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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: December 2009



We don't do empire.

Donald Rumsfeld

One man's Bible is another man's fish wrapper.

Albert Scardino

As a way of bringing this volume to a close I offer, a few thoughts on the present status of empire and the Bible. Both the Bible and the empire are trying to stage comebacks and are undergoing vigorous makeovers to meet their changing contexts. Both are being refurbished and reinvented. The old territorial empire has now given way to an informal one which is as menacing as the one which it is trying to replace. The earlier empire's biggest export – the English Bible, on which it was said at the time, ‘the sun never sets’ – is assuming new forms in the new situation. It is no coincidence that the current boom in books on empire and the Bible is taking place at a time when America is trying to assume the role of a new imperialist.

The old empire was engaged in a civilizing project of bringing light to dark places. The new imperium is about righting wrongs. The old empire spoke in terms of eradicating ignorance and enlightening the benighted natives with Christian values. The new empire is also on a mission, but sees its task as removing erring rulers who undermine corporate authority (read American authority), violate human rights and threaten American financial interests. Tony Blair spoke of the new empire in missiological terms.