Pray Brethren

Pray Brethren

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Reveiw: Saving Christianity from Empire

An excerpt introduction to the review of Saving Christianity from Empire:

The political left… has seemingly distanced itself from religious language in general and Christian language in particular… Very rarely today do we find a book by a liberal author meant to seriously address Christianity and its relationship to the nation in a positive light. Rarer still is such a book written for a mass audience of average Christians unfamiliar with the many complex and abstract concepts of theology.

But this is exactly what the theologian and politician Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer has attempted to do in his book
Saving Christianity from Empire. Pallmeyer is a professor at the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN), teaching both theology and justice and peace studies. While Pallmeyer may be best known for his run against Al Franken for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 U.S. Senate election, he is one of the few liberal politicians to be as equally committed to faith as to politics. A lifelong Lutheran, Pallmeyer earned his bachelor’s degree from the Lutheran St. Olaf College and then a Masters of Divinity from the Union Theological Seminary before becoming a St. Thomas professor where he has taught for fifteen years.

Now for most American’s, Pallmeyer’s argument [will need] some convincing – and often times the best way to convince someone is by telling them a story. Like every good story, we could say that
Saving Christianity from Empire examines the United States, as well as Christianity, in the following way: the story is setup, upset, and reset. The setup represents the protagonist’s original upright beginnings while the upset refers to that which becomes an obstacle for the protagonist to overcome. Of course, no story is complete without a reset, that is, either a return to the original good or to the protagonist’s eventual doom. Every good story has either a happy ending or a sad ending. No good story has a non-ending.

Pallmeyer tells his story as one of optimism for the United States and Christianity, but he casts both of their modern-day versions as their own worst enemies. In his narrative, the United States is a good republic turned empire and Christianity is a good religion subverted by empire into a caesaropapist puppet of injustice. The narrative’s hopeful reset, however, relies on a revitalized Christianity which is able to resist and by doing so restore the evil empire to its former status as a good republic. In this way Pallmeyer’s thesis rests squarely on his
theology, not on his indictments of American economic or foreign policy. In other words, Pallmeyer is offering Christians a hopeful means of social and political change precisely by way of their faith and not merely through a sociopolitical process devoid of faith. Could this be a postmodernist return to the power of religion which enlivened movements led by great men like Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Read the full review to examine Pallmeyer’s theology and find out.

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