Is America an empire?

06Feb10

In my opinion, America is an empire. Within the last, let’s say, 3 months, I have had countless encounters where God has brought random things to my attention in a somewhat orderly fashion. Things that I might not have ever brought together on my own. Sometimes, it can be extremely hard to explain to another your experience of God, this is one of those moments. I know of many people who live realist, pessimist-like lifestyles. These are the people who [at no fault of their own because this is how they think/reason] explain situations like mine as merely coincidences. And to be completely honest, if I didn’t have a personal, intimate relationship with the Creator, I would too. I am a very logical thinker, so I could definitely see myself using my knowledge from varying past-experiences to mold my opinions, beliefs and views. But, I couldn’t be more sure that God’s Holy Spirit is present in the things I’ve experienced lately.

Let’s go back to what I titled this post, is America an empire? Pat Robertson, a “christian” televangelist and host of the 700 Club (which I’ve never seen, but has always creeped me out), recently made some-flat out hurtful, untruthful and unloving comments about the people of Haiti and their recent calamity. Basically, he said that he once read in “a book”, which he did not cite, that the Haitian people deserved this because their ancestors and generations-past made a pact with the devil. This is a segment of his comment:

“They were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.’ True story. And so the devil said, ‘Ok it’s a deal.’ And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got something themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another,” Robertson said.

Author Donald Miller recently wrote a post on his blog titled,  A Response to Pat Robertson’s Comments about Haiti. In this post, Don speaks of having compassion and mercy on Pat Robertson as opposed to hating him and wanting to “throw a stapler at his face.” He discusses how Mr. Robertson has a controlling personality and how his comments are a direct reflection of personal and self-esteem issues that he deals with. In this post, was the first reference of the word empire that I came across in my current odyssey. Don writes,

There is something wrong with a person who would do this.These people are often, themselves, controlling. They are wired to build empires, and in order to build empires you have to get people to do what you say, and if you have God standing behind you threatening hurt and pain, you can motivate people.

Later that evening, instead of starting a new book, I some-what randomly decided to finish a book that I had started and already read half of last winter. The book is titled, Jesus Wants To Save Christians by Rob Bell. In the fifth chapter, Bell discusses empires. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend that you take the time to at least listen to this chapter, I’ve made the audio files available to download here. In chapter 5, he writes of the Biblical history of the height of Israel under Solomon’s throne, Caesar – emperor of the Roman Empire and the empires-past of Egypt, Babylon, Persia and Assyria. What was true of empires then, is true of empires now.

I started this post over 2 weeks ago, and I’m just getting back to finishing it. In those 2 weeks, my sails have lost some wind, and my vessel has begun to drift in a slightly different direction. I just reread chapter 5 to try to distinguish where exactly I was going with this. I could easily sit here for hours to discuss this chapter alone, but that’s not really the point of this post. The point of this post is to magnify and reveal that we are sustaining members of the American Empire. Now, this discussion can easily get political – which is not what I want to happen. I want to discuss this in the light of blessings. America is the largest, richest, most powerful and most wasteful empire in history. Ever.

Why has God blessed us with such abundance? I have no idea. I have no clue as-to-why I was born and raised in such rich country(s) and not in a mud and grass hut, in a third-world country to a family with not a cent to their name. I feel bad that I was/am so blessed when I see others suffering, going hungry, lacking drinkable water, etc. Rob says that many of us feel guilty, but guilt is not helpful. Honesty is helpful. He then goes on to point-out the phrase “God Bless America.” He has! And rather than feel guilt and self-pity, we should be very, very thankful. And honest. Honest with ourselves about history, honest with ourselves about the world, and honest with ourselves about the future.

Entitlement is something that can develop and spread in people. Like rust or mold, it can grow and suffocate whatever/whoever it overtakes. After living and being suppliers to the American empire for so long, we have begun to grow blind and deaf to those who aren’t equal members of it. This is where our entitlement comes in, we forget how blessed we are and how thankful we should be and we begin to “confuse blessing with entitlement“, says Bell. He continues to tell us how we  become immune to the sufferings of others, because we got what we deserved and so, apparently, did they. It’s heartbreaking to think of how many people I know who actually think this. This is the home of the American dream, right? You get out what you put in? I work hard, so those who are poor and homeless, obviously haven’t worked hard enough. We have all thought this at times, whether we’d like to admit it or not. Now, obviously there are many variables to these generalizations, but the fact is, we have become immune to the sufferings of others, and the disease of entitlement has made us victims of the very empire that we have helped create and support. Is me, making a conscious effort not to shop at Walmart going to fix this problem? Hell no. This is a matter of the heart. Of love, honest love.

We are caught in a viscous cycle Rob tells, and the longer we stay dormant the harder it is for us to hear and see those who aren’t part of this faith – a faith in the religion of empire. He sums it up perfectly when he writes:

Empires accumulate. Accumulation gives birth to entitlement, entitlement demands preservation, preservation has consequences, consequences are a burden.

And that burden takes faith to carry.

In empire, you believe in that which you preserve, you preserve that which you are entitled to, and you are entitled to that which you have accumulated.

This is the religion, the animating spirit, of empire.

I want to apologize for the lengths of rambling that this has become. It started as a post about how God has taken something, a subject: empire – and through different mediums and what seemed-to-be randomly, God brought to my attention, this issue. I can confidently say that it was God, because I feel His hand guide me through this assembly of thoughts. In my life, I have rarely thought about empire – never to this extent and preciseness. I now see why God used different instruments, relationships and events to bring me to focus on this problem.

So, where does that leave me? Us? Maybe stirring my heart and creating a consciousness about empire was all that God intended. Maybe not. I don’t know much, and I can honestly say that. But I do know that I find comfort and peace in my God, and I humbly seek-out his counsel, because mere coincidence could not be responsible for what this has created in me.

peace, kev.

Download the audio of chapter 5 of Rob Bell’s book Jesus Wants to Save Christians here.

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2 Responses to “Is America an empire?”

  1. i enjoy reading this post. i thank you for involving me (and others) in your thoughts. i agree with you about this. you definitely inspire me to search out a lot more deeper into things. so, thanks.
    subscriber,
    amber c.

  2. kevin,

    I know you have a lot of books on your plate, but i would HIGHLY recommend reading Jesus for president. There is a lot of talk about empire and it really helped put things together for me. We have a copy if you are ever interested.

    peace.

    p.s Above all Love… I also think not shopping at walmart might help. 🙂


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