The second half of chp 3 of Walsh-Keesmaat’s commentary on Colossians, called Colossians Remixed, explains how “empire” works — and their whole commentary reads Colossians as a response to empire.
You’ve seen enough of the commentary for at least a preliminary response. What do you think of reading Colossians this way?
Here are the five themes of empire, and they draw out significant analogies between Rome and the West, especially the American system.
1. Systemic centralizations of power: the paterfamilias system, with the emperor at the top, and the patron-client relationships of Rome. Global economic structures, so they suggest, are not that dissimilar to the systemic centralization of Rome. Is Paul’s understanding of paterfamilias undone by his presentation of church and family?
2. Secured by structures of socioeconomic and military control: Rome can be explained this way, and probably also the USA. How does the message of a king on a cross respond to these?
3. Religiously legitimated by powerful myths: The overriding Roman myth was Pax Romana; there is also, so they suggest, Pax Americana, that is shaped by the myth of progress. Paul repudiated Pax Romana and appealed to Pax Christi.
4. Sustained by proliferation of imperial and empire images: coins, monuments, art, etc.. and so also in our world. Paul’s message was about Jesus being the image of God.