Monday, July 7, 2008

Religious Affection, Part 2

I have been participating lately in a rather heated set of discussions pertaining to Empire, allegiance, and what it means to follow Jesus. So far, I have been accused of being "indoctrinated by leftist liberalism." What is so funny about the accusation, is not so much whether its true or not, but the criterion this individual used, namely, 1) I use the abbreviations BCE and CE (before the common era/common era) rather than BC/AD (before Christ/Anno Domini[sp?]), 2) I refer to America as Imperial, and 3) I had the audacity to question whether the pledge of allegiance might be roughly similar to oaths to Caesar in the first century CE (there I go again!).

Well, odds are Christ was actually born before the close of the "Before Christ Era." This dating system of BC/AD shows up, I believe, in the fourth century CE and later was found to have been off a couple of years. So am I obligated to use a dating system that: a) is rather arrogant to anyone other than Christians (ah, considering others, that makes me a liberal too!), and b) that is historically inaccurate? I think not.

Secondly, America fits perfectly the definition of an Empire. Most people around the world perceive us as such. Ben Franklin evidently did because his quote to that effect was printed on Dick Chaney's Christmas cards in 2003. So if that makes me a liberal, well I'm guilty. America is an Empire, it is in fact the most powerful empire on earth (at least right now; how long that will be the case is another matter entirely).

Third, I am trying to be a careful and honest historian with regard to first century Christianity(-ies) in the Roman Near East. If being honest with the historical data and being self-critical of my own socio-political location somehow makes me an "evil leftist liberal," well I think that judgment is indicative of a close-minded fundamentalistic attitude/worldview. I think I can safely say that because I used to be the one indicting liberals as though somehow thinking freely is a sin against God; however, I have reconsidered my loyalties, and I am seeking to hold only one true loyalty--the way of Jesus. Fidelity to wife, yes that is included in fidelity to Christ. However, fidelity to a nation is not.

In the final analysis, I wonder this: To say that I do not have allegiance to the country to which I live, is not to say 'I hate america' or 'I am ungrateful for the opportunities I have had.' So why when people are actually critical of facets of the American empire, are the lambasted? Is that Christian? Would Jesus approve?

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