590: ARE AMERICANS THE PEOPLE OF GOD?

The writer of this piece is an American. He teaches at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California.

“It is striking how readily religious folk equate the U.S. with Israel as the people of God. Sadly, the equation is grotesque in the extreme. Ancient Israel was a minor petty kingdom in the ancient Near East, and such empire  as some Israelites hoped for was purely imaginary.

To make the proper analogical connection, we would have to say that the United States much more nearly approximates the empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia and Rome than it does the tiny kingdoms of Israel and Judah. This means that to envision ourselves as “the people of God,” cast in secular terms as “the greatest nation on earth,” is to deceptively overlook the enormousness of our political and military power compared to the politically weak position of ancient Israel.

To complete the analogy, the present-day equivalent of ancient Israel might properly be relatively powerless countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, Chile, Venezuela, Vietnam and Iraq, all of whom have been the object of hostility and aggression  from the American Empire. And in a supreme irony, Palestinians of the West Bank may most nearly approximate the early Israelites since they occupy the same terrain, practice similar livelihoods, and long for deliverance from the “Canaanite” state of Israel backed by the American Empire.”

Source: Gottwald, Norman K. “Early Israel as an anti-imperial community” in Horsley, Richard A. (editor) “In the shadow of empire. Reclaiming the bible as a history of faithful resistance” John Knox Press (2008)

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