question and I think it is well worth exploring. This is a good thing, not a bad thing.
    2) The dictionary isn't good for defining things at a technical level. Would you use it to define "God" or "Jesus?"
    3) Conservatives who have used the word "empire" to describe America: Old school conservatives like Pat Buchanan, libertarians like Ron Paul, conservative journalists Charles Krauthammer and Mark Steyn. My point here is that all sorts of folks can use the word "empire" and mean it for good or bad. It isn't simply a badge worn by liberals.
    4) I've linked to my articles where I explain Romans 12 and 13. That's why I didn't delve into it here. I admit I am biased. As an anabaptist (and not a liberal) the State is always in the "enemy" category. But that doesn't mean I should pursue their destruction. Scripture is clear that I should seek to live in peace with the government. But it isn't my government. My government was started when Jesus was baptized.

    For the record. I dislike the politics of Wallis and McLaren too. I'm not a voter, and think a politically empowered Evangelical Left is almost as bad of an idea as an Evangelical Right. There are more than two political positions, Jazzact13. Just because I'm not a conservative does not make me a liberal. I am holding a political position that is 500 years old. You might as well call the Amish "liberals."
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    I hardly see the relevance of pegging people as liberals or conservatives....Mark would hardly be welcomed into the Democratic Party, as he is against abortion, and therefore conservative to many. These labels are unnecessary in this discussion. Just because someone thinks America is an "empire" does not mean that he is liberal, it just means that he thinks America is an "empire". No need to "read your own conclusions" into the statement.

    However, the conclusion that America is an "empire" is a bit shaky to me. The discussion is much more complicated and messy than it is made out to be here. I think there is a huge difference between exercising influence (economic, military, or political) over other nations and exercising powerful sovereignty. Economic influence is a discussion that would be extremely complicated as the world economy is so integrated.

    And, to conclude that America is the "enemy" is a simple conclusion without a well explained basis. The American government does a lot of good (picks up my garbage, paves roads, provides an avenue to deal with disputes [court], etc.) To conclude that "America" (city, state, and federal government) is the enemy....is like Pat Robertson calling liberals the enemy.
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    John,

    I know that saying that America is an empire is a shaky endeavor. I know it is a subject that has garnered much debate.

    My reason for talking this way is theological. I'm of the opinion that Revelation, for example, is meant always to be read in such a way that it applies to our current context, much like other NT works. The spirit of "Empire" is always with us. The question is: what shape does it take?

    You've read long enough to know that I would put any State in the "enemy" column. I'm not saying it is entirely evil.

    Almost every time Jesus or Paul talks about "enemy" they were referring to the Romans. But I don't believe that Rome was any more evil than America. They did, after all, many good things (paved roads, provided an avenue to deal with disputes, provided for peace, etc.)

    So, I am not using "enemy" the same way that Pat Robertson uses it to vilify the "other." When it comes to the Kingdom of God, America is an enemy, rather than an ally. So is every human government. So is my older brother, for that matter. I'm using "enemy" in the Biblical sense. Perhaps it is too unnuanced of a word to use effectively.
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    --Am I being overly cynical here, or does indeed the USA exercise powerful sovereignty over a group of nations?--

    I'm going with over cynical. Now, if you want something that is at least trying (usually flailingly, but still trying) to "exercise powerful sovereignty over a group of nations", the UN comes readily to mind.

    --Uh…we still rule over a number of territories and a plethora of indigenous peoples. And this doesn’t include those nations over which we have profound influence (though not legally).--

    Iffy. By this definition, almost any government could be labelled an 'empire'.

    --The 50 STATES are each separate STATES ruled over by a central, government. This argument doesn’t work for me, but it might if I were southern.--

    I think I would be considered southern, and that argument seems rather lame to me, too.

    --Though we are not currently in an era of vast territorial expansion, we have, historically, used military means to expand our boundaries, often citing “manifest destiny.” And we currently use our military might to police the world. Perhaps this isn’t a traditional definition of “empire,” but it makes the US at least a “neo-empire.” --

    Gotta love that--stick a prefix on a word, and suddenly its redefined/reimagines/deconstructed so that it fits whatever the user wants it to fit.

    --We are in an age where influence seems to advance through global consumer-capitalism. I think our understanding of “empire” should be revised to include emerging economics. To use a nerdly example: are the Ferengi an empire because of military power or trade? Now, it isn’t fair to point the label of “empire” at America alone in this. Many nations contribute towards the current global economic climate; but it is fair to say that the USA is still the primary power-broker in international trade. --
    For one thing, I find it hilarious that Star Trek is referenced.

    I find it hilarious as well that nonsense labels like "McWorld" are mentioned in your article, especially as someone who has spend a good amount of time in other countries and has been in places like McDonalds in various countries and even has a "Starbucks Beijing" t-shirt somewhere.

    Now, let's be honest, places like McDonalds and Starbucks are businesses. Knowing that, why do those kinds of businesses do so well in other countries? The answer--the people of those countries buy there stuff!! And they buy it because that's what they want to buy! Sheesh, they're no more being forced to buy Big Macs and Caramelmochalattes then you are being forced to eat at a local Mexican restaurant or to buy a BMW.

    --Besides having military and economic influence, the US has huge cultural influence. The USA has helped shape the imaginations of many in the world. We have exported our aesthetics, our definition of the “good life,” and our religion.--

    Ah, yes, and as a former missionary from the US, let me just say, I couldn't have cared less what the people I was among thought about Christ just so long as they saluted the red, white, and blue.

    Wow. I mean, heaven forbid that people in other countries actually read books written by US authors or watch US television or movies, right? Wouldn't want those poor people being influenced by us, right? They might actually start thinking about things like "You know, why do women need to wear burkhas?", "Maybe I don't have to live in a hovel all my life watching my children starve.", and "Maybe I do not believe in Christianity, but is it the government's business to not let me make an informed decision about it?".

    Shall we deal plainly now? Yes, I've no doubt that we could point out all kinds of things the US has done wrong. I admit that, and I'm not proud of that. We've made mistakes, and we've made plenty of them. Of course as well, we probably won't always agree on whether any X action was a mistake, but we can at least agree that many have been made.

    Admitting that, I would say that justice would dictate that you also acknowledge that the US has been a force for good in the world, too. This wholesale rhetoric of "America is the enemy" is laughably extreme. We were a large part of the efforts again Nazism, and even more so against the USSR. We are generous in regards to charity and aid, some might even say generous to a fault. The very fact the liberals can get so far with the rhetoric of PCness and victimhood is based solely on the fact that US people are caring and try to not offend.

    In short, my position is not that "the US is perfect and always right". I know it's not. But then, calling the US "the enemy" is an extreme statement, designed to emphasize any negative and bad things we have done and to minimize and downplay any good. Calling the US "an empire" is a label filled with political connotations, and is to my mind used more to stirs emotions then to inspire thought.
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    The US is not an "enemy" because of "how bad it is" v. how good the church is. It is an "enemy" because it is based on an ideology that is contrary to that of the church. And it's ideology, as contrary, has an adverse effect on the church correlative to the church's involvement therewith. You can argue up and down that the US does good things, but that is beside the point. All governments do some good things, all people do some good things. Some may even do many more good things than bad. But so what? What Mark means when he says enemy is not what the US means when it says that terrorists are the enemy. jazzact13 states "But then, calling the US “the enemy” is an extreme statement, designed to emphasize any negative and bad things we have done and to minimize and downplay any good" But he couldn't be more wrong. In the biblical sense of "enemy" the good or bad done doesn't matter. "Many will say 'Lord, Lord'." But they will still perish! Because the church defines enemy differently than the world. Enemy must be defined through and in the life of Jesus, through and in the work of the cross. The nation-state will not save us. It is founded on ideological principles which are contrary to scripture. We must get over the myth of State as alternative soteriology (William Cavanaugh). Jesus is the one who saves, and he is concerned with his Kingdom and not any kingdom of the world.
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    I think the current state of financial affairs in the world clearly undermines your stance, jazzact. If America didn't hold a high degree of influence over the world, why would a suffering US economy cause severe market crises in so many countries across the globe? And why would the US Federal Reserve adjusting its interest rate have such a positive impact on those panicking markets? Whether by deployed troops or dollar bills, the unprecedented role of the US as a global hyperpower is undeniable.

    Yes, America is a very generous nation, both governmentally and personally. However, many countries depend on US governmental aid to survive - that automatically puts the US in a position of influence over those nations. Similarly, the US market is a huge source of funds for the world, which is why sanctions against targeted nations are so effective. Few countries can afford to be denied access to the US consumer - why do you think Cuba is still stuck in the 60's? Of course, we don't even need to mention military and economic aid to dictators and countries with extremely poor civil rights records, do we? Some of those governments would be in very tenuous positions were it not for US involvement.

    I think part of the problem is that the classical definition of empire requires a specific sovereign - either a single person or a council of some kind. Power and control are exercised by that entity. That is clearly not the case in modern America. Take my above example; the President can influence the Fed chairman but he cannot order him to do anything. The President can influence US corporations but cannot directly control them without involving Congress. In that way, no, the US is not an empire. However, if we don't succumb to emotion and actually consider the blunt reality, the US fits many aspects of an empire. Even though control is not centralized in every respect, those in economic and political control tend to work towards similar goals: more money, more control, more security at whatever cost. And the lines of interdependence between US corporations and the government are not easily dismissed. For instance, the economic windfall that the latest Medicare prescription drug presented to drug companies is obvious. And the government will benefit, somewhat, by the tax revenues of those corporations. What is less obvious is their role in getting that legislation passed, which is how those actually in office benefit from the arrangement. There are many examples of this. What results is a de facto centralization of authority and control based on mutual interests.
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    I find the term "empire" illustrative with regards to the United States in much the same way I find "colonialism" illustrated with regards to the economic relations between former political-territorial colonizing nation-states and the former colonial nation-states. The term "neocolonialism" seems to have garnered a much wider following than saying something like "neoimperialism" though.

    I find this not unlike the discussion I had in my Formation for Ministry class last night - we have to be careful of the comparisons we make because the situation we are in now is not the same as the situation we compare ourselves to. In that class we're reading Bonhoeffer's Life Together and discussing it with regards to our formation as ministers, particularly discussing the question "What does it mean to be a member/leader of a community?". We're not only reading the book, but also discussing the situations Bonhoeffer experienced as an underground seminary leader during Hitler's regime when the book was written. I raised the issue of the German church and how we must reconsider our relationship with the American state and with modern economic orthodoxies pointing to the German church as an example of the dangers of becoming too embedded within the system. I found myself having to clarify at nearly every turn that I was saying I see points of continuity between Hitler's rhetoric, authoritarian measures taken by the Nazis, and the nationalistic response of churches in Germany to our contemporary situation today - but not that I was making an easy identification between present-day USAmerica and Nazi Germany.

    In the same way, I think there are a lot of people who rather uncritically throw around the word "empire" with relation to the United States, and it's given people like jazzact13 a problem. I do see great usefulness in exploring the connections between the United States and empire, for example see my series where I talk more about the processes of empire than actual, historical instantiations of empires. I think Mark's article gives good introductory material into the usefulness of describing America as an empire, but as people in this thread have rightly noted it is a complex issue.
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    --Yeepers JazzAct13, no need to be smarmy.--

    Very well. btw the 'a' is small. And the 'j'.

    --You are not being “hit”…you have raised a great question and I think it is well worth exploring. This is a good thing, not a bad thing.--

    I find this a bit odd. If this "empire" rhetoric is so common here, as the op says, then one would assume that it was a question already explored and agreed upon or not.

    --The dictionary isn’t good for defining things at a technical level. Would you use it to define “God” or “Jesus?”--

    Perhaps not in an in-depth manner, but I would be surprised if there wasn't at least some level of agreement, even basic, in those definitions and the reality.

    --Conservatives who have used the word “empire” to describe America: Old school conservatives like Pat Buchanan, libertarians like Ron Paul, conservative journalists Charles Krauthammer and Mark Steyn. My point here is that all sorts of folks can use the word “empire” and mean it for good or bad. It isn’t simply a badge worn by liberals--

    Buchanan doesn't surprise me too much, though my understanding is that Paul is pretty isolationist, so if he is calling the US an empire would he be doing so in a complimentary way? Or, maybe to put it another way, would his concept of 'empire' be better understood when opposed to his 'isolationist' ideas?

    --I’ve linked to my articles where I explain Romans 12 and 13. That’s why I didn’t delve into it here. --

    Very well, I shall check those out.

    --For the record. I dislike the politics of Wallis and McLaren too. I’m not a voter, and think a politically empowered Evangelical Left is almost as bad of an idea as an Evangelical Right.--

    Understood.

    --Just because I’m not a conservative does not make me a liberal. --

    Understood as well, and you have my apologies.
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    "Enemy must be defined through and in the life of Jesus, through and in the work of the cross." I would like this to be flushed out.

    No one has given a definition of "enemy", which would help me in this conversation. America is the enemy, Mark's brother is the enemy, some days I am the enemy.....who and what is not the enemy? Please help.

    And this..."The nation-state will not save us. It is founded on ideological principles which are contrary to scripture." That could not be more loaded and in need of explanation.
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    --I think the current state of financial affairs in the world clearly undermines your stance, jazzact. If America didn’t hold a high degree of influence over the world, why would a suffering US economy cause severe market crises in so many countries across the globe?--

    I'm not certain where in what I've said it could be interpreted that I said that the US does not have a high degree of influence. I know that, I would guess almost on earth knows that.

    --However, many countries depend on US governmental aid to survive --

    I would say that more often then not such dependence is a bad thing, but then, is that dependence our fault, their fault, or some mix of the two? As a conservative, it is my position that as much as possible people should be able to stand on their own. That doesn't mean the help and charity are bad things, I'm not a Randian Objectivist, and it must be acknowledged that there are people--some who are sick and old, orphans, the handicapped and maimed, perhaps others I can't think of right now--who do require more and even continual help because of their weakness.

    But in regards to nations, it seems that more often then not the US tries to help them so that they can stand on their own. I think that Japan and Germany after WW2 are good examples, and even Russia after the USSR could be considered a limited success. When I was first there in 99, it was a dismal mess, but my last time there in 2004 it had become much better.

    --Few countries can afford to be denied access to the US consumer - why do you think Cuba is still stuck in the 60’s?--

    Castro.

    --Of course, we don’t even need to mention military and economic aid to dictators and countries with extremely poor civil rights records, do we? Some of those governments would be in very tenuous positions were it not for US involvement.--

    I think with this you raise some good concerns. As I said before, the US hasn't been perfect.
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    --“No one has given a definition of “enemy”, which would help me in this conversation. America is the enemy, Mark’s brother is the enemy, some days I am the enemy…..who and what is not the enemy? Please help.--

    I agree with you, John. Maybe I'm starting to understand more what's going on, but it's still a bit confusing. A few fairly strong words are being used, like "enemy" and "empire", but then we are told they aren't being used to mean what they usually mean. That's fair, I suppose, but it's confusing, too.
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    "I’m not certain where in what I’ve said it could be interpreted that I said that the US does not have a high degree of influence. I know that, I would guess almost on earth knows that."

    Certainly, but where do we draw the line between influence and control? At some point a line is crossed. Is economic influence/control significantly different than direct military or political influence/control when the existence of a given government is on the line?

    "But in regards to nations, it seems that more often then not the US tries to help them so that they can stand on their own."

    I'm not arguing the merits of international foreign aid or even American's track record on that front (as you point out, its a mixed bag). I'm simply noting another form of control. Cutting off aid is as real a threat as directly invading the country.

    "Castro."

    His continued leadership of the nation is certainly the stated reason for continued sanctions, but it is the political will of the US government that maintains them. During President Bush's 2 terms, several European nations have suggested easing those sanctions but the US has quashed those efforts at every turn. Again, not arguing for or against the merits of those sanctions, only that the US is using its economic and political might to control and influence other nations.

    "I think with this you raise some good concerns. As I said before, the US hasn’t been perfect."

    I'm glad you're not knee-jerk supporting everything the US has ever done. But again, I'm not meaning to imply anything about the positive or negative aspects of US control. I personally think a fundamentalist Islamist government in Pakistan would be a horrible development both for the region and the world, to cite one example. My only point is the existence of that control.
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    But, empires look different around the world and in different times and cultures.

    I do not believe anyone in this post is asserting that they would like to forget the good that the US has done. Nor do I think they want the US to be purely without influence. There will always be powerful nations or empires, precisely like Rome in the days of Christ. These powers will likely be influential over others and perhaps even use their influence to dominate and control situations. They will also be influential in other ways, ie, books, movies, fashion, cultural anticlimaxes that somehow shape the way many think and act.

    I see many parallels between Christ’s assertions about the systems that existed then and the powers that be now. Whether you believe this or not, or see this or not, I believe the central point is that our kingdom is the kingdom Christ came to bring. So, if America is indeed an empire or just a country, why would we pledge allegiance to this earthly design when our Father in heaven calls us to so much more than what this country does or does not provide?

    Jesus came to restore his people, not to make them bow to Rome. His conversations with the Pharisees, the Saducees, Herodians, and all the religious leaders showed us that he valued people above all else. So why argue about the worth of a government system that at times intentionally fails people when Jesus never does. He came to free the oppressed and the US does have a hand in oppression. Evil or not, our political, social, and economical system is not godly. Therefore we should not be adverse or proactive in our support of it, but rather support the kingdom of heaven, the teachings of Jesus, and all that entails.

    I think the largest disparity comes with the actions of the US government and the attitudes of the people towards others. It is almost a seeming superiority that usually comes with an imperialistic society. I do not know if some are so ingrained they do not notice, or if they do not see it as a problem. But in looking at Jesus's life, I cannot help but see it as sad. But my response then, is to be a Christ follower committed to change, social justice, and those things that were called into the kingdom I serve.
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    "America" also needs to be defined. Otherwise, again, this conversation is oversimplistic. America as defined by the Constitution (Separation of Powers, Federalism, the Bill of Rights) is friendly to Christianity, and to all religions. In fact, it protects the freedom to worship, as well as protecting one's right to say that America is the enemy. This conversation tends to imply that "America" is its foreign policy and economic foreign policy. It is much more than that.

    So, "Is America an Empire?" is a complicated question.....
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    Indeed. My hope wasn't to make a simple strong case as much as it was to foster discussion (and I'm glad it has).

    America as defined by the Constitution may be friendly to Christianity, but that isn't to say that America is friendly to the Kingdom of God. This distinction I just made raises all sorts of other questions.

    The problem is that "America" (setting aside the problem with referring to the USA as "America") can mean:

    The US Government as it is.
    The US Government as it "ought" to be.
    The ideals of American Society, whatever those are (which depends upon who asks)
    The people of the USA.
    The global system of trade that is largely supported by the USA.
    US-led military coalitions
    Hollywood

    The fact that America is so global and multi-faceted and powerful and has such mythic qualities lends itself to being considered "Empire" in a sense. Honestly, I'd use a different word if I could think of one. But here's the deal. The USA and its history casts such a mythic and spiritual vision, and is so successful that it is a rival to the Gospel in the hearts and minds of Christians. Much as Rome was. That is my primary reason for using the word "Empire."
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    Just to add more fuel to the fire...

    As a pacifist, I think one of the ways in which we must resist the American Empire is in its militarism. Growing up, I heard people at church tell me that soldiers had died for my freedom. That our military secures our liberty. That the spread of democracy around the world is what will liberate people.

    While there is something noble about these things, I believe that liberty and freedom come from Christ. Usually when I say things like this people immediately fall back on their Constantinian conditioning into thinking (sure, Jesus brings spiritual freedom and liberty, but real liberty comes through the sacrifice of brave soliders and good laws). I don't think that the liberty offered by Jesus is intangible or other-worldly. I think we need to embrace the Kingdom now. And I honestly believe that the extent to which we grab a hold of the American Dream is the extent to which we'll marginalize the teachings of Jesus on practical matters.

    A while back, Casey posted some interesting links that we all seemed to skim past. The US has over 700 bases around the world. Toward what end?
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    The U.S. is most certainly an Empire. We are also fascists( in the classic definition of the word)

    It is tough to label the country you live in this way but we must be truthful about the state of the U.S. We can no longer afford to live in a state of denial

    Bruce
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    (1) I think it's funny that my post was initially the firestarter on this whole conversation. I'm not sure what I said that was so inflammatory against the U.S. per se, but nonetheless, I'm glad this discussion happened. In many ways, this discussion only takes play in the realm of big name academics and a few Christian authors. That's not good enough if any of this is going to have traction.

    (2) jazzact13 said that by Mark's definition, every country could be considered an "empire." Although Mark hasn't come out and said it himself, I think this sums up his own points nicely. Mark's hermeneutical lens requires him to read Revelation as always applying to the relationship between the Church and State. All "states" are empires to a degree in Mark's thinking. You can agree or disagree, but this is where he is coming from.

    (3) I just want to agree with a lot of what Andrea U said above. Let's say "empire" is less-than-perfect rhetoric. Let's go with "nation state" or "country." And the end of the day, it's hard to see ideological connections between any government and the gospel. In fact, some would argue that any ideology is precisely non-Christian, because at its core, Christianity is deconstructive of ideologies (Ellul). So, pick whatever label we want to throw on there, but at the end of the day, the problem is still over competing allegiances--one of which is valid for the Christian, and one of which is valid only in as much as we allow it to be. I admit that the language of "empire" can be scary and far-fetched at times. I have come to the place where I think it is a comfortable symbol and image for our day and age, but if you do not, that is ok. Just ask some harder questions other than "is this an Empire" or not? Ask, to whom is my allegiance? Ask, is there ever times when my allegiance to a slaughtered lamb comes in direct conflict with what the state/nation/empire/country, et al is asking of me? If so, then we agree or more than is supposed in this long line of posts
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    We also need to be asking ourselves how the motives and principles of a country who is obsessed at being "the world's only superpower" (as half of Asia laughs out loud) can possibly line up with the story of Jesus. The amount of times we hear "we live in the greatest country in the world" might be a clue as to the administrations real goals. There has been a desperate clutching going on since 9-11 to maintain our "greatness," and we need to ask ourselves what motives lie behind this grasping? What initiatives and actions are taken to insure that we maintain our "superpowerness?" Are any of these in line with the Gospel?
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    All “states” are empires to a degree in Mark’s thinking. You can agree or disagree, but this is where he is coming from.

    I also agree with this statement to the extent that the modern entity known as the nation-state can be defined primarily as three things:

    1) A territorially-based entity that is able to successfully defend it's territorial bounds by mobilizing/controlling the use of violence (as per Anthony Giddens in The Nation-State and Violence)

    2) An entity that centralizes aspects of power (whether military, economic, or other) in which the local person is redefined primarily as an individual whose primary status is as a "citizen", that is a person whose first relationship in the state's eye is as an individual with the state, above and superseding relationships to local/tribal/communal/other civic organizations/groups. In other words, as William Cavanaugh calls it in Theopolitical Imagination, the triumph of the universal over the local by redefining the political nature of the human person.

    3. Essentially a willful act of imagination (as Cavanaugh says, that imagination that convinces a country farm boy he must go to a far away land and kill people he knows nothing about) to create a national mythos that has its own story of salvation - in this case, the modern myth that the liberal nation-state has saved us from tyranny and the wars of religion, and specifically in America's case that this mythical entity is a kind of "messianic force to be a sort of policeman for the whole world" (Martin Luther King, Jr.) and relativizes all other myths and grounding narratives to its own overarching story (such as the idea that it doesn't matter what you believe because we have "religious freedom", so long as you exercise your freedom within bounds we set/have set for us).
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    --This FAMOUS credo written by Maj. Gen. WH. Ruperetus USMC:

    "This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I master my life. I will learn it as a brother. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as l am clean and ready. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country .... so be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy but peace."
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    --So, if America is indeed an empire or just a country, why would we pledge allegiance to this earthly design when our Father in heaven calls us to so much more than what this country does or does not provide?--

    So, should we be completely without commitments of any kind? Familial? Social? National? Commitments to employees? Governmental?

    Should we not take, for example, marriage vows, but they are allegiances that to an earthly institute? In fact, aren't we even told there will be no marriage in the age to come?

    I think that for most of us with a conservative mind who are also Christians, we know that "we ought to obey God rather then men". I have at times put that into practice. But the Bible as well teaches respect for the authorities, so I would say that such 'civil disobedience' is not something to do lightly.
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    I think you are missing the point. The problem is not commitments. The problem is the overarching "mythos" as (Jason Barr called it) that undergirds the nation-state, but for some reason, goes unquestioned on a daily basis in many Christian lives aroudn the world, but especially in the U.S. Of course Christianity supports commitment, but only as defined by the story of Christ, his Word, and the Church.

    Allegiance and commitment are not the same thing. Let's stop with the wiggling already
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    and again...please define "conservative" for me. It's not really helping me at all at this point, because there is no working definition.
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    Here in Colombia the government has decided that it is good to spray coca-crops with a toxic called round-up (gliphosate). This is forbidden in a lot of countries, but not here. By the way, round-up is produced by Monsanto. So, according to this, we could see that maybe the empire is not just USA..., but also Monsanto, a northamerican based company.

    This is quite similar to "Chiquita brand" (formerly the United Fruit Company). A USA company that exploids farmers abroad, and that has been paying to paramilitars in a way to get rid of syndicalists (Very similar to United fruit company in the late 20's, when a colombian militar regiment shot to a UFC workers parade, and the UFC was very "thankful" for this).

    And why did the USA invade Iraq? I have questioned this: If Iraq's main natural wealth was not petroleum, but green beans... Would USA have invaded it? Why does USA hate Castro, but loved (in its time) Pinochet???

    Well, I'm with Jason and Mark when they say that every nation is an empire..., but USA is the most imperialist, and it exercises its imperialism at every scale.

    Blessings from Colombia to all of you (NOT to your country)
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    To slightly respond to jazzact's commentary on my allegiance comment. I will say that it is not about commitment (thank you Michael) but rather about the American ideology that does go unnoticed (again thank you). Even more disturbing is when I hear Christians replace their faith beliefs with purely American ideologies that stem from the beliefs of our forefathers and not the teachings of Jesus. I have to ask, do they not know Jesus? It is not a judgment, it simply makes me feel like the gospel I read must say something different. Or that someone else is reading disparaging remarks when I see love.

    I also see my allegiance/commitment/faith/soul's belonging in a place muc deeper than the US jazz. I view marriage, social responsibility, and my relationship with people as something ingrained in my make to be more like Christ. Allegiance to something that does not stand for the kingdom of God, not so much. I think it unfair to make the comparison.
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    --I will say that it is not about commitment (thank you Michael)--

    Very well. My question wasn't leading, but I did find it curious that in reality we live with many different kinds of allegiances and commitments, so I'm wondering why allegiance to a nation seems singled out for censure.

    --Even more disturbing is when I hear Christians replace their faith beliefs with purely American ideologies that stem from the beliefs of our forefathers and not the teachings of Jesus. --

    Perhaps some examples of this replacing would help to clarify what you mean.
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    Maybe I am on my own here, but I feel greatly called to love (everyone) and open doors and opportunities for Christ, not close them.

    A Christian friend telling me that we should send all illegals (including children) back to their respective countries, that her national security is more important than their lives or education.

    The wars across nations costing many lives that many Christians have told me are necessary and right because war is godly and it is biblical to defend our country.

    The ability for even myself to be sucked into the consumer individualistic "I deserve this" mentality that is humanistic generally, but I have travelled a lot, and it really is emphasized here immensely. But then I know many people that REALLY believe that, when pressed, and probably give 10 times more to the state than to God. And I am not talking about tithing, but just helping others in need.

    There are so many little ways I and others around me buy into these ideals, and I believe it started when the US pushed the Native Americans out of their land and held liberty and freedom to be traits possessed only by us. Well, Jesus offers life and liberty to all, and I know his deal is better!

    I guess my biggest issue here is that the US is of the world, it does have imperialistic traits that oppresses the poor and marginalized (those Jesus reached out to the most), and it does more damage than good in my opinion. But, I know many Christians who defend its actions like it is God-given right.

    However, those belong to everyone. Maybe I am being simplistic or maybe you disagree. I am not nearly coherent enough today to make myself sound intellectual. I just know what my convictions are. =)
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    --A Christian friend telling me that we should send all illegals (including children) back to their respective countries, that her national security is more important than their lives or education.--

    This will threaten to become about immigration, won't it? Oh, well...

    I don't see why it is unreasonable to expect people to follow the laws of the country they are wanting to enter, and why those who do not honor those laws should be excused. Nor do I see why national security is not a legitimate concern.

    Is that putting national security over the good of others? Why is that necessarily the conclusion?

    Is this unloving? If I have the responsibility to love my neighbor, then does that same neighbor not also have to responsibility to, for example, not steal from me? Love may involve giving, but it may not excuse taking.

    Now, am I saying that the immigration process may not need some work? No, I'm not, it may well need some. But that doesn't excuse illegals from trying to bypass it.

    --The wars across nations costing many lives that many Christians have told me are necessary and right because war is godly and it is biblical to defend our country.--

    I've gathered that most on this site are strongly pacifistic. While trying to respect that position, I'm not of a like mind. We can have disagreement about that, but I would ask that you not characterize us who think there is a place for self-defense as doing so based solely on "American ideology".

    --The ability for even myself to be sucked into the consumer individualistic “I deserve this” mentality that is humanistic generally,--

    Is this strictly American, or is this a manifestation of the common human sin of greed? Really, haven't people been interested in acquiring almost since the Fall itself? Ancient times had established trade routes, exploration for new resources, wars for acquisition.

    I don't know, but whenever I've seen words like "consumer" and "individualistic" thrown around, I get iffy. Maybe not always fairly, but I doubt this is quite as new or as local a phenomenon as people seem to want us to think it is.

    --I guess my biggest issue here is that the US is of the world,--

    I guess I would have to ask what this means.

    --it does have imperialistic traits that oppresses the poor and marginalized (those Jesus reached out to the most)--

    And this, too. I've always found it strange that historically the poor of other countries have often seen the US as a place where the opportunity to get out of poverty was present. Not necessarily the guarantee, and no doubt many who came did not succeed as much as they might have wanted to, and no doubt as well there were abuses, but the opportunity has been there.
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    As for the immigration thing, you do not want me to enter there; I am an ESOL teacher who sees it from a totally different perspective than you, and I acknowledge that it affords me to see things others don't.

    –The ability for even myself to be sucked into the consumer individualistic “I deserve this” mentality that is humanistic generally,–

    Is this strictly American....

    No, it is not. That is why I clarify it is humanistic generally. But I have spent time in around 15 countries on 4 continents, and I do see it in the US being a much bigger issue. Maybe I am wrong, but it is one of the reasons I like travelling!

    –I guess my biggest issue here is that the US is of the world,–

    I guess I would have to ask what this means....

    It just means that the principles of a country will be worldly if they are not from God, so it simply means I do not put stock into it. Some of its decrees are disguised as Christian "One nation under God" but the Bible is not where its true values lie. And of course we are under God, everyone is, so it's really just silly, if you believe in God, to actually say that.

    –it does have imperialistic traits that oppresses the poor and marginalized (those Jesus reached out to the most)–

    And this, too......

    I see this as a global problem but the reason why I am talking about the US is that is my backyard, my community, so it is where I must begin to dig to the root of the problem and ask what can be done about the disparities in education, opportunities, and an increase in wealth for the nations elite that has CEOs at the nation's top companies making 100 times what many of their employees make. It is upsetting, but like I said before, all I can do is what I believe in, not change others or become angry about it.

    This is totally off track I know... just defending personal conviction.
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    Is America an empire? I have no hesitation saying that it is by any measure. These are just facts.

    * It is the fourth largest country in the world by area, continental in size with long coastlines bordering 3 of the world's 4 oceans.
    * It is the third largest country in the world by population with over 300,000,000 people.
    * English is the global language of commerce.
    * The US Dollar is the preeminent currency of world trade.
    * New York is the world's financial capital
    * Los Angeles is the world's entertainment capital
    * The United States has over 700 military bases in approximately 130 foreign countries. By comparison there are 192 member countries of the UN. ( And by the way, the UN is headquartered in New York City).
    * The United States spends more on its military than the next 14 nations combined.
    * No nation in the history of the planet is a powerful militarily or economically as the United States.
    * The Supreme Commander of NATO (encompassing Western Europe's military forces) is an American General who answers to the President.
    * We now occupy ancient Babylon as did the British, Ottomans, Byzantines and a myriad of other empires before us. Funny, isn't it?

    One only needs look at a map to see how far flung our geopolitcal influence is.
    From Guam, to Diego Garcia, to the Arctic, to Central Asia, to Germany, to the Persian Gulf, our military presence is pretty much everywhere.

    If it walks like duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.
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    Just to correct my post the Byzantines did not occupy Mesopotamia, think Greeks under Alexander.
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    but I would ask that you not characterize us who think there is a place for self-defense as doing so based solely on “American ideology”.

    I wouldn't think as negatively about it if it were self-defense. What happened in Iraq was NOT self-defense (nor is any other preemptive war, nor does any preemptive war fit under the category of "just war", which ought to be the minimum Christian standard for going to war).

    Even Afghanistan is tricky on the self-defense count, or at least it's just very, very interesting that we went after the Taliban, who had been resisting plans to build a major pipeline through the country for years, instead of Saudi Arabia, where most of the 9/11 hijackers were actually from.

    As a matter of fact, the VAST majority of American military actions on foreign soil for the past 200 years have not been self-defense by any stretch of the imagination. If it was self-defense I would at least be more understanding of things.
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    --As for the immigration thing, you do not want me to enter there; I am an ESOL teacher who sees it from a totally different perspective than you, and I acknowledge that it affords me to see things others don’t.--

    Andrea, I spent several years in missions, and have been to a few different countries, and have met people, often good people, from those and several other countries. Believe me, I'm not speaking from some kind of 'US only' perspective.

    And whent I went to those places, I respected their entry policies, obtained visas and didn't overstay the appointed times.

    --But I have spent time in around 15 countries on 4 continents, and I do see it in the US being a much bigger issue.--

    Have you ever been talked into seeing the artwork by students in China? They usually stand outside and invite you in to their studio to look at their work, and once you are in it is difficult to escape before you have paid the last farthing (or renmen-b, as it may be) for at least one piece of work.

    And the markets may be even worse. No, seriously, I can remember a lady trying to grab my arm to drag me over to her stall to look at what she was selling. Craziness.
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    "And the markets may be even worse. No, seriously, I can remember a lady trying to grab my arm to drag me over to her stall to look at what she was selling. Craziness."

    hahahaha, its always funny to see "first world" people buying in our "third world" markets. I don't want to be offensive, but this comment was a little funny to me (like when we go to your countries, and feel surprised because we may see a lot of people driving new cars)

    goodbye
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    --hahahaha, its always funny to see “first world” people buying in our “third world” markets. --

    It was an experience, yes. And the whole 'barter' thing was rather strange to me.

    But the Russian ones were much better, at least to my mind. Maybe "better" isn't the right word for that, maybe "more comfortable" would be a better description.

    --like when we go to your countries, and feel surprised because we may see a lot of people driving new cars--

    Which wouldn't be me. I think my car is on its tenth year now.
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    jazzact13,
    i value your opinions and want to encourage you to continue to engage in the discussion but i can't help but feel like the way in which you have so far has been somewhat innapropriate. Your views are obviously biased and you clearly aren't on board with the general ideas of this site. That's ok. It simply means that when you engage in discussion here it should be done humbly and by asking honest questions and sharing honestly about your opinions. Instead you have gotten almost instantly defensive about almost every other comment, and you've responded in an arrogant, almost insulting tone. You really haven't given simple examples of why you think the US is not an Empire, you just attack anyone who thinks it is. You seem to be more concerned with justifying the actions and paterns of the US than you are with discussing why you think those particular actions fail to make the US "Empire". So all of this begs me to ask, why are you even commenting here? i'm not asking you to leave, i simply don't understand what you are working at here? Please clarify.

    mountainguy,
    i really appreciate your contributions to this discussion. being on the other end of this issue, yours is a necessary perspective to hear, and i wish there were more people speaking here from your position. i wonder if you would care to share a little more about how you've experienced the effects of the United States' global economic and political influence.

    Now regarding the subject at hand. I am of the belief that the United States does in fact constitute an Empire, of sorts. And though like Andrea U has rightly asserted, we are to pledge our allegiance to the Kingdom of God alone, a kingdom that stands in stark contrast to all worldly Powers and States [whether or not they are truly Empires], it is still a worthy topic to discuss. There has been an overwhelming amount of evidence provided suggesting that the US is an Empire and i have yet to hear any good critiques of this position.
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    yes so i have not read every single post so hopefully this has not been said already. but america has in many ways redefined the term empire. for a serious examination of this reality i would recommend to Chalmers Johnson's books, Blowback, Sorrows Of Empire, and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. dealing with everything from american style imperialism in japan and southeast asia, to the Space Commands desire to militarily dominate the space between the earth and the moon, the depth of americas empire is made relatively plain.

    johnson used to be a analyst for the CIA and a former cold warrior. he does not have the anarchist leanings of many folks here so don't expect that perspective. but the info in his books is necessary for anyone who ever hopes to have a serious dialogue about americas place in the world.
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    I want to defend capitalism – in its purist form, as voluntarism, and devoid of coercion. Though it is not practiced this way now, if ti were it would be ethical. It is only the elements of force and cooperation between firms and the state which corrupt commerce. So long as parties are not defrauding customers or protecting a state-sponsored monopoly they are doing nothing wrong.

    So, I am against the state being involved in the economy, just as I am against state involvement in religion. I am against there being a state, period. But I am not against voluntary commerce. If there were no borders the various parties involved in a trade would all get a more fair deal.
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    Brian, there's a link to an article by Chalmers Johnson on my first comment on July 22.
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    Just as a fun little caveat on the immigration bit:

    Having been an illegal worker (outside of the U.S.) and an immigrant (to the U.S.) I would say that those who are affected by decisions ought to have a say in making them, regardless of gender, race, religion, political beliefs, past convictions, residency status, etc. If they are there and affected, their voice should be heard.

    On the other hand, even if I could vote here in the States, I wouldn't because of many of the reasons Mark mentioned, as well as some more pragmatic ones; see Scott Adam's blog for those. But there are many ways to put forth your voice without voting.

    As for the debate about empire, well, I'm flabbergasted that there's even a debate. Like the statistics above show (which are frankly, out-of-date as some of them are far higher, military spending for one). Even 'good' pressure like the % of UN Peacekeepers that are American or the billions of dollars in aid and charitable giving Americans give each year are testament to their position of dominance. To argue otherwise is quite frankly, naive.

    Despite that status, I remember a situation in Sydney, at Hillsong Church where the students (1/3 Australian, 1/3 American, 1/3 everybody else) were challenged to come pray for the election in America in 2004. Why? Because no matter which country you were from, you felt the ramifications of that election. Tragically out of a group of a couple dozen, a mere 2 or 3 Americans even bothered to show up, as the Nigerians, Swedes, Australians, New Zealanders, Japanese, Kenyan, Lebanese, Emirati, Canadian, Danish and others prayed desperately for a an outcome that would bring blessing to the world.

    I don't think that lack of showing was due to apathy or to spite, but more due to ambivalence and ignorance, and an unwillingness to admit how far-reaching the effects are.

    In the same way, this year the whole world is watching this nation, because while the stone is being thrown here, the ripples will touch every nation in some way.

    If that is not the literal definition of empire, it is surely the spirit.
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    Heh heh, sorry about the sentence that died there. I guess I lost my train of.

    ;)
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    "Because no matter which country you were from, you felt the ramifications of that election."

    I'm sceptic about votations, but if USA wants to be a honest nation, the presidential votations should be sufraged in the whole world (And I mean the very WHOLE world).
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    That's the logical extension of my point, and that was something that I've discussed with people numerous times. I myself do not hold voting up as the source of all freedom but it would be a nice start.

    Logistics would be a bit messy though, and the partner of voting (education) is fairly inconsistent across the nations. That's another problem for another time though.
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    Mr. Peacock believes that one cannot argue that America may not be an empire. He says, "To argue otherwise is quite frankly, naive." I am on the fence here....but this kind of statement frustrates me. I have been following this conversation and have yet to read any real definition of empire. I see a lot of statistics and a lot of conclusions, but no explanation of empire. This makes me think that people are reaching for a conclusion without establishing a foundation. This, in my opinion, undermines the conversation, which would be better served by beginning with the basic definitions and not the conclusion,
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    John:

    If you'd prefer a different term please propose one; i'd be up for it. Empire seems a little weak when compared against past empires - none of them truly encompass the scope of what America currently runs; politically, economically or culturally.

    As Casey Ochs said, "If it walks like duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck." Or maybe it's a new species that fits many of the same characteristics. Nevertheless the real concern here isn't so much about the word empire, it's about the characteristics. Those that argue the letter of the law here are missing the spirit; it's not about whether or not America meets the dictionary definition of empire, but whether or not it's influence is large enough to justify using scriptures that point to Christians' relationships with Rome to help understand our situation with America. If it's similar enough, then we're affirmative, whatever we want to call it.

    I did not craft that statement about naivety within division in mind, and I apologize if I alienated (you or anyone else). Whether or not Americans define their nation as an empire, please understand that (generally speaking) outside your borders that is how you are understood.

    And again, I wanted to frame this in less moralistic language; hence the mentioning of your large aid contributions and whatnot. Not all influence is negative influence but all influence is influence, and no one but America has the heft to make its influence felt everywhere else in the world. If that does not mean empire, it cannot mean much less.
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    The problem is that the definition of "empire" isn't universally agreed upon. I am not an expert, but some brief research seems to indicate that an "empire" is a state that has power over nations. In other words, it is a central government that has power over different cultural and ethnic groups different from the imperial culture.

    Everything else seems to be controversial: does this apply only to central governments that exercise military power over those ethnic groups? What about political or economic power over nations?

    I believe that, even holding to a strict definition of "empire" (meaning a central government with coercive military power over subordinate cultures) applies to the US, especially when looking over our entire history. The US has coercive power (the legal "right" to use force) over:

    1) A number of territories outside the US.
    2) A large number of Native American nations.
    3) The ancestors of dispossessed slaves.
    4) We currently occupy Iraq and Afghanistan (I'm not saying this to be snarky...we are technically occupying foreign land. Even if we are doing this for the noblest of reasons, it still fits the definition).
    5) The state of Hawaii used to be its own kingdom, I believe. And so, that is an entire nation under US governmental control. Sure, they are citizens of the US...but many once subordinate persons became Roman citizens too, and Rome was certainly an empire.

    We have also intervened in many situations to help bring down rulers and promote other rulers. We've waged conflicts in Afghanistan (Charlie Wilson's War), Vietnam, Korea, the Philippines, etc. (for more on this, go here: http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz/interv...)

    And this doesn't even go into the "contraversial" definitions of empire which include economics and culture.

    Casey was correct in pointing out the 700 bases the US has around the world. We don't allow other nations to have bases in our country (which is wise), yet we can have our bases around the world? Have we ever seen a non-empire with such global military presence? I think this fact alone qualifies us as an empire.
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    --hahahaha, its always funny to see “first world” people buying in our “third world” markets.--

    There was a question that came to my mind, mountainguy, a bit later--would you define China as being 'third world', or more particularly Beijing as being a 'third world' place? Because it was in Beijing where I experienced what I related in the market. While I did see some places in China which gave the impression of being possible on a 'third world' level, much the same could be said about places in the US.
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    Not a single mention of Haiti in this loop. Check out the history of U.S. relations in the poorest country on the western hemisphere (even after gaining independence over 100 years ago!) Not everything that has been done is a fault of "U.S relations" but we certainly haven't helped matters. It was after listening to the voices of the Haitian people in 2003 that I first woke up to the imperial nature of the U.S.
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    --That’s ok. It simply means that when you engage in discussion here it should be done humbly and by asking honest questions and sharing honestly about your opinions. Instead you have gotten almost instantly defensive about almost every other comment, and you’ve responded in an arrogant, almost insulting tone. --

    I'll grant you something there. I did have to apologize to van Steenwyk for some thing I'd written that weren't accurate or fair.

    At the same time, I really wonder how the people who use such loaded rhetoric as "Americs is an empire" and "America is the enemy" can really accuse me of being arrogant and insulting. Maybe I am, but then, I find such rhetoric arrogant and insulting, too.

    --You really haven’t given simple examples of why you think the US is not an Empire, you just attack anyone who thinks it is.--

    I did give the definitions of empire and contended that none of them matched reality, which sparked the start of this particular debate in the first place.

    Also, last I checked, it was incumbent upon those accusing or labelling to prove their positions.

    --You seem to be more concerned with justifying the actions and paterns of the US than you are with discussing why you think those particular actions fail to make the US “Empire”.--

    Have I not admitted that the US has made its share of mistakes, if not more then its share? At the same time, why should I not justify actions if they are justified?
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    One more thing, to clarify something...

    --At the same time, I really wonder how the people who use such loaded rhetoric as “Americs is an empire” and “America is the enemy” can really accuse me of being arrogant and insulting. Maybe I am, but then, I find such rhetoric arrogant and insulting, too.--

    I realize that most here mean those statements in some different ways, but there is still the use of that kind of rhetoric, and yes it is very loaded. There was even the thought earlier that "enemy" may not be the best word (which I agree with), and I say that "empire" is similarly not the best word to describe the current situation.
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    "would you define China as being ‘third world’, or more particularly Beijing as being a ‘third world’ place?"

    Well, China is a very weird country in politics: its governed by a so called comunist party, but it may has the highest privatization rates in the whole universe. Anyway, by the way how you described this Beijing market, I'd state that it's "culturally third-worlded".

    Blessings
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    On loaded statements:

    We can eschew 'enemy' for the more biblically appropriate 'anti-christ' if preferred.

    :)
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    --We can eschew ‘enemy’ for the more biblically appropriate ‘anti-christ’ if preferred.--

    I don't know, I can't say that that's any less loaded, either.
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    Hence the smiley face.
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    --Hence the smiley face.--

    Good point.
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    Ok, how about this...

    Why even worry about using the rhetoric of "empire" and "enemy"?

    For example, if by "enemy" we mean something/anything that can take the place in our priorities that rightfully belongs to Christ, then while the concept may be good, the use of "enemy" may be questionable.

    For example, if for whatever reason a hobby of mine, let's say chess, becomes to much of a priority for me, then whose fault is that? If I pursue a mastery of chess to the detriment of my Christian maturing, then is the problem with chess or with me?

    Or maybe to use that in a living example, suppose my family becomes too high a priority. Suppose that I were to feel called to missions, but didn't pursue it because my family didn't approve. In that, perhaps fault could be more balanced, in that there would be some active striving to keep me from doing what I should do. But in the end, my failure would be my own fault.
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    My concerns are much like jazzacts. By saying that America is an "empire" and therefore the "enemy," what does that do to one's thinking on other aspects of life or society....for example....culture. There are places where culture is more of an influence over a group of people than is the state. France is one such example. Is culture an enemy of the Kingdom of God, too? Making such absolute conclusions is dangerous in my mind because it has implications on how one sees other aspects of society, like culture. All I have been trying to say is that a more nuanced analysis of this issue is needed.
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    Was Rome an enemy to the kingdom of God?

    If the answer is "yes?" In what way? Not because it was an entirely evil thing. Was Rome an enemy governmentally? Culturally? Religiously? What is the line between these things?

    Who is an "enemy?" Is it an other that we seek to destroy? That is the American/French/Russian/Cuban/etc. definition of "enemy." The Christian definition is that person or group or thing or Power or whatever that resists the kingdom of God and, should therefore be loved.

    Our call is to love those who are flesh and blood and resist the Principalities and Powers. That is why we turn the other cheek when struck yet proclaim a Gospel that undermines the Powers.
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    When God introduced himself and covenanted himself with Israel he used the form of the Suzerain Treaty which was the dominant political language of that era. The classic work making this point is Meredith Kline's "Treaty of the Great King."
    When Jesus appears and covenants with the Church he also used the political forms and language of his day. NT Wright has done massive work in this area. Words like repent, believe, save, Christ, gospel, etc, were pregnant political rhetoric in Jesus' time, though in our time we tend to hear those terms only in a religious sense.
    So the language God chose to use in calling both Israel and the Church were I think very obviously intended to convey that these new assemblies were in their very essence a challenge to existing political structures that were using that same language. Thus the "rhetoric" of both the Old Covenant and the New were provocative toward the state in an important and directed sense. Not offensive or abusive language I don' t think, but at least pointed enough that the identity of the Church as over against the state was abundantly clear.
    However, as time progresses, words change and some usages just become obsolete. An empire becomes a democracy, a king becomes a president, and suddenly and seemingly irreparably, Jesus message is blunted. And that's why I somewhat enjoy the use of provocative language like "empire". It's not perfect, but It's as though someone has at least bothered to pull out a file and set to work attempting to resharpen the message of the gospel in a crucial way.
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    John,

    Your use of culture is ambiguous. I'm wondering if you have in the back of your mind the work of Niehbuhr in his famous "Christ and Culture". If so, I think Yoder's critique of Niehbuhr on this point is crucial. Niehbuhr (and at least the way I'm reading your comment) seems to suppose that culture is monolithic, and the task becomes how we relate Christ to already presupposed/established "culture" (that is, in your case, what are the implications for culture). That Niehbuhr seeks to relate Christ to "culture", as Yoder points out, already manifests a problem in the way the church's relation to society is understood. Culture does not stand independent and then require that we relate Christ to it. Instead, the Gospel creates a theological culture of sorts. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus open up the possibility for an alternative modality of existence.

    Culture and polity are very closely entwined. But the main point of considering empires as "enemy" is that governmental structures are representative of the old order of being, which is passing away in light of the new order made possible by Jesus. The way in which governments of this world wield power is specifically rejected in Jesus' revolution of the political.
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    --Was Rome an enemy to the kingdom of God?--

    If you're saying we should assume that the answer is "yes", I have to ask "why would I be forced to such a conclusion"?

    --The Christian definition is that person or group or thing or Power or whatever that resists the kingdom of God and, should therefore be loved.--

    Where did you get that definition from?

    --Our call is to love those who are flesh and blood and resist the Principalities and Powers. --

    Ephesians 6
    12. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
    13. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand .

    I would agree with you about resisting principalities and powers, but I can't agree that with this Paul is talking about governments. It would be strange language indeed to tell people to submit and then to resist.

    There is at least one other passage where those words are used.

    Ephesians 3
    10. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

    It strikes me that the principalites and powes being mentioned have more of a spiritual basis then a physical--rulers of the darkness of the this world, spiritual wickedness, in heavenly places. That language seems more to do with spiritual then with governmental things.

    When Christ was tempted, he was promised all the kingdoms of the world if he would give in to the temptation. Satan claimed to have those things and that they were his to give, and Christ did not say otherwise, but did resist the temptation.
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    At least according to Pseduo-Dionysius, principalities and powers where levels in angelic hierarchy, and those referenced by Paul were the fallen angels of those types.

    I'm not sure I agree 100%, but it's a drastically different understanding from earthly government.
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    The point, for me, is to raise the question "who is our real enemy?"

    For example, when Paul in Romans tells us that "if you enemy is hungry, feed him...", I think he is referencing something form Proverbs, which would have predated the Roman Empire.

    There is also another use of enemy in Romans, when in ch. 11 Pauls refers to Israel having become an enemy of the church in regards to the gospel, though there is a strong hint in that passage that such a state was not permenant.

    Some times when the NT uses words like 'enemy' or 'adversary', then it refers more to Satan.
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    --let me remind you that (even if I thought that these passages argue for support of government) Paul called Rome an enemy in Romans 12. He names Rome as an enemy right before he argues that we ought to submit.--

    I've already asked where in Romans 12 Paul calls Rome an enemy. I've even read the other post linked to in the op, and still saw nothing in it about Rome being an enemy.

    --By naming America as an “Empire” we name the reality that the USA is not the Kingdom of God--

    Umm, no, you don't. You could say that quite well without getting into the rhetoric of "empire" and "enemy".

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