The following posts first appeared on Jesus Politics. I appreciate Laryn for writing a review of Colossians Remixed and then responding to my argument.
Additional information about our discussion can be found at:
Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire
They ask their readers to imaginatively consider the "dynamic analogies" between the empire Paul preached against and various entities in our world that act as empires. Just as Rome was built on "an economics of oppression," so too the empire of global capitalism built on an economics that benefits the wealthy most on the backs of the poor. Just as Rome perpetuated the myth of the Pax Romana - which was really a euphemism for military oppression - we perpetuate our own myths. For example, "[t]he myth that we are moving as a culture toward increasing wealth and technological control, and that this is invariably good, provides the justification for all the economic and military policies of the North." In a similar way, they draw parallels between "systemic centralizations of power" in Rome and today, and ways in which "imperial images" continue to bombard us in advertisements and seek to "capture [our] imaginations," just as images of Caesar and empire permeated the lives of the public in Paul's day.
One difference they note is that today the church is "more enculturated, more taken captive by the dominant culture, more comfortable in the empire, than that radical group of young converts in the first century." This is exactly what the empire needs to survive and that is precisely why Paul sounds the trumpet for an alternative imagination, grounded in the story of scripture rather than in the imperial myths and images. By refusing to surrender our imagination to the empire, we subvert it.