Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective

Peter J. Leithart. Cascade Books, $24 trade paper (218p) ISBN 978-1-60899-817-3
Theologian and pastor Leithart (Defending Constantine) presents a complex biblical view of empires and a critical approach to American political and commercial imperialism. Starting with the prototypical empires of Babel and Abraham, Leithart argues that both the Old and New Testaments do not oppose empires. Rather, God approves of empires when they support Israel and the Kingdom of God. The author further argues that early American leaders created a civil religion touting America as the new Israel, with the goal of world-wide liberty. The peril of this approach lies in allowing Americans to imagine the country a righteous empire justified in its wicked imperial actions. The solution, for Leithart, is to repent of and repudiate this civic religion. This process, only briefly laid out, involves divorcing the civic from the religious in symbols and celebrations and increasing the strength and influence of Christian churches. Leithart's argument at times seems to meander, and a greater emphasis on the solution to American imperialism and exceptionalism would help readers feel more equipped to counter its evils. Overall, though, the work offers a picture of how far America falls short of being what it claims. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2012
Release date: 00/00/0000
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