The Bible & Interpretation online magazine has published a new essay adapted from The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics and titled “Jesus Was Not Against Imperialism: New Testament Ethics as an Imperialist Project.” Here is the abstract:
The portrayal of Jesus as an anti-imperialist pervades the scholarly literature of New Testament ethics. However, portraying Jesus as an anti-imperialist actually betrays a pro-imperialist Christian agenda on the part of many New Testament ethicists. Usually, the main evidence cited is Jesus’ resistance to the Roman empire. However, anti-imperialism should properly describe an ideology that is against any empire. Jesus’ endorsement of the Kingdom of God, which is envisioned as an empire, should certainly disqualify him from being an anti-imperialist. In addition, many prominent New Testament ethicists are Euro-Americans with no indigenous ancestry, and so are themselves part of an empire occupying Native American lands.
In the near future, I also plan to challenge more thoroughly one of the most important myths in Christian historiography—Constantine the Great (ruled 306-337) was where imperialism began in Christianity. Constantine, therefore, represents a corruption of Jesus’ teachings in this view.
The placement of the start of Christian imperialism in Constantine’s reign has served to deflect attention from the fact that imperialism is inscribed in the New Testament itself. Constantine only put into effect an ideology that was already there from the beginning of Christianity and one that reaches back into what Christians call "The Old Testament."