Volume 18.2 – BOOK REVIEW: God’s People and the Seduction of Empire

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By Graham Turner
Book Review – Richard Noble

This book is a compelling read with useful material for group work. With the world experiencing change and upheavals on an unprecedented scale, it is a timely call to attention for Christians both lay and professional, as well as those working in commerce and industry. Instead of seeing the decline of church congregations in the developed world as the death throes of Christendom, Turner sees this as just one of the many casualties of empire-building in a social climate where individual identity, personal ambition and self-serving concentration of power hold sway with an ever widening gap between the haves and have-nots. “Empires come in many shapes, sizes, guises and styles. Our contemporary empires are sometimes more difficult to detect than the imperial nation states of the past. Yet today’s empires influence and control so many aspects of our lives without us realising, unless we stop to think about it. While not every nation, corporation or organisational structure acts like an empire, most tend to. It is as if groups of people with any degree of power have a default setting they cannot help but move towards. This in time becomes a major flaw, if we allow it.… It does not have to be this way, but sadly we are seduced into following the way of the big, the better, the impressive, the successful and the powerful. It is a hard temptation to resist” (p.33).

In contrast he selects the biblical concepts of the commandments (Sinai), diversity (Babel), respite from work (Sabbath) and a chance to recover (Jubilee) as being God’s way for humankind. He outlines the counterintuitive values of God’s kingdom described by Jesus, where love is power, loss is gain, the suffering can see themselves as blessed, outcasts become insiders and failure can be the springboard to new life. In particular he sees the liminal state where all seems lost as the place where true prophecy will arise. This is sure hope, no…

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