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Vol. VI, No. 44      Dec. 10 - 16, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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The New Roman Empire

A Case Study Reflection from a Victim People 


Out of studies on the Roman Empire in the New Testament especially the Book of Revelation, I follow a thesis that the United States of America has become today’s New Roman Empire.



United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Posted by Bulatlat


When the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) meeting in Accra defined “empire” as “the coming together of economic, cultural, political and military power [constituting] a system of domination led by powerful nations to protect and defend their own interests” (Par. 11), it minced no words by mentioning the “government of the United States of America and its allies, together with international finance and trade institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization) as the ones using political, economic and military alliances to protect and advance their interest of the capital owners” (Par. 13).[1]   


This paper is presented from the standpoint of a nation and people that has been a victim of the “American Empire.”  Starting with a brief historical survey as a case study of a suffering people from the designs of today’s Sole Superpower, the study proceeds with reflections on the Book of Revelation and on the concept of Kingdom of God.


The Story of a People


From tribal peoples who have already been trading with China and Southern Asian peoples, my country, the Philippines, succumbed to Spanish colonization, following colonization of Central and South America peoples. It remained under the Spanish Crown for three hundred sixty years until the new American Empire took over.  It cannot be denied that both Imperial Powers came for economic interests and used both their international political and military might for their territorial and economic expansion.  Spain came for the rich spices of the East and America came to exploit our natural resources and dominate our economic and political life and make our country a gateway to the riches of China. In the process Spain divided the rich agricultural country among its citizenry and created the haciendas that became today’s agribusiness conglomerates. America expanded its big business conglomerates siphoning our rich natural resources, minerals and agricultural products.[2]        


Our people by degrees rose against the onslaught of these imperial adventures. We can count some 300 revolts and rebellions in the 360 years of Spanish rule ending in a successful revolution ironically only to fall into the hands of a new imperial power, the United States of America. The US fought a long war of colonial subjugation of the Filipino people which caused the loss of some one million lives, about 15 percent of the population of 16 million at that time.  The Filipino people’s struggle against the American Empire continues up to the present.   


In fairness to the American people, it should be noted that there was no lack of opposition to this surging American tendency towards empire for early on there were anti-imperialists that championed the cause of the Filipino people. William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1900, articulated the anti-imperialists stance when he declared that “imperialism had its inspiration in the desire of the syndicates to extend their commerce by conquest.”[3] 


It is interesting to note that on the day immediately following the mock “Battle of Manila Bay,” Bishop James Mills Thoburn of the Methodist Episcopal Church wrote about Adm. George Dewey’s “Jericho-like victory” as “the fulfillment of the hopes and prayers of years” and, therefore, urged Protestant Churches in the United States “to enter in the name of the Lord and give the people of the Philippines a pure gospel.”  Four weeks later, in the same manner, Dr. George Pentecost reported to the U.S. Presbyterian General Assembly saying: “God has given into our hands…the Philippine Islands… [and] by the very guns of our battleships, summoned us to go up and posses the land.”[4] 


Sensing that the Filipino people could not be subjugated by force of arms, the imperialists, each in their own way, brought to bear the subtle persuasive power of both culture and religion upon the Filipino people. The people of the islands at that time did not yet have a closely articulated religion – save for Islam in some areas in Mindanao and in smaller pocket areas in Luzon, and were thus easily brought into the Roman Catholic faith, and with Catholicism so much of Spanish culture filtered into the psyche and consciousness of the new converts to the faith. And since Crown and faith were closely knit entities in the dispensation practiced by the colonizers, faith and politics reinforced each other which helped in bringing the Filipinos under Spanish control. At the end of the 19th century when the work of the illustrados such as Rizal, Mabini, the Del Pilars and others, exposed the hypocrisy of the Spanish friars and provoked a critical attitude towards the Roman Catholic Church, a new generation of politically and religiously enlightened Filipinos were ready for the coming of the Protestant Gospel brought by the Americans.


The Americans, immediately after crushing the Philippine war of independence, sought to create institutions that mirrored their own – a liberal democratic politics and government, universal education with a strong dose of American values, a civil society based on the principles of freedom, democracy and the free market, and imposed English as both the language of government, business and the educational system. The Filipino people became “brown Americans.”


U.S. President William McKinley declared in December 1898 that the purposes of the United States in the Philippines was to “civilize and Christianize” the Filipinos for whom Christ also died,” with force if necessary.[5] This was President McKinley’s policy of “Benevolent Assimilation,” part of the “Manifest Destiny.”  This made the US to appear as the savior and protector of the Philippines.  And so the Philippines has indeed become a show case that the United States of America has attained its “manifest destiny,” and in wider world has established the New American Empire, the New Rome.


The American Empire: the New Rome in the Book of Revelation?


Out of studies on the Roman Empire in the New Testament especially the Book of Revelation, I follow a thesis that the United States of America has become today’s New Roman Empire. I am not the first to use the term “The New Roman Empire.” Ofelia Ortega, Dean of the Seminary in Matanzas, Cuba also referring to the Book of Revelation uses the term.[6]   An article from The Guardian, September 2002 uses the title “Hail Bush: The New Roman Empire." Also an article of Michael Lind asks rhetorically “Is America the New Roman Empire? (www.theglobalist.com)[7]


Gordon Zerbe (“When Global Traders Ruled the World: The Choice Between Babylon and New Jerusalem as Rival Economies,” a Bible Study) and Richard A. Horsley (Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder) made interesting comparisons of the New Testament Roman Empire and today’s New Empire. Zerbe wrote mainly on the Book of Revelation. Horsley, using mainly the Gospels, wrote about Jesus and the Empire.[8] 


From Republic to Empire


The Book of Revelation was written at the height of Roman imperial expansion and power. Zerbe notes that starting with conquest of the whole of Italy, Rome expanded to Asia Minor and Syria and subdued its major commercial rivals, Carthage and Corinth, gaining trade supremacy of the sea. Horsley emphasizes that Rome started as a Roman Republic taking over the whole of Italy and built an empire around the Mediterranean. In the same manner the American Republic started with the take over of much of the North American Continent from the Native Americans and other peoples. Pursuing its avowed “manifest destiny” seized Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean and moved on the Guam, Wake Island and the Philippines in Pacific, helped to quell the Boxer Rebellion in China, gained control of Panama and built the canal, and finally joined European powers to carve a worldwide empire.  


Religious Manifestation of Empire


The military commanders of Rome started to be called Imperatur (supreme commander) then Augustus (the “manifest one,” starting a quasi-divine title).  Later on they were called Princeps (the “first” in the senate, thus marking the start of the empire) and finally Pontifex Maximus (supreme priest completing the transition to the divine right of the emperor). 


Has the “manifest destiny” its own religious ramifications? Horsley strongly believes so.  He says that from the early American identity starting with the Puritans, a persecuted people who fled like Israel to establish a new covenant society and through their victorious Revolution, they established a sacred promised land and proceeded to slaughter the native inhabitants of the land whom they derisively called the heathen savages, dark-skinned servants of Satan. With this experience an ideology was formed that “the United States [is] the new Israel, God’s chosen people with a historic mission, as the new Rome destined to bring civilization, law, and order to the whole world.”[9]


All Roads Lead to Rome


But coming back to the Roman Empire, we find that through military conquest Rome acquired land, booty, tribute and slaves. Slaves composed about one third of Rome’s population. Rome ruled the oikoumene or the conquered world. As a historian puts it: “they plunder, rape, kill, and burn, and then they call it peace.” The military conquest certainly made possible a general “peace and security” giving relatively safe travel by road and sea. And so “all roads lead to Rome.” There was the “Pax Romana” – it was order degreed by terror. 


In today’s Empire, do we also have slaves who also travel the roads that lead to the “New Rome”? I believe the overseas contract workers are the modern version of slaves. There are eight million of them from the Philippines serving the New Empire and its collaborators. Like the slaves of Rome and the African slaves who were taken from their homelands at the turn of last century, the modern overseas contract workers have the same feeling of separation, exploitation, loneliness and despair.


“All roads” (including the cyber-highway) lead to the seat of the New Empire that proclaimed itself as the “policeman of the world” and decides the destiny of peoples. For the “policeman of the world” there is no problem even if half a million people are killed in the Desert Thunderstorm and hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan and Iraq for the sake of bringing peace!  The “policeman of the world” promises security by dividing the world as “those who are with us and those with the terrorists.” As in the old Rome, so it is in the American Empire – order is imposed by an iron hand.


Economic Globalization and Militarization of the Empire


The international trade brought riches to Rome. Zerbe quotes a Roman writer: “The arrivals and departures of ships never stop, so that one would express admiration not only for the harbor but even for the sea. So everything comes together here, trade, seafaring, farming, the scourings of the mines, all the crafts that exist and have existed, all that is produced or grown.” (Aristides) Revelation 18:11-13 lists “cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves.”


Zerbe further explains that the international traders are not different from today’s purveyors of economic globalization. He notes that the satirical dirge on Babylon, the prostitute, in Revelation Chapter 18, highlights the economic domination of Rome.  Babylon’s global traders “have enriched themselves through the power of excess/luxury” (18:3) and they “have become powers of the earth” (18:23). The global traders specialize in want, not on need, just like the manufacturers of globalization products of today. The book of Revelation highlights in the above list of goods an exploitative system that benefited an urban elite at the expense of the majority of the populace. 


“The Philippines is ours forever… a territory belonging to the United States”


In 1900, Sen. Albert J. Beveridge articulated such imperialist position which has become true in the decades to come when he said: “We shall establish trading-posts throughout the world as distributing points for American Products…We shall build a navy to the measure of our greatness… Our institutions will follow our flag on the wings of our commerce.  And American law, American order, American civilization and the American flag will plant themselves on shores, hitherto bloody and benighted, but, by those agencies of God, henceforth to be beautiful and bright.”[10]    


The New Empire can easily be what was spoken of Rome of the Book of Revelation.  Consider Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge’s letter to President McKinley in May 1898: “But the time has come when (the home) market is not enough for our teeming industries, and the great demand of the day as in outlet for our products. We cannot secure that outlet from other protective countries… so our only chance is to extend our American market by acquiring more trade territory. With our protective wall around the Philippine Islands, its ten million inhabitants (sic: we were about 16M), as the advance in civilization, would have to buy our goods, and we should have so much additional market for our home manufacturers. As a natural and logical sequence of the protective system, we should now acquire these islands and whatever other outlying territories seems desirable.[11]


Or consider again the speech of  Sen. Albert J. Beveridge to the U.S. Senate, Jan. 9, 1900: “The Philippines are ours forever, ‘territory belonging to the United States’, as the Constitution calls them.  And just beyond the Philippines are China’s illimitable markets. We will not retreat from them either… Our largest trade henceforth must be with Asia. The Pacific is our ocean …the archipelago is a base for the commerce of the East. It is a base for military and naval operations against the only powers with whom conflict is possible; a fortress thrown up in the Pacific defending our Western coast, commanding the waters of the Orient, and giving us a point from which we can instantly strike and seize the possessions of any foe…”….(Cf. Peter Hayes, Lyuba Zarsky and Walden Bello: American Lake, Australia, Penguin, 1986) But if they did not command China, India, the Orient, the whole Pacific for purposes of offense, defense and trade, the Philippines are so valuable in themselves that we should hold them… a revelation of vegetable and mineral riches…”[12] (Underscoring added.) That was 1900.


George Kennan (1948): [Let] maintain this position of disparity


Now consider the basic goal stated in Policy Planning Study (PPS23), a top secret document written by George Kennan (of the State Department Planning Staff) in 1948: We have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3% of its population. ... In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity ... To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction. ... We should cease to talk about vague and ... unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better." [13] (Underscoring added.)

Of course, in practice the U.S. government talks about those ‘idealistic slogans’ in order to rationalize their actions and pacify the public.


Maintain 100,000 troops in Asia (1995 East Asian Strategic Report)


Consider also the 1995 East Asian Strategic Report of the U.S. Defense Department showing the furtherance of the US economic interest in Mindanao and Southeast Asian region and furtherance of the US geo-political interest in the Asia-Pacific region today:  [This report] reaffirms our commitment to maintain a stable forward presence in the region, at th-e existing level of about 100,000 troops, for the foreseeable future ... for maintaining forward deployment of U.S. Forces and access and basing rights for U.S. and allied forces. If the American presence is Asia were removed, our ability to affect the course of event would be constrained, our market and our interests would be jeopardized.[14]


Creation and Maintenance of Full Spectrum Dominance


The “Joint Vision 2020”


To maintain and expand U.S. power, a policy of “Full Spectrum Dominance” is envisioned. Conceptualized in 1997 as Joint Vision 2010, the “Joint Vision 2020” was issued May 30, 2000 by the US Department of Defense. Full Spectrum Dominance is defined as “the defeat of any adversary or control of any situation across the full range of military operation…. The overall goal of the transformation described in this document is the creation of a force that is dominant across the full spectrum of military operations – persuasive in peace, decisive in war, preeminent in any form of conflict."  This includes Star Wars style “dominating space dimension of military operation to protect US interests and investments.…to control the space medium to ensure US dominance on future battlefields” [15] Can you remember the use of satellites in the Operation Desert Storm?


Bush “Strike First” Policy


Again to insure such dominance, the Bush Administration instituted a “strike first policy” (National Security Strategy published in September 2002. Again listen to this: "our military must ... dissuade future military competition; deter threats against U.S. interests, allies, and friends; and decisively defeat any adversary if deterrence fails. ... the United States will require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia, as well as temporary access arrangements for the long-distance deployment of U.S. forces. ... Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States. ... America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed. ... We must deter and defend against the threat before it is unleashed. ... We cannot let our enemies strike first…. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively. ... Policies that further strengthen market incentives and market institutions are relevant for all economies—industrialized countries, emerging markets, and the developing world. ... Improving stability in emerging markets is also key ... Our long-term objective should be a world in which all countries have investment-grade credit ratings that allow them access to international capital markets and to invest in their future. ... Free markets and free trade are key priorities of our national security strategy."[16]  [Underscoring added])


Pax Romana


It is interesting that the document “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” (RAD) published in September 2003 by conservative think tank that included Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz called “Project for a New American Century” speaks of Pax Americana this way: 


"At present the United States faces no global rival.  America's grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible."  It further claimed that: "The United States has an unprecedented strategic opportunity. It faces no immediate great-power challenge; it is blessed with wealthy, powerful and democratic allies in every part of the world; it is in the midst of the longest economic expansion in its history; and its political and economic principles are almost universally embraced. At no time in history has the international security order been as conducive to American interests and ideals. The challenge for the coming century is to preserve and enhance this 'American peace.[17] (Underscoring added.)


This document acknowledges its debt to an earlier document “Defense Planning Guidance for Fiscal Years 1994-1999 drafted by Paul Wolfowitz in 1992, in relation to the new situation after the fall of the Soviet Union, saying:


"Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. ... we must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order. ... we must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role. ... Our strategy must now refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential future global competitor. ... In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region's oil. [18] (Underscoring added.) 


Should we still wonder why the U.S. had to invade Iraq, the second biggest oil-producing country, against the will of the United Nations (UN)?


Needed “a new Pearl Harbor”


At the time of the above writing many Americans were not yet sure how to act in the new post-USSR world and were not yet willing to pursue this aggressive policy so the implementation had been delayed. But eight years later RAD stated there was now a need for a “new Pearl Harbor” to pursue such aggressiveness:  "New Circumstances make us think that the report might have a more receptive audience now than in recent years" but that, "the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary [sic] change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event like a new Pearl Harbor."[19] (Underscoring added.)


And sure enough, 9/11 provided the new Pearl Harbor which shifted the spectrum towards the hawkish end by reducing domestic opposition to expansionism and providing a potent pretext for imperialism.


                The “Threat of God Example”


To maintain the American Empire it is necessary to combat what is called the

“threat of Good Example.” If a part of the empire breaks off and prospers it could serve as an inspiration for other regions, leading to the loss of large areas of the Empire. 


An example is the presidency of Salvador Allende, a Democratic Socialist who won the presidential election in Chile in 1970. Allende increased civil liberties, nationalized many companies, instituted programs of agrarian reform and increased spending on housing, education, sanitation and health. In his first year, unemployment dropped to 4.8 percent from its previous 8.4 percent, inflation dropped 12.7 percent and worker income rose by 50 percent. The net effect of Allende’s policies was to redistribute income towards poorer groups and to move Chile in the direction of economic independence. The U.S. did not like this and placed sanctions on Chile, hurting the economy. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) funded opposition groups and promoted instability within Chile. On Sept. 11, 1973 the CIA launched a coup that deposed Allende and installed a military dictatorship under Gen. Augusto Pinochet who slaughtered thousands of dissidents, reversed Allende’s reforms and implemented an extreme neo-liberal capitalist economic program.[20]  Chile had to be destroyed. It was a “good example.”


The same was true with the Sandinistas overthrowing the Somozas in the 1970s. The social reforms did not do well with the U.S. and so the U.S. funded the terrorist Contras to wage a brutal war against the Sandinistas destroying whatever social improvements and eventually the Nicaraguans allowed the U.S. puppets to once again take over the country.[21] 


Nicaragua could well just not affect the US economy but it has to be destroyed or else its success can become an inspiration to other countries.


Client States: 


To keep the Empire intact, it must maintain “Client States.” A Client State is one that is dominated and controlled by the imperialist governments.  It is dependent on the economic and military support of a more powerful country. Other names of these states are “satellite states”; “puppet government”; “vassal state.” The Roman Empire relied strongly on client states.  It maintained Jewish kings such as the Herodians, for example.


Isn’t the Philippines under the present government or previous governments, a client state of the New Roman Empire?


Mechanisms of Control


The “Anatomy of the American Empire” describes in summary way examples of mechanism of dominance.  We can only list them with our limited time.  For example: (1) Military Intervention, (2) Proxy Forces, (3) Enforcer States, (4) The CIA, (5) Foreign Aid, (6) Coup d ’etats, (7) Sanctions, and (8) Subverting Elections. It is also interesting to note that the “Anatomy of the American” lists down the expansion of the American Empire towards areas of world domination.   Starting with the (1) American Homeland as a base, it moves on to (2). Latin America, (3) East Asia, (4) Europe, (5) Africa, (6) Oceania, and (7) Central Asia.[22]  


Let me now go back to some more major issues in the New Roman Empire as compared to the Old Roman Empire.


Brutality of the Empire


Rome’s brutal conquest and the exaction of high tribute payment destroyed local economies.  The acquisitions were maintained by terror mechanism of “crucifixion (10,000 in Judea alone from year 63-70), imprisonments and exiles, one of whom was the writer of the book of Revelation.  Even Roman historians describe some of their generals and emperors as “bloodthirsty.” 


Consider the Philippine-American War that lasted from 1899 to 1913. In this longest war in U.S. history, the Philippines lost over 1 million people, 15 percent of its population.  The My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war pales when compared in the massacre of the people of Samar Island in the Philippines where 600,000 Filipinos were slaughtered from the American general’s command “to render Samar a wilderness.” The order was to kill everyone who can carry guns: “The more you kill and burn, the more it will please me,” the commander said.  Whether the U.S. Marines were only acting on impulse to avenge the death of their compatriot, the Hiditha massacre in Iraq is merely a rehearsal of the logic of empire now pursued by the USA. 


Escape Goats of the Empire


In the time of Nero, the Christians were made escape goats of Nero’s crime, and many were killed. No wonder the book of Revelation speaks of Rome as the Beast, a Red Dragon, with aliases of “Accuser, Deceiver, Devil, Satan, Ancient Serpent.”  Rome is compared to doomed Babylon, the prostitute, clothed in purple and scarlet and adorned with gold, jewels, and pearls (17:3-6) and depicted for (1) its lavish wealth and craving for consumption; (2) its arrogance; and (3) political oppression and economic exploitation, including its brutal military conquests and the destruction of the earth itself.[23]          


Who are now the escape goats who can be blamed of the “un-peace situation” in the world?  I happened to be watching CNN when the 9/ll attack happened. I certainly was shocked watching the twin tower collapse. But I was dismayed when immediately, the American authorities, without the benefit of verifying facts, named the Muslim terrorists as the perpetrators of the crime. Nero had the Christians to blame, the American Empire has the “terrorists” to blame and they reserve the right to define who the “terrorists” are.  Bush immediately pronounced Saddam Hussein as one of the authors of 9/11 though to this day there has never been any evidence to support it. In a larger front, Muslims are the escape goats to cover for America’s desire for global domination.    


Some Theological Affirmations on Empire


Given the above case study and analysis of the Empire, I submit five theological concepts:  (1) Idolatry of the Empire; (2) The Human as Image of God, (3) Stewardship of Creation (4) the Kingdom of God and (5) Shalom. 


1.        Idolatry of the Empire


We said earlier there was a gradual transition of military titles from Imperatur (supreme commander) to Augustus (the “manifest one, a quasi-divine title”) to Princeps (the “first” in the senate, marking the start of the empire) and finally Pontifex Maximus (supreme priest completing transition to the divine right of the emperor). The Emperor arrogates upon himself the power of life and death over all peoples and territories of the known world and claimed the honor and glory of divinity and demands the subjects to bow before him and his images. The local kings and priests were co-opted to be the implementors of the will of Rome. Any opposition faces retribution and annihilation. To the early Christians this was pure and simple idolatry.


An idol, according to Paul Tillich, is the granting of ultimate loyalty and devotion to something that is not absolute. The First Commandment says: “You shall not have any other god before me.” The emperor has become a god. The early Christians were  persecuted because they refused to attribute divinity to the emperor. Only Jesus the Messiah was given the glory and honor that belongs to God.


Is the American hegemony a revival of the Holy Roman Empire? “Those who are not with us are terrorists and deserved to be annihilated.”  In the Philippines the political leadership has become the Herodians implementing the “imperial order” of the New Roman Empire in its declaration of an “all out war” against the “terrorists.”  


2.        Human Beings as the “image of God”: The New Roman Empire has no respect of the “image of God”


The Christian Faith affirms that human beings, male and female, are created in the image of God. The human being is a bearer of the imago dei. This imago dei is not an animal to be domesticated or vegetables to be raised and sold. The imago dei is not a thing to be manipulated or destroyed. The imago dei is to be provided with the right to life with dignity in a free and just society; life in all its fullness. The imago dei must be accorded with due respect and protection.


Brutality in the continuing expansion of the Empire shows that the Empire has no respect for the human being. In military parlance civilians, unarmed old people, women and children killed in military campaigns are “collateral damage.” In such cases human beings have no value except when they bring profit to the Empire. This is why we have the massacres in the Philippines’ Samar Island, in Vietnam’s My Lai and Iraq’s Hiditha (cf. Time Magazine, 2006) in addition to half a million “collateral damage” in the indiscriminate bombings in the Desert Thunderstorm.  


The use of religion and education to manipulate people into conforming to the culture of the Empire such as creating the Filipino “Spanish Catholics” and “brown Americans” is a violation of the image of God.


In the economy of the New Empire with its free market neo-liberal ideology persons do not matter. The goal is profit, therefore, everything and everyone has a price.


In Hebrew/Semitic thought, the “image of God” includes the idea of the body as part of the whole person and is necessary to complete the human being. In this sense the image of God is expressed in concrete and bodily terms. As such the human being has physical needs such as food, shelter, clothing and intellectual development. Deprivation of these physical needs constitutes a violation of the image of God. In the Empire even so-called aid has become a means of domination and deprivation.


In this connection the New Empire must prophetically be confronted with the vision of Isaiah where there will be no more “infant who will live but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days (Isaiah 65:20).  [People] “will not build houses and another inhabit; they shall not plant vineyard and another eat.” (. 22) [but] “they will build houses and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyard and  eat their fruit.” (vs.21). The prophets condemn those who “sell the innocent for silver” and the “destitute for a pair of shoes” (Amos 2:6-7) and those who “join house to house, who add field to field (Isaiah 5:8).  In the Philippines, the economic conglomerates through their local and national minions are notoriously “adding house to house and field to field.”  


The biblical goal is not the maximization of the freedom to seek individual benefits, corporate profits or national advantage in the international market. Emil Brunner once said: “The primary purpose of economics willed by God is to minister to human needs, service to life. This implies that the economic order is a means and not an end…(I)t is the duty of each individual… and of the community as such, to see to it that the economic order is not allowed to make itself absolute, or to lose its purpose of service to humanity.” [24] And so the economic globalization of the Empire deserves God’s judgment.


3.       Stewardship of God’s Creation: The New Empire does not care about Creation


Corollary to destruction of the image of God is the destruction of Creation. In the Empire, global economy works in a more sophisticated way of extracting wealth from the dominated countries through the exploitation of natural and human resources. Such exploitation has no respect for the environment, God’s Creation. With all the concerns expressed in preserving the environment in world conferences, the New Roman Empire has no qualms about its refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol.


The WARC in the Accra Statement summarizes: “We have heard that creation continues to groan, in bondage, waiting for its liberation (Romans 8:22). We are challenged by the cries of the people who suffer and by the wounded-ness of creation itself. We see a dramatic convergence between the suffering of the people and the damage done to the rest of creation” (Par. No. 5). The Empire and its unholy alliances are under judgment for the destruction of God’s Creation.


4. The Kingdom of God: Judgment to the Empire


According to Mark, Jesus’ original proclamation was: “The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel!” What Jesus did was to confront the kingdom of this world with all its corruption, hypocrisy, injustice and evil with the Kingdom of God.  What Jesus did was to shake the foundations of the world’s socio-economic and political-military arrangements with the Kingdom of God that was breaking in. The Kingdom of God makes demands to do what is righteous and expose what is false and unjust. The Kingdom of God demands to love the neighbor particularly those who are suffering and are being crushed by the evil powers in our time. And so in every proclamation of the Gospel, the idols of our time must be named and exorcised. Just as in the Book of Revelation, the Beast, a Red Dragon whose aliases include Accuser, Deceiver, Devil, Satan, Ancient Serpent, Babylon the prostitute, and all the alliances of the perpetrators of injustice be exposed and subverted; the judging power of the Kingdom of God must be brought to bear, before something new can take root and arise in all human relations.[25]


The New Roman Empire must learn that no empire in history stayed forever and therefore should heed the warning in the Book of Revelation.


                                Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” (18:2)

                “Alas! Alas! Thou great city, thou mighty city, Babylon!                                                                            In one hour has thy judgment come” (18:10)                                                                                      “Alas! Alas! For the great city that was clothe with fine linen,                                                   in purple and scarlet, bedecked with jewels, and with pearl!                                                        In one hour all these wealth has been laid to waste.” (18:16-17)                                                       Alas! Alas! For the great city where all who had ships at sea                                                     grew rich by her wealth!  In one hour she has been laid to waste. (18:19)


Concluding Words: The New Jerusalem.


However, it is not all dark and hopeless for humankind and God’s Creation, for the book of Revelation speaks of another City. When Babylon is finally destroyed, the New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven from God (21:2, 10).  The New Jerusalem locates itself on earth. The image is a commentary on the Lord’s Prayer: “Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Revelation says the final hope for Christians is not to leave this earth. Rather the hope that energizes Christians is God’s renewing of our earthly home; the ultimate goal is to participate in and to work with God’s renewal of the universe – a renewal pictured as a merging of earth and heaven where all brokenness is overcome and leads to a consummation of God’s purpose for the whole creation. The New Jerusalem is a picture of the coming “reign of God,” in which God’s people are promised a “share” or an “inheritance” (21:7; 22:19). The New Jerusalem is an “international city” in which all nations “walk by the light” of God’s glory and of the Lamb (21:24) radiating from the throne of God, a metaphor of committing themselves to the ways of God.


In contrast to Babylon, the New Jerusalem provides a “river of the water of life” and a “tree of life” (Rev. 22:1-2). Dr. Zerbe explains: The “tree of life” which straddles the river, can produce “fruit” each month, indicating that it is a tropical city! It provides both sustenance and medicine for all the nations: its “leaves” are for the “healing of the nations.” The water, the fruit, and the medicinal leaves are freely accessible to all, and from a renewable (and unlimited) resource. Thus there is clean water, food security and accessible health care, both for the city and for the whole world. The Good News is to proclaim the New Jerusalem where God dwells and where God “wipes every tear from [people’s] eyes and [where] death will be no more.” 


Perhaps an apt concluding word for a changed world in contrast to the Empire is the Biblical vision of Shalom. The 1991 Statement of the National of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) puts is this way:


“Shalom is a state of well-being and wholeness of life that embraces harmony with one’s neighbors and social relations, with nature and creation, and with one’s self. Its attainment involves a transformation of economic, social and political life so that these begin to embody justice and righteousness, of our relations with nature, and with the whole creation so that these begin to embody care and respect for God’s purposes for them, and for ourselves so that we embody in our lives righteousness, love and human compassion.” Posted by Bulatlat


(This is an updated paper presented to the 19th Assembly of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, Tagaytay City, Nov. 27-28, 2006 from the original paper presented to the “Consultation on Theological Reflection on Global Empire Today” of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Manila, July 13-15, 2006. Bishop Erme R. Camba is a former General Secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and former Dean of the Silliman University Divinity School, Dumaguete City.)




[1] The Accra Confession: Covenanting for Justice and the Economy and the Earth,” WARC 24th General Assembly, July 30-Aug. 13, 2004

[2] Renato Constantino, The Philippines: A Past Revisited, QC, Philippines, Renato Constantino, 1975.

[3] Daniel B. Schirmer, Republic or Empire: American Resistance to the Philippine War, Cambridge, Massachussetts, Schenkmann Publishing Company, 1972, p. 205

[4] T. Valentino Sitoy, Jr: Several Springs, One Stream: The United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Vol. 1, UCCP, 1992, p. 10.

[5] Mariano C. Apilado, Revolutionary Spirituality: A Study of the Protestant Role in the American Colonial Rule of the Philippines, 1898-1928, p.29; Cf. Oscar S. Suarez, Protestantism and Authoritarian Politics: The Politics of Repression and the Future of Ecumenical Witness in the Philippines, Chapter 2.

[6] Ofelia Ortega, “Where the Empire Lies, People Suffer, They Are Exploited and Life Becomes Death,” A paper presented in the “Consultation on Theological Reflection on Global Empire Today” of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Manila, July 13-15, 2006.

[7] The Guardian, http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/o9/19/1032054915705.html

[8] Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder, Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 2003; Gordon Zerbe, “When Global Traders Ruled the World: The Choice Between Babylon and New Jerusalem as Rival Economies,” a Bible Study presented to the UCCP National Council, Oct. 24, 2002.

[9] Horseley, p. 137

[10] Quoted by Horsley, p. 140, from from Anders Stephanson, Manifest Destiny: American Expansion and the Empire of the Right, N.Y., Hill and Wang, 1995.

[11] Unpublished paper by Capt. Danilo P. Vizmanos, PN (Ret), “Critical Questions about U.S. Military in Mindanao”, issued  Jan., 2002.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “Anatomy of the American Empire” p.2, http://question-everything.mahost.org/Socio-Politics/American_Empire,html.

[14] Vizmanos, “Critical Questions…”, Ibid

[15] “Joint Vision 2020,” http://www.dtic.mil/jointvision2020.doc

[16] “Anatomy of the American Empire,” ibid, p. 3

[17] Ibid, p. 4

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] “Anatomy of the American Empire”, Ibid, p.4 refers to Benjamin Keen and Mark Wasserman, A Short History of Latin America, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1984, pp. 334-341; Cf. Ewin Martinez, “History of Chile under Salvador Allende and the Popular Unity, http.//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chile_under_Allende

[21] Anatomy of the American Empire, Ibid., p. 5 refers to William Blum, Killing Hope: US Milirary and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Common Courage Press, 2003, p. 290-305.

[22] “Anatomy of the American Empire”, ibid, p. 11-22.

[23] Zerbe

[24] Emil Brunner, The Divine Imperative, London:Lutterworth, 19,37, p. 402.

[25] This summary is borrowed from Dr. Levi V. Oracion, visiting professor at Silliman University.  See his   exposition on “A New Millenium: Confronting New Idols in our Times, Intensifying Our Prophetic Witness,”  Report of the 39th Church Workers Convocation, Silliman University Divinity School, Dumaguete City, Philippines, August 29-31, 2000, p.16; Cf. Zerbe



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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