Two thousand years ago, Jesus and his followers unleashed a strange new message into the world of the Roman Empire. It was a world of huge, cosmopolitan cities and rural villages more-or-less untouched by the complications of ‘modern’ life. It was a world of unprecedented peace and security, but where justice was defined as stability and comfort for the privileged few. It was a world where political multilateralism had given way to the hegemony of the greatest military and economic power the known world had ever seen. It was a world deeply impacted by colonialism, by over-consumption, by huge and ever-increasing disparities between the wealthy and poor. And it was a world powered by cheap energy that brought with it amazing economic advances but also serious ethical problems.
In other words, it was a world surprisingly like our own.
As jarring as it may be to our democratic values and ideals, we are still living in the social, political and economic shadows of Empire. In light of this, I thought it would be interesting to take a few posts to explore what the New Testament had to say about and to the Roman world, and what that might in turn say about and to our own.
Empire Then and Now (contains some of the same material as this page)
“Not like the Gentiles”: Empire vs. God’s Kingdom
The Rule of Saint Paul (Or, What’s Love Got to Do with It?)
A Tyrant’s Dream? Disarming Romans 13.1-7
A Spiritual Liberation? Does Christianity lose the plot? (forthcoming)