On the eve before the 2016 presidential election, America is simultaneously expectant and exhausted. This election cycle has felt longer than most because of the character of the front-runners, their dirty campaigns, and the myriad of questions their candidacies have sparked. I have already voted, but I’m not here to debate that; if you know me, you know where I stand on this issue. Instead, I want to pause and step back, and consider a more foundational issue for American Christians who want to be politically informed and engaged, but who are struggling to understand the relationship between their religious beliefs and their American citizenship.
In the course of researching for my Master’s level thesis this semester I have run into the consistent idea from Christians and biblical scholars that America today is in many ways the equivalent of the Roman Empire of antiquity.  This is almost invariably presented as a negative thing, as the distasteful – and even evil – aspects of the Roman Empire are discussed in conjunction with America’s beliefs, domestic policies, and worldwide influence. Since my thesis is focusing on Jesus’ teachings about and encounters with the Roman Empire of the first century, I have had the opportunity to wrestle with contemporary application that applies anti-imperial rhetoric in the New Testament to empire-like states and entities today. Continue reading “Is America the Roman Empire Redux? Cultural Hermeneutics in the Spotlight”