Monstrous Empires and the Kingdom of God: What Do Monsters Reveal about the Empire?

Monstrous Empires and the Kingdom of God: What Do Monsters Reveal about the Empire?

Safwat Marzouk In this essay I am interested in exploring the following questions: Is there more to the vision in Daniel 7 of the four empires and the kingdom of God than just a survey of the history of ancient empires? Is there any significance to the portrayal of world empires as monsters? If so, what do monsters reveal about the empires and what do they offer as a warning to the members of the kingdom of God?
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Responses

On Being Conscious of What We Choose to Worship
Mrinalini Sebastian In one of the most moving pieces of writing that I have read in recent times, the novelist David Foster Wallace speaks persuasively of the importance of being conscious of what we choose to worship, for what we worship can consume us almost entirely. Worse still, we may not even be aware of being consumed by the object of our worship. It is therefore important that human beings are mindful of what they choose to worship. Wallace makes an interesting juxtaposition of the choices that are available to us: on the one hand, we have the choice to worship god, to pursue some kind of spirituality, or to adhere to a set of principles, and, on the other, to worship money, beauty, power, and intellect. Read more...
Moving from Christendom to a Global Church
Tim Hartman After reading Safwat Marzouk's intriguing essay, "Monstrous Empires and the Kingdom of God: What Do Monsters Reveal about the Empire?," I find myself as a theologian, most interested in his questions about the Kingdom of God rather than the exegetical claims about empire and monsters. My response engages the question Marzouk poses as his essay draws towards a conclusion: "How, then, should members of the Kingdom of God avoid becoming a monstrous empire?" Read more...
Confronting the Powers of Empire and Shaping of the Church
Andrew Foster-Connors Communities that want to confront "monstrous empires" must personalize the monstrous empires they oppose. Daniel 7 names known historical figures as "monsters." In so doing, the text rewrites the prevailing narratives of that time that attributed greatness to these historic leaders. Though our community organization in Baltimore did not name the offending developer as a "monster," we came close. We personalized injustice in order to focus the power of the faith community in a specific direction for a just purpose. Such a move is not to dehumanize the powerful, but rather to hold human beings accountable for their agency in monstrous outcomes. Read more...
Shaping a Kingdom, not an Empire
Safwat Marzouk There is a valid cynicism towards the possibility for religious commitments to contribute to the harmony and tolerance of human communities. Many terrorist operations, various wars, and violent oppressions that have taken place throughout history were motivated or backed by religious ideologies. Ironically, there are also within faith traditions many devotees who act benevolently by showing love and compassion towards those who differ from them. This diversity within every faith tradition should make us wonder about the worldviews of adherents of the same faith who live by different ethics. What makes distinct strands within the same faith tradition differ in their posture towards those who hold beliefs other than their own? Read more...

Extras

The Complexity of Empires
Empires are complex things. Indeed, they prevail, where they do, in part because they have figured out how to manage complexity. And part of their management of that complexity has to do with their maintenance of the deepest yearnings of those who live under their control. That is, empires succeed where they figure out what to do with religion. Sometimes, they use religion to reinforce their control. Sometimes, they allow religious language to describe their control. Sometimes, they allow some religious expressions to function as release-valves for the pent-up energies and anxieties that empires produce. And sometimes, in spite of themselves, they are subverted by religion. Read more...
Lesson Plans for "Empire"
A Set of 4 Lesson Plans for "Empire" developed by the Rev. Lauren Scharstein. Read more...