The Empire Strikes Back

We live in a time when the empire is under threat

The featured photo taken by Lisa Colón DeLay in her neighborhood in rural Pennsylvania. The vehicle covered in political, pro-gun, and nationalistic stickers was parked at the church and belongs to church members who maintain the grounds.

Racial violence—like the horrifying Buffalo, NY Tops Supermarket massacre—reveals the forces, powers, and principalities of the systems of our world. In the U.S., these also reveal the empire and how the empire strikes back.

When the dominant power group feels threatened, they exact violence and devastate our democracy.

—Lisa Colón DeLay

It helps to understand Christian Nationalism in America beyond the political aspirations of Christians and the aims of passing laws that reflect a Christian-centric worldview. We must understand it on its own terms that include its naked ambition. Baked in is the desire to build and maintain an empire in the world in the same ways all empires have been built and maintained.

Subjects of the empire worship and submit to the god of the empire. This god has favorites. This god goes to war against all the same people its subjects have been planning to fight already. Defeating enemies is built into the mentality of the subjects and structural framework of the empire.

In the U.S., those officially or loosely affiliated with White Nationalism and its ideals offer themselves as the “elite forces” for this empire of Christian Nationalism. They are proud of their loyalty. They use special symbols and show extra fervor and stalwart alliance for the notions and aims of the empire. They expect the benefits for their allegiance and sacrifice. As warriors of the empire, they see America as continually under threat from any and all outside ideas or people who are not part of their in-group. Vitriol is fuel. Aggression is a hallmark. Viciousness is necessary.

The USA empire works the same as any significant empire ever has: It offers the promise of peace and security to some through violence, occupation, and dominance of others. Wars, laws and policies, taxes, courts, prisons, and authorities all work to impose this will. Yet, the promise of empire becomes an empty one because it stands on a faulty premise. Namely, that violence does not create peace, of course. It only propagates more violence. Hence, all empires die. Death-dealing is not generative. Eventually, it brings defeat and death.

This is precisely why Jesus offers us his empire as one diametrically different from all others. It brings life, empowerment, and peace. It does not work like any human empires that have ever existed or will ever exist. The leaders of the kingdom of Jesus serve rather than lord over or expect to be served. It is a kingdom where no one buys, intimidates, forces, or kills their way to the top and stays there. It’s not a system where maintaining the status quo and the power systems that have always benefited a small few are kept in place.

Instead, Jesus’s kingdom is one where the least of us is lifted up and those left out and in last place are moved into first place. We offer these who are misfit at the bottom the support and empowerment they never had before. These outcast people are not seen as threats, replacements, enemies, or in any way illegitimate, let alone illegal or “other.” Everyone counts fully and completely in the kingdom of Jesus—the true emperor and the only wise God.

There are no earthly empires like the one Jesus taught us about. He inaugurated a new way to run the world. What is so terribly sad is what is the truth: America may be one of the worst empires that exist—because it claims to be what it is certainly not: a representative democracy with Christian ideals. It does so much to undermine democracy and does so in some of the most anti-Jesus ways. Dissenting voices get cut off and more harm and injustice comes to those without money and power. The rich and well-connected stay in control. They continue willfully oblivious for decades ruling in America’s empire while the dispossessed and poor are overlooked and disregarded

Make no mistake: Democracy is a threat to corrupt power systems that are propped up by hateful ideologies like White Nationalism.

—Lisa Colón DeLay

Those of the current USA empire do not often see cooperation, generosity, democracy, prosperity for the poor, shared power, and human agency for all as ways our society improves. These are seen as ways that power and dominance can slip away from those on top.

The loyalists of our evil empire who also have the most money, power, guns, ammo, and violent temperaments cannot dominate the discourse, the laws and policies, and a future that excludes a robust democratic process. We must tell the truth about this. When the empire strikes back, be ready and be prepared for non-violent resistance and civil disobedience for the sake of your conscience and the future of our democracy.

Christians especially must move toward being a society that looks like the kingdom of Jesus. A place that cares for everyone without playing favorites. May we dismantle our violent empire and the false god of power, hate, and violence.

By Lisa Colón DeLay

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