Philippines: new Roman Empire?

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun Dec 10 14:22:32 UTC 2006

This story was taken from Bulatlat, the Philippines's alternative weekly
newsmagazine (
Vol. VI, No. 44, Dec. 10-16, 2006

The New Roman Empire
A Case Study Reflection from a Victim People

Out of studies on the Roman Empire in the New Testament especially the
Book of Revelation, I follow a thesis that the United States of America
has become todays New Roman Empire.

United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Posted by Bulatlat

When the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) meeting in Accra
defined empire as the coming together of economic, cultural, political and
military power [constituting] a system of domination led by powerful
nations to protect and defend their own interests (Par. 11), it minced no
words by mentioning the government of the United States of America and its
allies, together with international finance and trade institutions such as
the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade
Organization) as the ones using political, economic and military alliances
to protect and advance their interest of the capital owners (Par. 13).[1]
This paper is presented from the standpoint of a nation and people that
has been a victim of the American Empire.  Starting with a brief
historical survey as a case study of a suffering people from the designs
of todays Sole Superpower, the study proceeds with reflections on the Book
of Revelation and on the concept of Kingdom of God.

The Story of a People

>>From tribal peoples who have already been trading with China and Southern
Asian peoples, my country, the Philippines, succumbed to Spanish
colonization, following colonization of Central and South America peoples.
It remained under the Spanish Crown for three hundred sixty years until
the new American Empire took over.  It cannot be denied that both Imperial
Powers came for economic interests and used both their international
political and military might for their territorial and economic expansion.
Spain came for the rich spices of the East and America came to exploit our
natural resources and dominate our economic and political life and make
our country a gateway to the riches of China. In the process Spain divided
the rich agricultural country among its citizenry and created the
haciendas that became todays agribusiness conglomerates. America expanded
its big business conglomerates siphoning our rich natural resources,
minerals and agricultural products.[2]

Our people by degrees rose against the onslaught of these imperial
adventures. We can count some 300 revolts and rebellions in the 360 years
of Spanish rule ending in a successful revolution ironically only to fall
into the hands of a new imperial power, the United States of America. The
US fought a long war of colonial subjugation of the Filipino people which
caused the loss of some one million lives, about 15 percent of the
population of 16 million at that time.  The Filipino peoples struggle
against the American Empire continues up to the present.

In fairness to the American people, it should be noted that there was no
lack of opposition to this surging American tendency towards empire for
early on there were anti-imperialists that championed the cause of the
Filipino people. William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic presidential
nominee in 1900, articulated the anti-imperialists stance when he declared
that imperialism had its inspiration in the desire of the syndicates to
extend their commerce by conquest.[3]

It is interesting to note that on the day immediately following the mock
Battle of Manila Bay, Bishop James Mills Thoburn of the Methodist
Episcopal Church wrote about Adm. George Deweys Jericho-like victory as
the fulfillment of the hopes and prayers of years and, therefore, urged
Protestant Churches in the United States to enter in the name of the Lord
and give the people of the Philippines a pure gospel.  Four weeks later,
in the same manner, Dr. George Pentecost reported to the U.S. Presbyterian
General Assembly saying: God has given into our handsthe Philippine
Islands [and] by the very guns of our battleships, summoned us to go up
and posses the land.[4]

Sensing that the Filipino people could not be subjugated by force of arms,
the imperialists, each in their own way, brought to bear the subtle
persuasive power of both culture and religion upon the Filipino people.
The people of the islands at that time did not yet have a closely
articulated religion  save for Islam in some areas in Mindanao and in
smaller pocket areas in Luzon, and were thus easily brought into the Roman
Catholic faith, and with Catholicism so much of Spanish culture filtered
into the psyche and consciousness of the new converts to the faith. And
since Crown and faith were closely knit entities in the dispensation
practiced by the colonizers, faith and politics reinforced each other
which helped in bringing the Filipinos under Spanish control. At the end
of the 19th century when the work of the illustrados such as Rizal,
Mabini, the Del Pilars and others, exposed the hypocrisy of the Spanish
friars and provoked a critical attitude towards the Roman Catholic Church,
a new generation of politically and religiously enlightened Filipinos were
ready for the coming of the Protestant Gospel brought by the Americans.

The Americans, immediately after crushing the Philippine war of
independence, sought to create institutions that mirrored their own  a
liberal democratic politics and government, universal education with a
strong dose of American values, a civil society based on the principles of
freedom, democracy and the free market, and imposed English as both the
language of government, business and the educational system. The Filipino
people became brown Americans.

U.S. President William McKinley declared in December 1898 that the
purposes of the United States in the Philippines was to civilize and
Christianize the Filipinos for whom Christ also died, with force if
necessary.[5] This was President McKinleys policy of Benevolent
Assimilation, part of the Manifest Destiny.  This made the US to appear as
the savior and protector of the Philippines.  And so the Philippines has
indeed become a show case that the United States of America has attained
its manifest destiny, and in wider world has established the New American
Empire, the New Rome.

The American Empire: the New Rome in the Book of Revelation?

Out of studies on the Roman Empire in the New Testament especially the
Book of Revelation, I follow a thesis that the United States of America
has become todays New Roman Empire. I am not the first to use the term The
New Roman Empire. Ofelia Ortega, Dean of the Seminary in Matanzas, Cuba
also referring to the Book of Revelation uses the term.[6]   An article
from The Guardian, September 2002 uses the title Hail Bush: The New Roman
Empire." Also an article of Michael Lind asks rhetorically Is America the
New Roman Empire? ([7]

Gordon Zerbe (When Global Traders Ruled the World: The Choice Between
Babylon and New Jerusalem as Rival Economies, a Bible Study) and Richard
A. Horsley (Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World
Disorder) made interesting comparisons of the New Testament Roman Empire
and todays New Empire. Zerbe wrote mainly on the Book of Revelation.
Horsley, using mainly the Gospels, wrote about Jesus and the Empire.[8]

>>From Republic to Empire

The Book of Revelation was written at the height of Roman imperial
expansion and power. Zerbe notes that starting with conquest of the whole
of Italy, Rome expanded to Asia Minor and Syria and subdued its major
commercial rivals, Carthage and Corinth, gaining trade supremacy of the
sea. Horsley emphasizes that Rome started as a Roman Republic taking over
the whole of Italy and built an empire around the Mediterranean. In the
same manner the American Republic started with the take over of much of
the North American Continent from the Native Americans and other peoples.
Pursuing its avowed manifest destiny seized Cuba and Puerto Rico in the
Caribbean and moved on the Guam, Wake Island and the Philippines in
Pacific, helped to quell the Boxer Rebellion in China, gained control of
Panama and built the canal, and finally joined European powers to carve a
worldwide empire.

Religious Manifestation of Empire

The military commanders of Rome started to be called Imperatur (supreme
commander) then Augustus (the manifest one, starting a quasi-divine
title).  Later on they were called Princeps (the first in the senate, thus
marking the start of the empire) and finally Pontifex Maximus (supreme
priest completing the transition to the divine right of the emperor).

Has the manifest destiny its own religious ramifications? Horsley strongly
believes so.  He says that from the early American identity starting with
the Puritans, a persecuted people who fled like Israel to establish a new
covenant society and through their victorious Revolution, they established
a sacred promised land and proceeded to slaughter the native inhabitants
of the land whom they derisively called the heathen savages, dark-skinned
servants of Satan. With this experience an ideology was formed that the
United States [is] the new Israel, Gods chosen people with a historic
mission, as the new Rome destined to bring civilization, law, and order to
the whole world.[9]

All Roads Lead to Rome

But coming back to the Roman Empire, we find that through military
conquest Rome acquired land, booty, tribute and slaves. Slaves composed
about one third of Romes population. Rome ruled the oikoumene or the
conquered world. As a historian puts it: they plunder, rape, kill, and
burn, and then they call it peace. The military conquest certainly made
possible a general peace and security giving relatively safe travel by
road and sea. And so all roads lead to Rome. There was the Pax Romana  it
was order degreed by terror.

In todays Empire, do we also have slaves who also travel the roads that
lead to the New Rome? I believe the overseas contract workers are the
modern version of slaves. There are eight million of them from the
Philippines serving the New Empire and its collaborators. Like the slaves
of Rome and the African slaves who were taken from their homelands at the
turn of last century, the modern overseas contract workers have the same
feeling of separation, exploitation, loneliness and despair.

All roads (including the cyber-highway) lead to the seat of the New Empire
that proclaimed itself as the policeman of the world and decides the
destiny of peoples. For the policeman of the world there is no problem
even if half a million people are killed in the Desert Thunderstorm and
hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan and Iraq for the sake of bringing
peace!  The policeman of the world promises security by dividing the world
as those who are with us and those with the terrorists. As in the old
Rome, so it is in the American Empire  order is imposed by an iron hand.

Economic Globalization and Militarization of the Empire

The international trade brought riches to Rome. Zerbe quotes a Roman
writer: The arrivals and departures of ships never stop, so that one would
express admiration not only for the harbor but even for the sea. So
everything comes together here, trade, seafaring, farming, the scourings
of the mines, all the crafts that exist and have existed, all that is
produced or grown. (Aristides) Revelation 18:11-13 lists cargo of gold,
silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of
scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze,
iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil,
fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves.

Zerbe further explains that the international traders are not different
from todays purveyors of economic globalization. He notes that the
satirical dirge on Babylon, the prostitute, in Revelation Chapter 18,
highlights the economic domination of Rome.  Babylons global traders have
enriched themselves through the power of excess/luxury (18:3) and they
have become powers of the earth (18:23). The global traders specialize in
want, not on need, just like the manufacturers of globalization products
of today. The book of Revelation highlights in the above list of goods an
exploitative system that benefited an urban elite at the expense of the
majority of the populace.

The Philippines is ours forever a territory belonging to the United States

In 1900, Sen. Albert J. Beveridge articulated such imperialist position
which has become true in the decades to come when he said: We shall
establish trading-posts throughout the world as distributing points for
American ProductsWe shall build a navy to the measure of our greatness Our
institutions will follow our flag on the wings of our commerce.  And
American law, American order, American civilization and the American flag
will plant themselves on shores, hitherto bloody and benighted, but, by
those agencies of God, henceforth to be beautiful and bright.[10]

The New Empire can easily be what was spoken of Rome of the Book of
Revelation.  Consider Sen. Henry Cabot Lodges letter to President McKinley
in May 1898: But the time has come when (the home) market is not enough
for our teeming industries, and the great demand of the day as in outlet
for our products. We cannot secure that outlet from other protective
countries so our only chance is to extend our American market by acquiring
more trade territory. With our protective wall around the Philippine
Islands, its ten million inhabitants (sic: we were about 16M), as the
advance in civilization, would have to buy our goods, and we should have
so much additional market for our home manufacturers. As a natural and
logical sequence of the protective system, we should now acquire these
islands and whatever other outlying territories seems desirable.[11]

Or consider again the speech of  Sen. Albert J. Beveridge to the U.S.
Senate, Jan. 9, 1900: The Philippines are ours forever, territory
belonging to the United States, as the Constitution calls them.  And just
beyond the Philippines are Chinas illimitable markets. We will not retreat
from them either Our largest trade henceforth must be with Asia. The
Pacific is our ocean the archipelago is a base for the commerce of the
East. It is a base for military and naval operations against the only
powers with whom conflict is possible; a fortress thrown up in the Pacific
defending our Western coast, commanding the waters of the Orient, and
giving us a point from which we can instantly strike and seize the
possessions of any foe.(Cf. Peter Hayes, Lyuba Zarsky and Walden Bello:
American Lake, Australia, Penguin, 1986) But if they did not command
China, India, the Orient, the whole Pacific for purposes of offense,
defense and trade, the Philippines are so valuable in themselves that we
should hold them a revelation of vegetable and mineral riches[12]
(Underscoring added.) That was 1900.

George Kennan (1948): [Let] maintain this position of disparity

Now consider the basic goal stated in Policy Planning Study (PPS23), a top
secret document written by George Kennan (of the State Department Planning
Staff) in 1948: We have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3% of
its population. ... In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of
envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a
pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of
disparity ... To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality
and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated
everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive
ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and
world-benefaction. ... We should cease to talk about vague and ... unreal
objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and
democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal
in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic
slogans, the better." [13] (Underscoring added.)

Of course, in practice the U.S. government talks about those idealistic
slogans in order to rationalize their actions and pacify the public.

Maintain 100,000 troops in Asia (1995 East Asian Strategic Report)

Consider also the 1995 East Asian Strategic Report of the U.S. Defense
Department showing the furtherance of the US economic interest in Mindanao
and Southeast Asian region and furtherance of the US geo-political
interest in the Asia-Pacific region today:  [This report] reaffirms our
commitment to maintain a stable forward presence in the region, at th-e
existing level of about 100,000 troops, for the foreseeable future ... for
maintaining forward deployment of U.S. Forces and access and basing rights
for U.S. and allied forces. If the American presence is Asia were removed,
our ability to affect the course of event would be constrained, our market
and our interests would be jeopardized.[14]

Creation and Maintenance of Full Spectrum Dominance

The Joint Vision 2020

To maintain and expand U.S. power, a policy of Full Spectrum Dominance is
envisioned. Conceptualized in 1997 as Joint Vision 2010, the Joint Vision
2020 was issued May 30, 2000 by the US Department of Defense. Full
Spectrum Dominance is defined as the defeat of any adversary or control of
any situation across the full range of military operation. The overall
goal of the transformation described in this document is the creation of a
force that is dominant across the full spectrum of military operations
persuasive in peace, decisive in war, preeminent in any form of conflict."
This includes Star Wars style dominating space dimension of military
operation to protect US interests and control the space
medium to ensure US dominance on future battlefields [15] Can you remember
the use of satellites in the Operation Desert Storm?

Bush Strike First Policy

Again to insure such dominance, the Bush Administration instituted a
strike first policy (National Security Strategy published in September
2002. Again listen to this: "our military must ... dissuade future
military competition; deter threats against U.S. interests, allies, and
friends; and decisively defeat any adversary if deterrence fails. ... the
United States will require bases and stations within and beyond Western
Europe and Northeast Asia, as well as temporary access arrangements for
the long-distance deployment of U.S. forces. ... Our forces will be strong
enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up
in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States. ...
America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully
formed. ... We must deter and defend against the threat before it is
unleashed. ... We cannot let our enemies strike first. To forestall or
prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if
necessary, act preemptively. ... Policies that further strengthen market
incentives and market institutions are relevant for all
economiesindustrialized countries, emerging markets, and the developing
world. ... Improving stability in emerging markets is also key ... Our
long-term objective should be a world in which all countries have
investment-grade credit ratings that allow them access to international
capital markets and to invest in their future. ... Free markets and free
trade are key priorities of our national security strategy."[16]
[Underscoring added])

Pax Romana

It is interesting that the document Rebuilding Americas Defenses (RAD)
published in September 2003 by conservative think tank that included Dick
Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz called Project for a New American Century speaks
of Pax Americana this way:

"At present the United States faces no global rival.  America's grand
strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as
far into the future as possible."  It further claimed that: "The United
States has an unprecedented strategic opportunity. It faces no immediate
great-power challenge; it is blessed with wealthy, powerful and democratic
allies in every part of the world; it is in the midst of the longest
economic expansion in its history; and its political and economic
principles are almost universally embraced. At no time in history has the
international security order been as conducive to American interests and
ideals. The challenge for the coming century is to preserve and enhance
this 'American peace.[17] (Underscoring added.)

This document acknowledges its debt to an earlier document Defense
Planning Guidance for Fiscal Years 1994-1999 drafted by Paul Wolfowitz in
1992, in relation to the new situation after the fall of the Soviet Union,

"Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either
on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a
threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a
dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and
requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a
region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to
generate global power. ... we must account sufficiently for the interests
of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our
leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic
order. ... we must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential
competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role. ...
Our strategy must now refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential
future global competitor. ... In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our
overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region
and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region's oil. [18]
(Underscoring added.)

Should we still wonder why the U.S. had to invade Iraq, the second biggest
oil-producing country, against the will of the United Nations (UN)?

Needed a new Pearl Harbor

At the time of the above writing many Americans were not yet sure how to
act in the new post-USSR world and were not yet willing to pursue this
aggressive policy so the implementation had been delayed. But eight years
later RAD stated there was now a need for a new Pearl Harbor to pursue
such aggressiveness:  "New Circumstances make us think that the report
might have a more receptive audience now than in recent years" but that,
"the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary [sic]
change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and
catalyzing event like a new Pearl Harbor."[19] (Underscoring added.)

And sure enough, 9/11 provided the new Pearl Harbor which shifted the
spectrum towards the hawkish end by reducing domestic opposition to
expansionism and providing a potent pretext for imperialism.

                The Threat of God Example

To maintain the American Empire it is necessary to combat what is called

threat of Good Example. If a part of the empire breaks off and prospers it
could serve as an inspiration for other regions, leading to the loss of
large areas of the Empire.

An example is the presidency of Salvador Allende, a Democratic Socialist
who won the presidential election in Chile in 1970. Allende increased
civil liberties, nationalized many companies, instituted programs of
agrarian reform and increased spending on housing, education, sanitation
and health. In his first year, unemployment dropped to 4.8 percent from
its previous 8.4 percent, inflation dropped 12.7 percent and worker income
rose by 50 percent. The net effect of Allendes policies was to
redistribute income towards poorer groups and to move Chile in the
direction of economic independence. The U.S. did not like this and placed
sanctions on Chile, hurting the economy. The Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) funded opposition groups and promoted instability within Chile. On
Sept. 11, 1973 the CIA launched a coup that deposed Allende and installed
a military dictatorship under Gen. Augusto Pinochet who slaughtered
thousands of dissidents, reversed Allendes reforms and implemented an
extreme neo-liberal capitalist economic program.[20]  Chile had to be
destroyed. It was a good example.

The same was true with the Sandinistas overthrowing the Somozas in the
1970s. The social reforms did not do well with the U.S. and so the U.S.
funded the terrorist Contras to wage a brutal war against the Sandinistas
destroying whatever social improvements and eventually the Nicaraguans
allowed the U.S. puppets to once again take over the country.[21]

Nicaragua could well just not affect the US economy but it has to be
destroyed or else its success can become an inspiration to other

Client States:

To keep the Empire intact, it must maintain Client States. A Client State
is one that is dominated and controlled by the imperialist governments.
It is dependent on the economic and military support of a more powerful
country. Other names of these states are satellite states; puppet
government; vassal state. The Roman Empire relied strongly on client
states.  It maintained Jewish kings such as the Herodians, for example.

Isnt the Philippines under the present government or previous governments,
a client state of the New Roman Empire?

Mechanisms of Control

The Anatomy of the American Empire describes in summary way examples of
mechanism of dominance.  We can only list them with our limited time.  For
example: (1) Military Intervention, (2) Proxy Forces, (3) Enforcer States,
(4) The CIA, (5) Foreign Aid, (6) Coup d etats, (7) Sanctions, and (8)
Subverting Elections. It is also interesting to note that the Anatomy of
the American lists down the expansion of the American Empire towards areas
of world domination.   Starting with the (1) American Homeland as a base,
it moves on to (2). Latin America, (3) East Asia, (4) Europe, (5) Africa,
(6) Oceania, and (7) Central Asia.[22]

Let me now go back to some more major issues in the New Roman Empire as
compared to the Old Roman Empire.

Brutality of the Empire

Romes brutal conquest and the exaction of high tribute payment destroyed
local economies.  The acquisitions were maintained by terror mechanism of
crucifixion (10,000 in Judea alone from year 63-70), imprisonments and
exiles, one of whom was the writer of the book of Revelation.  Even Roman
historians describe some of their generals and emperors as bloodthirsty.

Consider the Philippine-American War that lasted from 1899 to 1913. In
this longest war in U.S. history, the Philippines lost over 1 million
people, 15 percent of its population.  The My Lai massacre during the
Vietnam war pales when compared in the massacre of the people of Samar
Island in the Philippines where 600,000 Filipinos were slaughtered from
the American generals command to render Samar a wilderness. The order was
to kill everyone who can carry guns: The more you kill and burn, the more
it will please me, the commander said.  Whether the U.S. Marines were only
acting on impulse to avenge the death of their compatriot, the Hiditha
massacre in Iraq is merely a rehearsal of the logic of empire now pursued
by the USA.

Escape Goats of the Empire

In the time of Nero, the Christians were made escape goats of Neros crime,
and many were killed. No wonder the book of Revelation speaks of Rome as
the Beast, a Red Dragon, with aliases of Accuser, Deceiver, Devil, Satan,
Ancient Serpent.  Rome is compared to doomed Babylon, the prostitute,
clothed in purple and scarlet and adorned with gold, jewels, and pearls
(17:3-6) and depicted for (1) its lavish wealth and craving for
consumption; (2) its arrogance; and (3) political oppression and economic
exploitation, including its brutal military conquests and the destruction
of the earth itself.[23]

Who are now the escape goats who can be blamed of the un-peace situation
in the world?  I happened to be watching CNN when the 9/ll attack
happened. I certainly was shocked watching the twin tower collapse. But I
was dismayed when immediately, the American authorities, without the
benefit of verifying facts, named the Muslim terrorists as the
perpetrators of the crime. Nero had the Christians to blame, the American
Empire has the terrorists to blame and they reserve the right to define
who the terrorists are.  Bush immediately pronounced Saddam Hussein as one
of the authors of 9/11 though to this day there has never been any
evidence to support it. In a larger front, Muslims are the escape goats to
cover for Americas desire for global domination.

Some Theological Affirmations on Empire

Given the above case study and analysis of the Empire, I submit five
theological concepts:  (1) Idolatry of the Empire; (2) The Human as Image
of God, (3) Stewardship of Creation (4) the Kingdom of God and (5) Shalom.

1.        Idolatry of the Empire

We said earlier there was a gradual transition of military titles from
Imperatur (supreme commander) to Augustus (the manifest one, a
quasi-divine title) to Princeps (the first in the senate, marking the
start of the empire) and finally Pontifex Maximus (supreme priest
completing transition to the divine right of the emperor). The Emperor
arrogates upon himself the power of life and death over all peoples and
territories of the known world and claimed the honor and glory of divinity
and demands the subjects to bow before him and his images. The local kings
and priests were co-opted to be the implementors of the will of Rome. Any
opposition faces retribution and annihilation. To the early Christians
this was pure and simple idolatry.

An idol, according to Paul Tillich, is the granting of ultimate loyalty
and devotion to something that is not absolute. The First Commandment
says: You shall not have any other god before me. The emperor has become a
god. The early Christians were  persecuted because they refused to
attribute divinity to the emperor. Only Jesus the Messiah was given the
glory and honor that belongs to God.

Is the American hegemony a revival of the Holy Roman Empire? Those who are
not with us are terrorists and deserved to be annihilated.  In the
Philippines the political leadership has become the Herodians implementing
the imperial order of the New Roman Empire in its declaration of an all
out war against the terrorists.

2.        Human Beings as the image of God: The New Roman Empire has no
respect of the image of God

The Christian Faith affirms that human beings, male and female, are
created in the image of God. The human being is a bearer of the imago dei.
This imago dei is not an animal to be domesticated or vegetables to be
raised and sold. The imago dei is not a thing to be manipulated or
destroyed. The imago dei is to be provided with the right to life with
dignity in a free and just society; life in all its fullness. The imago
dei must be accorded with due respect and protection.

Brutality in the continuing expansion of the Empire shows that the Empire
has no respect for the human being. In military parlance civilians,
unarmed old people, women and children killed in military campaigns are
collateral damage. In such cases human beings have no value except when
they bring profit to the Empire. This is why we have the massacres in the
Philippines Samar Island, in Vietnams My Lai and Iraqs Hiditha (cf. Time
Magazine, 2006) in addition to half a million collateral damage in the
indiscriminate bombings in the Desert Thunderstorm.

The use of religion and education to manipulate people into conforming to
the culture of the Empire such as creating the Filipino Spanish Catholics
and brown Americans is a violation of the image of God.

In the economy of the New Empire with its free market neo-liberal ideology
persons do not matter. The goal is profit, therefore, everything and
everyone has a price.

In Hebrew/Semitic thought, the image of God includes the idea of the body
as part of the whole person and is necessary to complete the human being.
In this sense the image of God is expressed in concrete and bodily terms.
As such the human being has physical needs such as food, shelter, clothing
and intellectual development. Deprivation of these physical needs
constitutes a violation of the image of God. In the Empire even so-called
aid has become a means of domination and deprivation.

In this connection the New Empire must prophetically be confronted with
the vision of Isaiah where there will be no more infant who will live but
a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days (Isaiah 65:20).
[People] will not build houses and another inhabit; they shall not plant
vineyard and another eat. (. 22) [but] they will build houses and inhabit
them; and they shall plant vineyard and  eat their fruit. (vs.21). The
prophets condemn those who sell the innocent for silver and the destitute
for a pair of shoes (Amos 2:6-7) and those who join house to house, who
add field to field (Isaiah 5:8).  In the Philippines, the economic
conglomerates through their local and national minions are notoriously
adding house to house and field to field.

The biblical goal is not the maximization of the freedom to seek
individual benefits, corporate profits or national advantage in the
international market. Emil Brunner once said: The primary purpose of
economics willed by God is to minister to human needs, service to life.
This implies that the economic order is a means and not an end(I)t is the
duty of each individual and of the community as such, to see to it that
the economic order is not allowed to make itself absolute, or to lose its
purpose of service to humanity. [24] And so the economic globalization of
the Empire deserves Gods judgment.

3.       Stewardship of Gods Creation: The New Empire does not care about

Corollary to destruction of the image of God is the destruction of
Creation. In the Empire, global economy works in a more sophisticated way
of extracting wealth from the dominated countries through the exploitation
of natural and human resources. Such exploitation has no respect for the
environment, Gods Creation. With all the concerns expressed in preserving
the environment in world conferences, the New Roman Empire has no qualms
about its refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

The WARC in the Accra Statement summarizes: We have heard that creation
continues to groan, in bondage, waiting for its liberation (Romans 8:22).
We are challenged by the cries of the people who suffer and by the
wounded-ness of creation itself. We see a dramatic convergence between the
suffering of the people and the damage done to the rest of creation (Par.
No. 5). The Empire and its unholy alliances are under judgment for the
destruction of Gods Creation.

4. The Kingdom of God: Judgment to the Empire

According to Mark, Jesus original proclamation was: The Kingdom of God is
at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel! What Jesus did was to confront
the kingdom of this world with all its corruption, hypocrisy, injustice
and evil with the Kingdom of God.  What Jesus did was to shake the
foundations of the worlds socio-economic and political-military
arrangements with the Kingdom of God that was breaking in. The Kingdom of
God makes demands to do what is righteous and expose what is false and
unjust. The Kingdom of God demands to love the neighbor particularly those
who are suffering and are being crushed by the evil powers in our time.
And so in every proclamation of the Gospel, the idols of our time must be
named and exorcised. Just as in the Book of Revelation, the Beast, a Red
Dragon whose aliases include Accuser, Deceiver, Devil, Satan, Ancient
Serpent, Babylon the prostitute, and all the alliances of the perpetrators
of injustice be exposed and subverted; the judging power of the Kingdom of
God must be brought to bear, before something new can take root and arise
in all human relations.[25]

The New Roman Empire must learn that no empire in history stayed forever
and therefore should heed the warning in the Book of Revelation.

                                Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!

                Alas! Alas! Thou great city, thou mighty city, Babylon!
In one hour has thy judgment come (18:10)
Alas! Alas! For the great city that was clothe with fine linen,
in purple and scarlet, bedecked with jewels, and with pearl!
In one hour all these wealth has been laid to waste. (18:16-17)
Alas! Alas! For the great city where all who had ships at sea
grew rich by her wealth!  In one hour she has been laid to waste. (18:19)

Concluding Words: The New Jerusalem.

However, it is not all dark and hopeless for humankind and Gods Creation,
for the book of Revelation speaks of another City. When Babylon is finally
destroyed, the New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven from God (21:2,
10).  The New Jerusalem locates itself on earth. The image is a commentary
on the Lords Prayer: Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
Revelation says the final hope for Christians is not to leave this earth.
Rather the hope that energizes Christians is Gods renewing of our earthly
home; the ultimate goal is to participate in and to work with Gods renewal
of the universe  a renewal pictured as a merging of earth and heaven where
all brokenness is overcome and leads to a consummation of Gods purpose for
the whole creation. The New Jerusalem is a picture of the coming reign of
God, in which Gods people are promised a share or an inheritance (21:7;
22:19). The New Jerusalem is an international city in which all nations
walk by the light of Gods glory and of the Lamb (21:24) radiating from the
throne of God, a metaphor of committing themselves to the ways of God.

In contrast to Babylon, the New Jerusalem provides a river of the water of
life and a tree of life (Rev. 22:1-2). Dr. Zerbe explains: The tree of
life which straddles the river, can produce fruit each month, indicating
that it is a tropical city! It provides both sustenance and medicine for
all the nations: its leaves are for the healing of the nations. The water,
the fruit, and the medicinal leaves are freely accessible to all, and from
a renewable (and unlimited) resource. Thus there is clean water, food
security and accessible health care, both for the city and for the whole
world. The Good News is to proclaim the New Jerusalem where God dwells and
where God wipes every tear from [peoples] eyes and [where] death will be
no more.

Perhaps an apt concluding word for a changed world in contrast to the
Empire is the Biblical vision of Shalom. The 1991 Statement of the
National of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) puts is this way:

Shalom is a state of well-being and wholeness of life that embraces
harmony with ones neighbors and social relations, with nature and
creation, and with ones self. Its attainment involves a transformation of
economic, social and political life so that these begin to embody justice
and righteousness, of our relations with nature, and with the whole
creation so that these begin to embody care and respect for Gods purposes
for them, and for ourselves so that we embody in our lives righteousness,
love and human compassion. Posted by Bulatlat

(This is an updated paper presented to the 19th Assembly of the Ecumenical
Bishops Forum, Tagaytay City, Nov. 27-28, 2006 from the original paper
presented to the Consultation on Theological Reflection on Global Empire
Today of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Manila, July 13-15,
2006. Bishop Erme R. Camba is a former General Secretary of the United
Church of Christ in the Philippines and former Dean of the Silliman
University Divinity School, Dumaguete City.)


[1] The Accra Confession: Covenanting for Justice and the Economy and the
Earth, WARC 24th General Assembly, July 30-Aug. 13, 2004

[2] Renato Constantino, The Philippines: A Past Revisited, QC,
Philippines, Renato Constantino, 1975.

[3] Daniel B. Schirmer, Republic or Empire: American Resistance to the
Philippine War, Cambridge, Massachussetts, Schenkmann Publishing Company,
1972, p. 205

[4] T. Valentino Sitoy, Jr: Several Springs, One Stream: The United Church
of Christ in the Philippines, Vol. 1, UCCP, 1992, p. 10.

[5] Mariano C. Apilado, Revolutionary Spirituality: A Study of the
Protestant Role in the American Colonial Rule of the Philippines,
1898-1928, p.29; Cf. Oscar S. Suarez, Protestantism and Authoritarian
Politics: The Politics of Repression and the Future of Ecumenical Witness
in the Philippines, Chapter 2.

[6] Ofelia Ortega, Where the Empire Lies, People Suffer, They Are
Exploited and Life Becomes Death, A paper presented in the Consultation on
Theological Reflection on Global Empire Today of the World Alliance of
Reformed Churches, Manila, July 13-15, 2006.

[7] The Guardian,

[8] Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New
World Disorder, Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 2003; Gordon Zerbe, When
Global Traders Ruled the World: The Choice Between Babylon and New
Jerusalem as Rival Economies, a Bible Study presented to the UCCP National
Council, Oct. 24, 2002.

[9] Horseley, p. 137

[10] Quoted by Horsley, p. 140, from from Anders Stephanson, Manifest
Destiny: American Expansion and the Empire of the Right, N.Y., Hill and
Wang, 1995.

[11] Unpublished paper by Capt. Danilo P. Vizmanos, PN (Ret), Critical
Questions about U.S. Military in Mindanao, issued  Jan., 2002.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Anatomy of the American Empire p.2,,html.

[14] Vizmanos, Critical Questions, Ibid

[15] Joint Vision 2020,

[16] Anatomy of the American Empire, ibid, p. 3

[17] Ibid, p. 4

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Anatomy of the American Empire, Ibid, p.4 refers to Benjamin Keen and
Mark Wasserman, A Short History of Latin America, Houghton Mifflin
Company, 1984, pp. 334-341; Cf. Ewin Martinez, History of Chile under
Salvador Allende and the Popular Unity,

[21] Anatomy of the American Empire, Ibid., p. 5 refers to William Blum,
Killing Hope: US Milirary and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Common
Courage Press, 2003, p. 290-305.

[22] Anatomy of the American Empire, ibid, p. 11-22.

[23] Zerbe

[24] Emil Brunner, The Divine Imperative, London:Lutterworth, 19,37, p.

[25] This summary is borrowed from Dr. Levi V. Oracion, visiting professor
at Silliman University.  See his   exposition on A New Millenium:
Confronting New Idols in our Times, Intensifying Our Prophetic Witness,
Report of the 39th Church Workers Convocation, Silliman University
Divinity School, Dumaguete City, Philippines, August 29-31, 2000, p.16;
Cf. Zerbe


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