A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

What Happened to All the Folks Screaming "Empire!"

I know I am not the only one who has noticed that all the Christians comparing the USA to the Roman Empire during the reign of George W. Bush are strangely silent now that we are under the emperorship of Barack Obama. And yet, how much of President Obama's foreign policy looks virtually the same as his predecessor.

Policy on Afghanistan-- virtually the same

Policy on Iraq-- virtually the same

Support for warrantless wiretapping-- the same

Support for many of the provisions of the Patriot Act-- virtually the same

Support for military tribunals-- virtually the same (The civilian trial scheduled for NY will most certainly revert back to a military court.)

Asserting executive privilege in order to keep lots of information secret-- the same

So, where are all those Christians, who for eight years were using the New Testament to critique Caesar George as a modern-like dictator? I do not deny that such a comparison was not completely false, but I only insist that such critiques be applied consistently.

I guess consistency is not to be preferred when it is your emperor residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

As I have said in previous posts, people trot out the sorry cliche of "speaking truth to power" only when their people are not in power.

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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian


Rev. Jeremy Smith said...

I unfortunately agree. I think the Daily Show had a segment where the Democrats were continuing to use the "speak truth to power" language...they are the power! Argh!

For the record, I continue to criticize policy, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. So yes, I still talk about empire.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

With all America's foibles, I still think our coutnry's form of government is the best, as it leaves room for balancing those foibles.

Empire is an appropriate term when talking about power. The problem remains that we will disagree about where power is to be, because power will exist in the world. One must ascertain what kind of power and what will be its goal?

And again, I defend what the Founder originally intended, to limit government, balance, power and give individuals voice and right.

Robert Cornwall said...


I sure hear a lot on the left complaining about Obama's continuing Bush's imperial policies.

The problem that is inherent in our situation is that we have so imbibed the American exceptionalism, that we can't see our own imperialism. It's a difficult habit to break -- especially when you're being sniped at from the right about apologizing for America!

Richard Hall said...

Obama came to power on a wave of great optimism, and I'm sure part of the reason he hasn't been as much criticized as you'd like is that people want to give him a chanc, recognizing that foreign policy etc is not something you can change with the flick of a switch.

But, as the others have noted, it is not true that he has escaped criticism from his supporters entirely. See Joel Betow on my blog, for example.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Hi Richard and Bob,

Actually, I am quite aware of the criticism and I have read Joel's posts which are quite thoughtful.

What I am referring to specifically here are those who for eight years have beaten the drum of empire in reference to the foreign policy of GWB and now are saying nothing about the same policies of BHO other than that they are disappointed, and "let's give him a chance." In other words, the sinister notion of empire and all that it means has disappeared from their vocabulary even though the policies are the same.

Richard, I am well aware that foreign policy is not something changed easily, and I actually am not unhappy with Obama's policy in Iraq (Afghanistan is another matter), but the point is still the same. What for some made Bush a modern day Caesar apparently doesn't apply to Obama. All I am doing here is saying let's be consistent.

And, by the way, I do not want more criticism of Barack Obama. He gets plenty. I am simply pointing out what I like to do so often because it is frankly easy-- pointing out the rank hypocrisy by many Christians on the political right and the political left. What the political nemesis does is evil, but when the political ally does the same thing, rationalizations will quickly be uttered. It's that log and beam in the eye thing.

By the way, what is hypocritical about the political right at the moment is that to listen to them they think BHO is turning soft on foreign policy and he's going to weaken our security when his policies are not much different from GWB whom many of them supported.

And Bob... I have to say that I don't believe for one moment that the sniping from the right is an issue here. Both the right and the left are sniping at one another all the time. Welcome to hardball politics.

Jeremy, I truly appreciate your consistency. I am not saying that a Christian should not favor one political party or the other or one president over another, but as they say, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Chuck Tackett said...

The midterms will be interesting both for their rhetoric and results. Yes we need consistency but as you say Allan, inconsistency is nothing new for any of the pundits and critics.

Obama's policies have made the preparation for some change and I think that most of the criticism is merely a matter of the various interests not getting immediate attention / action.

I heard an interesting critique last week talking about how the President needs to get rid of his inner circle because they have not been able to make the transition from campaign mode to governance mode. I thnk that's probably accurate and will watch with interest over the next year.

Allan R. Bevere said...


I think the concern over President Obama's inner circle is justified, but I think the same is also true of the president himself. He clearly likes "campaigning" and he is extremely good at it. His speech yesterday cheering on his health care plan was stellar. I was almost convinced, and I think the current legislation is terrible.

But he hasn't shown me that he likes the hard work of governing. Having said that, however, who in her or his right mind would? Perhaps, that just proves that the president is sane.

JMS said...

Great post Allan! The reason I am politically independent is precisely because the people on the Left and the people on the Right often do the same things, yet get outraged at the other side for doing so.

Our nation's (as well as every other nation's!) problems go far deeper than who's sitting in the Oval Office, Supreme Court chamber or Capitol Hill.

Ted M. Gossard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ted M. Gossard said...

I'm not around Christians who see America as empire, and the few I know who maybe do, I don't have enough conversations with to know.

I do agree, Allan. Sometimes it's more "in your face", even if "benevolent" empire, but empire is empire, regardless.

PamBG said...

Of course America is The Empire and the modern Rome. It doesn't matter who is President or which party holds the most sway.

All governments in the world act in order to try to deliver a quick fix to fickle voters. We are no different than other countries in this. Where we are different is that we are the only remaining Superpower which gives us a unique ability to suck dry those who cannot withstand our political or economic power.

I think that we are also a bit different too in that we seem to have the most "developed" (regressed?) sense of personal independence. We proclaim "survival of the fittest" with no sense of shame and no idea that there might be anything immoral in that idea.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pam, I so agree that those who use legal means to promote their own agenda, whether monetarily or otherwise, do so with a disregard for another's right to life and liberty. But, "survival of the fittest", seems to mean these days who is best able to get away with "stealing the store", while hood-winking the rest of us. This is not just immoral, unethical and unjust, but goes against what the Fouders intended our nation to be.

I just cannot believe all of the rhetoric about "the Evil Empire". Anything can be evil if used in the wrong way. But, the question becomes "what is the wrong way"? Illegality? or something higher than what one can "get away with". That is an important question when it comes to the ignorance of those like me.

Simpletons ask to be "used" because they are easily duped by these "con artists", who use words effectively to deflect any observation or knowledge of sleight of hand. I fear for us all, if we do not turn things around.

But, I do have hope that the greatness of our country lies in the form of government that will protect abuse of power. I am hoping that as Americans become aware and ocnerned that there will be a revolution, revolt or reform of what is needed.

PamBG said...

Angie, I'm not entirely certain what you're saying. That is, I think we both have "pictures" in our head of what we are talking about and I suspect we might not be talking about the same things.

I don't believe the current rhetoric about how the government is plotting to take away our money and our freedom either. Nor do I believe that the Bush administration was plotting or the Clinton or the Reagan or the Carter.

But we DO have power that other countries don't have. You said But, "survival of the fittest", seems to mean these days who is best able to get away with "stealing the store", while hood-winking the rest of us. Which is precisely my point.

My point is not "There are powerful people using their power with the express purpose of hurting others."

My point is more that "There are powerful people using their power for what they perceive to be their own good or the good of their supporters. And many people get hurt in the wake of that selfish behavior."

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great discussion. I like your point that people are not being consistently critical. Good point!

As an aside on Iraq, however: I don't think it is fair to say that Obama's policy on Iraq is much like Bush's. Bush was the main force pushing to go to Iraq--not Obama. Obama inherited it and is wise enough to know that now that we're there we have to work toward some stability. Also, Bush refused to draw up plans to leave (even when planning to attack). Obama has made plans to leave.

Though practically much of the same is happening on the ground, I don't think we would even be in Iraq if Obama was president in 2002-2003... there's a huge difference.


The Metzes said...

Good post. O, how the kingdom needs pacifist voices prophetically proclaiming an alternative kingdom - not "non-partisan" but "other-partisan."

I appreciate Christians who espouse a liberal political voice in reaction to the truncated kingdom presentation offered by religious Right. Unfortunately, the alternative is equally short.

I believe the New Testament's obvious political language beckoned Christ's follows to an alternative "kingdom" - maybe it would be better understood today if we used "political entity of God."