Irony of Imperialism

For a Mormon, Orson Scott Card can really write a good book! Ender’s Game is a must-read for anyone who either likes a great sci-fi read OR anyone dealing with child psychology or youth ministry or anything like that. But I’m not writing about Ender’s Game. In Empire, an alternate-future novel, he mentions a really ironic concept that rears its ugly head often in NT studies and preaching.

The irony is that the United States is often castigated for being like Rome, and it is often shouted to anyone who will listen that if the USA doesn’t change, it will fall like Rome. Ironically, all this is hard to support, because the United States is not very much like Rome.

1. America has never transcended its republican phase, while Rome as we think of it today did not exist UNTIL Rome shed the Senatorial system that was woefully inadequate and ineffective at controlling Rome’s far-flung interests.

2. Roman society dominated its world for 500 years BEFORE its fall. After that fall, the conquered societies clung to the trappings of that fallen culture for ANOTHER millenium. 1500 years of power. Many people would suggest that that was a good run. The United States, by contrast, have only BEEN united for a little over 200. Card suggests that, if the USA becomes poor and unarmed, the rest of the world would peel off our cultural influence like a snake shedding its skin.

3. Rome spread its influence with the sandals, shields, and swords of the legionnaires and the intimidation of crucifixion. Despite this ruthless method of “evangelism,” the assorted peoples under Roman rule mourned its passing. The United States seeks invitation into other countries. We influence the world with buying and selling and a bit of bluster. “Can you imagine,” Card writes, “what Rome would do if an ‘ally’ thumbed its nose at Rome the way France and Germany have thumbed their noses at the United States recently?” By contrast, if America responded on the international scene like Rome would have, other nations would treat the United States with far greater respect.

America gets an interesting rap. If dominating your world for 1500 years is a fall, then by all means, let America fall like Rome! How ironic that the USA gets blasted worldwide for its likeness to Rome, precisely because it DOESN’T act like Rome!

Thanks for reading!
Nick

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About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 24 May, 2007, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I read this to my husband and we both said Amen.Thanks for the post. I am tired of people bashing the country and freedom God gave me to live in.PeaceNeva

  2. Stoned-Campbell Disciple

    I have to think on this one Nick. I have to demur with Neva (lovingly though) that awareness of American transgressions does not mean one is “bashing” this country. I would venture to say that the USA has gone into many a place without asking permission. Shalom,Bobby Valentine

  3. Bobby,Come on now! We don’t go where we want to go, when we want to go. The closest we ever got to that in American history was with the Monroe Doctrine that warned European interests away from interference in the Western Hemisphere. America began purely isolationist. Without Pearl Harbor, it is still debatable whether we’d have involved ourselves in WWII.America has gone places and done things. I’m not denying that. But to equate that to Roman imperialism, and especially imperialism through psychological intimidation (fear of crucufixion), is to take an unduly and unfounded negative view of American affairs.

  4. Stoned-Campbell Disciple

    Nick,If I have to enumerate all the times we have gone some where uninvited then I will do it. Right now I will let you review American history yourself. In the mean time if you have never read either James W. Lowen’s “Lies My Teacher Told Me” or Richard Hughes “Myths America Lives By” then by all means get them and reflect on them.Shalom,Bobby Valentine

  5. Bobby,And yet, somehow, very few of those place you and I could enumerate became American colonies. American states. They still exist as independent entities with independent governments who send ambassadors to the United Nations to make fun of the United States. If America were Rome, the American flag would be flying over Paris, Berlin, Ottawa, and Mexico City. I recognize fully that America has just as awful a past as most Western nations. What I do not accept (and I’m stunned that any first-century scholar would) is equating America with Rome. America has had imperialistic tendencies at times, for a few years. Rome became a full-blown tyrannical empire.My point is that for whatever reason US forces went somewhere uninvited, they did whatever they did, and they LEFT. They didn’t crucify all the local government leaders in the public square. They didn’t execute everyone who would not eat at McDonalds.The fact that Canada and Mexico EXIST as independent entities is proof that America is not Rome, Bobby.Nick

  6. Stoned-Campbell Disciple

    I am not trying to be a pest my beloved brother. I think this is worthy of some reflection. The USA has in fact exercised its great power for its own ends repeatedly. Imperialism did, even under that name, raise its head among American leader at the turn of the 19th to 20th century. Beyond that the Monroe Doctrine was the basis for considerable American interference in many places. The US landed troops in Mexico in 1914, Haiti in 1915, the Dominican Republic in 1916, Mexico again in 1916 (and several more times before Wilson ended his presidency). Do we need to speak of American policy with Cuba, Spain and the Philippians (with American troops constantly in the latter … the famous 1911 Colt .45 saw action their first). What of American troops in China in the Boxer Rebellion. What about the American blockade of the Soviet Union following the Revolution. What about the American troops that were actually sent to Russia (Murmansk, Archangel and Vladivostok from 1918 to 1920.What about the near war with England in 1896 rooted in the Monroe Doctrine. Brother there are so many times when the United States has used its military power to get what it wants, usually serving some economic interest, it is not funny. I never even heard of the American army in Russia. I had to learn of that from a Russian. There are probably more recent works but Robert J. Maddox’s has a good study called “The Unknown War with Russia” published by Rutgers University Press back in 1977. A good history of American relations with Philippians, especially before World War II reveals that it was basically that of a colony and imperial power. Now I am not “attacking” the USA. But I think we often in our country by into what Richard Hughes calls the “Myth of Innocence.” Again I recommend his book (Myths America Lives By) which is an interpretation of American history from one who avows a distinct Christian worldview. I love you dearly brother and I hope I have not offended you. If I have I plead for mercy and reconciliation.Shalom,Bobby Valentine

  7. Bobby,You haven’t offended me in the least, brother. I just think that equating imperialistic TENDENCIES and full-blown tyrannical empire is unhealthy at best.There is a difference between using one’s might and authority to get what one wants or thinks is best, and simply saying “This country is mine. This country is mine, too. Oh wait, I really like that one! Let’s take them, too.” One could also argue that the Monroe Doctrine was grounded in benevolence towards weaker countries in our hemisphere, being exploited by the old European powers. Of course, one could also point out that we might have been saying that WE wanted to be the exploiters (which has hardly worked out in practice, so I’m not sure that argument flies). The Sun never set on the British Empire.Alexander had no more worlds to conquer.The Roman cross and legion ruled their known world.Compared to those three, the United States has never been an empire. The very fact that anyone feels a need to keep such military actions a secret once again proves that the US is not and hasn’t been an empire. Empires don’t CARE what other farcical imitations of countries think.

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