Theology under Empire
The subtitle for Jesus Wants to Save Christians (Zondervan), A Manifesto for the Church in Exile, tells readers they might not like everything Rob Bell and Don Golden have to say. The coauthors from Mars Hill Bible Church doubt that Christians living in a prosperous country engaged in two wars truly understand Scriptures addressed to religious minorities oppressed by various empires.
To take readers into the world of the Bible, Bell and Golden trace redemption from Genesis to Revelation using British theologian Tom Holland's "New Exodus perspective."
As with Velvet Elvis and Sex God, Bell and Golden offer some quirky chapter titles (such as "Air Puffers and Rubber Gloves") and free-form typesetting. But this book offers more serious theological reflection and biblical commentary. Bell and Golden draw readers into wrenching experiences such as Egyptian slavery, Babylonian captivity, and Roman tyranny. This approach pays off when they reach Revelation, where they show how the apostle John wanted to encourage Asian Christians under Roman rule to trust God's sovereign care.
"Were the people in John's church reading his letter for the first time," Bell and Golden ask, "with Roman soldiers right outside their door, thinking, 'This is going to be really helpful for people 2,000 years from now who don't want to get left behind'?"
Their transition between the biblical world and modern-day America in the chapter, "Swollen-Bellied Black Babies, Soccer Moms on Prozac, and the Mark of the Beast," is jarring. But Bell and Golden do not strain the analogy between the United States and former empires. Their applications are more pastoral than geopolitical.
"In empire, you believe in that which you preserve, you preserve that which you are entitled ...