Friday, 7 June 2019

Aspiring to Empire

Early last week, the Wrights visited Chesters Roman Fort and Museum on Hadrian’s Wall. In the museum, I took some photos, including this one (you might need to click on the photo to read it more clearly):

I know very little about the Victorian period—that’s more my wife’s thing—so I don’t know how widespread was this sentiment, but I find it very interesting that in a supposedly ‘Christian’ country and era, the aspiration was not to build God’s kingdom but to replicate the Roman Empire.

When I last preached (the sermon’s here), I improvised a comment about it being to the Church’s shame that it hadn’t addressed slavery issues sooner. The same could be said for its sexism, its racism, its willingness to read Paul as reinforcing the status quo than in looking for other possibilities generated by his underlying theology. But if the cultural and political desire to aspire to empire was and is greater than the need to build the kingdom, this is no surprise. And if it’s specifically the Roman Empire that was and is our inspiration, then Paul continues to have a lot of good and relevant things to say—if only we take his theology seriously.

Another photo from Chesters Roman Fort and Museum. You’re welcome.


  1. Aspiring to empire in one stark image:

    Go ye therefore and convert all of the unchurched barbarians or "heathen savages" via the business end of a sword.

    1. That's grim - and to the Church's/our shame.

  2. Ooh Hadrian's Wall! Cool! We camped up there last year and I absolutely loved it. For some reason we didn't get to Chester's but maybe some other time. Vindolanda was my favourite.
    But anyway, yes, from what I've read the Victorians were certainly more focused on spreading what they perceived as 'civilization' than sharing the gospel as such. And I guess that resonated with their interest in ancient Rome, and in classical civilizations. The fascination with 'the Classics' goes back further than the Victorians. Even Mediaeval theologians were influenced by Greek philosophy. It's still part of our culture - we kind of see the whole of history as coming through the line of Egypt, the Greeks and the Romans. Not a mention of the great civilizations elsewhere in the world, such as China.

    1. Yes . . . what we now call the Western world wasn't the only ground for civilization, and I think many of us are only now beginning to realise that. Of course, God's kingdom is still the massive question mark slapped against all attempts at worldly empire, no matter where in the world they arise and camp.

      Chesters Roman Fort is really worth visiting if you get the chance.