I'm just getting started with John Dominic Crossan's God and Empire (Harper SanFrancisco, 2007). I will admit I've not read as much Crossan as I've read Borg, but I find this to be a very intriguing and poignant read. The parallels are explicit here between the Rome of Old and the New Rome. We're reminded here, early on, that the U.S., like Rome of old, is an empire -- an empire of bases rather than territories but an empire nonetheless.
As Crossan writes as a biblical scholar it's not surprising that he does lift up the role of religion in this story -- what he calls Roman Imperial Theology (rather than Roman mythology or Emperor cult). He does this to set up the contrast between Augustus and Jesus (and the opposing theologies of Roman state and early church).
What is interesting is the comment about Roman imperial theology being summarized in the phrase "peace through victory." During the Cold War we often heard the phrase "Peace through Strength," a phrase that has its parallel here. That ideology -- indeed -- that theology of strength is at work now in our defenses of the "War on Terror." It is for many a war of strength between the Christian West and the Muslim East/Middle East.
The four prongs of this Roman imperial theology as laid out in a work called The Acts of Divine Augustus are:
- Religion: Symbolized by the temples Augustus had built or restored.
- War: Accounts of his victories in both civil and foreign wars.
- Victory: The expansion of the empire by conquest.
- Peace: Peace comes as a result of victory -- for Augustus's campaigns pacify the now Roman world. (Crossan, p. 24-25).
Is not this an expression of our own imperial theology -- the idea that we are called by God to bring democracy and peace to the world -- by diplomacy if possible, with military strength if necessary!