Living under Empire’s dark shadow

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Dear Hugh
I hope you’ve found the reflections from Scotland on The State We’re In both interesting and helpful. I realise they may have been a bit more challenging than you were expecting but we live in difficult times. Our next series is also rather challenging but, again, I hope you find it useful.

In recent years many theologians have started to look at how the world views of people who live in, and under, Empires have affected how the Bible has been interpreted.

The Bible was formed, written and edited in imperial ages – the mighty empires of Assyria, Babylon, Greece and Rome were the background to all the stories, teaching, poetry, hopes and despair of the Biblical writers. When the Psalmist sat down and wept by the Rivers of Babylon, the Jewish people were formed anew in the crucible of imperial oppression; when Jesus was nailed to the Cross he was executed in the way the Romans dealt with those it held in utter contempt.

Biblical writers struggled with the advantages of Empire – good roads and communications meaning the Gospel could be spread, and unimaginable oppression.

We still live in empires, but our empires now are harder to see – just as, it is believed, goldfish don’t perceive the water in which they live. We have world powers who seek to rule as ruthlessly as their imperial forebears, we have economic systems at least as cruel as the ancient institution of slavery and most Daily Devotion readers live in lands which once ruled much of the globe.

The Biblical writers’ experience and critique of Empire has much to each us now. Over the next 14 days two URC ministers, Peter Cruchley (the Mission Secretary for Mission Development of the Council for World Mission) and Gethin Rhys (Policy Officer for Cytun – Churches Together in Wales) will help us reflect on the interaction between the ancient Biblical witness in the context of Empire and our own contemporary situation. Their reflections are insightful, challenging, at times controversial but, I hope, rewarding as we look at familiar passages in unfamiliar ways.

I hope you find the Devotions thought provoking. Remember you can always use the link, above, to forward a Devotion to a friend you may think would like to subscribe.

with every good wish

Andy

The Rev’d Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC

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