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100 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Come Again? No, Thanks
John Dominic Crossan believes that the Kingdom of God is here, present, that what he terms the "Divine Clean-up," (what others call "The Second Coming") is now and does not await some future cataclysm at the sword of an avenging, returning Jesus. He furthermore compares "God's radicality" to "civilization's normalcy." The latter is comprised of empire after empire...
Published on May 1, 2007 by Mr. Orlando R. Barone

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27 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult read offers scant evidence to prove his point
I really wanted to love this book. The premise on the jacket copy offering the life of Jesus and ministry of Paul as peaceful and non-violent examples that have been distorted by a misreading of the Book of The Revelation of John is really something I buy into.

But instead, after wading through a really difficult to read 4 chapters leading up to the critical...
Published on August 26, 2007 by J. Minatel


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100 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Come Again? No, Thanks, May 1, 2007
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Mr. Orlando R. Barone (Doylestown, PA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: God and Empire (Hardcover)
John Dominic Crossan believes that the Kingdom of God is here, present, that what he terms the "Divine Clean-up," (what others call "The Second Coming") is now and does not await some future cataclysm at the sword of an avenging, returning Jesus. He furthermore compares "God's radicality" to "civilization's normalcy." The latter is comprised of empire after empire promising Peace through Victory, with violence being the normalcy to which civilization accustoms us. God's radicality, on the other hand is the clear and present Kingdom brought by the Jesus who lived 2000 years ago. The Kingdom is a three-pronged program based on mutuality among all people. It is manifested in healing the sick, dining with those you heal, and announcing that the Kingdom is present in that mutuality. There are no divisions, classes, genders, no basis whatsoever to assign superiority and inferiority.

Crossan delivers his own credo on p. 198 when he reveals the content of his Bin of Disbelief, the main reasons he decries Christian fundamentalism and "Left Behind-ish" Apocalyptic theology. "What I reject," says the scholar, is "discrimination and oppression, homophobia and patriarchy, injustice and violence, force and empire."

That's a lot of rejecting. And Crossan is making the case that Jesus' message is right there with him, if only we can parse it out of the Bible. Trouble is, the Bible, including the New Testament, doesn't always seem to contain the same items in its Bin of Disbelief. This is where Crossan will lose a lot of readers. What he posits is that you must choose which parts of the New Testament to take seriously as bonafide Jesus talk (God's radicality) and which parts are later slippages back to civilization's normalcy.

He actually groups the Letters of St. Paul into three categories. The first group, definitely written by Paul, present the radical Paul who believes in the same Christianity as Crossan; the second group of letters are of suspect authorship and reveal the liberal Paul, a middle of the roader. The third bunch of letters are just plain phony, and here we find the conservative Paul, a sexist, anti-Semitic homophobe. The Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles are likewise infected with the backsliding to civilization's normalcy, while the earlier Gospel of Mark is a far better record of what really issued from Jesus' lips.

Worst of all is the Book of Revelation, today enjoying wide renown as the primary basis of the hugely popular "Left Behind" books about the end of the world. Crossan examines Revelation and determines that its author simply presents an untenable Jesus, one utterly different from the Jesus of history. Almost wistfully, Crossan cites Martin Luther King's reference to Revelation (p. 150), made a week before his murder, and concludes rightly that King interpreted the Book as referring to Jesus' First, not Second Coming. Scholarly integrity bars Crossan from such an easy out. He acknowledges that Revelation presents a very violent Jesus coming again and stomping enemies like grapes and feeding them to the vultures. Crossan simply rejects Revelation as a bogus presentation of Jesus and tells the reader he too must choose between the lovingly just and vengefully just Jesus, between the Kingdom of God as present and developing and the Kingdom as coming in fire and cosmic destruction.

It's a tough sell for Christians used to viewing the whole Bible as inspired and "scriptural." The New Testament might revise the Old, but the New Testament doesn't revise itself. There are moments in God and Empire where Crossan really does seem to be force fitting the "acceptable" passages into his preconceived notion of genuine Jesus talk. Most of what he argues, however, is defensible. His explication of 1 Thessalonians' treatment of the return of Jesus is masterful and spot on; it is a resounding refutation of those who want to view that passage as an exposition of "The Rapture" and those "Left Behind." His overall discussion of St. Paul is a little simplistic but most challenging. He is weakest when he argues for an end to civilization itself, as if that is what Jesus came to establish.

Crossan's analysis is far from weak, though. What he makes clear is that the "Left Behind" take on the Second Coming is fatally at odds with core tenets of Jesus' teaching. Not only that, if you buy the Left Behind fantasy, its insistence on God's determination to destroy the planet is so calamitous that it renders Jesus First Coming irrelevant. Jesus didn't have to live at all 2000 years ago for God to wipe us out and save the few He elects. He did it on a less catastrophic scale in the time of Noah, and Jesus wasn't needed then.

Crossan's main conclusions are compelling. The Second Coming of Jesus will not happen soon or violently or literally (pp 230, 231). The Second Coming happens when Christians recognize that the First Coming was the Only Coming and start cooperating with its Divine presence.
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87 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GOD AND EMPIRE was years in the making., March 26, 2007
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Crossan's new book GOD AND EMPIRE cannot be properly reviewed as a standalone beacon. There is a historical momentum in Crossan's vision of God and "this world."

Rodney Stark, a professor of sociology and comparative religion, in 1996 published a history THE RISE OF CHRISTIANITY:How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the World in a Few Centuries. How? By nonviolence! "But perhaps all else, Christianity brought a new concept of humanity to a world saturated with capricious crulty and viscarious love of death."

I believe Rodney Stark's book set fire under biblical scholars to investigate the historical living conditions that Jesus emerged from as well as the Jesus Movement.

In October 1999, Crossan took part in a Jesus Seminar lecture series (I was there in the audience) about "A Future for Christian Faith?" His full text was published in the book THE ONCE AND FUTURE JESUS. He explained: "What I am trying to imagine is what Christianity must do clearly and honestly to distinquish itself from fantasy." "In 1999 I never imagined...the speed with which faith-based thinking would morph into fantasy-based dreaming...."

In 2001 Crossan and Reed issued their first collaborative book EXCAVATING JESUS: The key Discoveries for understanding Jesus in His World. This book combined analysis of text conjoined with archaeological discoveries. "Jesus and his Kingdom were a threat to Roman law and order, and his Jewish God was a threat to the Roman God." This summation vibrates through the whole book.

In 2004 Crossan and Reed issued their second collaborative book IN SEARCH OF PAUL: How Jesus's Apostle opposed Rome's Empire with God's Kingdom. Again this book combine text conjoined with archaeological discoveries. "...Paul's radical horizontal Christian equality clashed forcibly with Roman society's normal vertical hierarchy." What was the clash? "In Christ...inside Christianity, a Christian Jew was not superior to a pagan, free Christian to an enslaved Christian, or male Christian to a female Christian. Paul took it for granted, therefore, that, within Christianity, women just as well as men could receive the same gifts, offer the same services and perform the same activities." All this "withinness-horizontal-equality" clashed with Rome's violent vision for peace.

In 2007 Crossan solo's his conclusions in GOD AND EMPIRE:Jesus against Rome,then and now. This percolated in 1999, 2001 and 2004. This book uses the past to confront the present and future of the American Empire and American Christianity. There is a two track solution to the normalcy of violence in human nature lived out in American Empire and American Religion. The fantasy of fundmentalism (the final solution toward human violence)is in God's Second Coming. It is all about the angry God slaughtering human beings with the exception for the God fearers.The members of this theology try to enable the Second Coming by supporting violence, here and now, that will force God to move on with the final violent solution, for peace. The second track of the final solution is nonviolence. God is waiting for the First Coming of Jesus to take hold within Christian humanity. Peace through love.

"I look here at Christianity fundamentalism in America and its ideological lust for imminent human slaughter and cosmic catastrophe. I look here, in other words, at its apocalyptic vision of a violent God and, above all else, at the biblical roots it claims for that vision of a terrible future consummation."

"John the Baptist expected God's advent, but Antipas's cavalry came instead. Maybe, thought Jesus, that was not how God acted because that is not how God is. Jesus own proclamation therefore insisted that the Kingdom of God was not imminenet but present.... But to claim an already present kingdom demands some evidence, and the only such that Jesus could offer is this: it is not that we are waiting for God, but that God is waiting for us....The Divine Cleanup is an-interactive process....To see the presence of the Kingdom of God, said Jesus, see how we live, and then live likewise."

This long journey from Rodney Start 1996 to 2007 tells the unfolding story of nonviolence leads to peace, and peace never comes from violence.

To feel the human Jesus and Paul up against violence of Empire and Religion to its fullest extent is by reading and grasping the unfolding good news in Rodney Stark, Crossan and Reed, and Crossan's solo finality GOD AND EMPIRE. "The good news...is that the violent normalcy of human civilization is not the inevitable destiny of human nature. Christian faith and human evolution agree on that point...since "we" invented civilization some six thousand years ago, "we" can un-invent it, "we" can create its alternative.

Crossan is inpirational. Crossan challenges us to create like Jesus and Paul a nonviolence world. God is waiting for us to introduce his peace in America and American Christianity through nonviolence, love. GOD AND EMPIRE is actually your story, in your time and space. Read it and go back and read its foundational works and begin to build God's Kingdom.

George Pieczonka, author of ANN OF GREEN PASTURES: The Makings of Your Married American Catholic Pastor.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars God and Empire, May 7, 2007
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tom pause "tap" (western new york) - See all my reviews
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A continuation of Dom Crossan's investigation of the meaning of the Kingdom of God. Following on "The Last Week" this book combines archeology, ancient texts and biblical language to distinguish between the world as a result of secular empire and that kingdom introduced by Jesus. Crossan's themes of inclusiveness, distributive justice and early Chrisitan commumity belief are reiterated and combines into a thoughtful book that improves one's understanding of the message of Jesus. He deals with the current American fascination with the "end time" in context of the Book of Revealation for a very different interpretation of what that book meant in the first century. I only wish that some of these ideas were heard from the Christian pulpits. A very good read which directs thought and action
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Other-Worldly Jesus, December 8, 2007
This review is from: God and Empire (Hardcover)
Crossan was once a monk and it shows in his views of Christ and Christianity. He sees Jesus as other-worldly, propounding an alternative vision of the-way-life-oughta-be to that of civilization, which is invariably violent, corrupt, and repressive. The apocalyptic Jesus is not here, and Crossan has nothing but contempt for those who would use Christianity as an reason for violence and war. The parallel he sees between the present day United States with the Roman empire is explicit.

Unlike other Crossan books, which are full of words you've never heard of, wander far from their subject, and are irritating, "God and Empire" is relatively easy to comprehend and is more of a personal statement than a scholarly inquiry. The first chapter is the best as it gives a bleak picture of what comprises civilization and empire. Chapter two about the development of the idea of God can be skipped. The next three chapters deal with the teachings of Jesus and Paul and the apocalyptic book of Revelations. As opposed to many critics of Paul, Crossan sees him as a liberal and humane theologian reflecting the alternative to "civilization" that Jesus preached.

Crossan reserves most of his bile for the interpretation of the book of Revelations by fundamentalist Christians. He looks with horror at the notion of an avenging Jesus leading an army of Saints against the anti-Christ and rails at the teachings of current day theologians such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

In his epilogue he attempts to answer the question: How is it possible to be a faithful Christian in an American Empire facilitated by a violent Christian Bible? Crossan's vision of a kindler, gentler Christianity in a kinder, gentler United States makes for thoughtful reading.

Smallchief
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Divine Caesar vs. Earthly Jesus, March 23, 2008
In his latest reconsideration of the relations between Judaism and Christianity on the one hand and Roman Imperialism on the other, Dr Crossan treats us to a fascinating account of the parallels as well as the contrasts between the two systems. Did you imagine, for example, that "Son of God" and "Savior of the World" were titles unique to Christian thought? Not a bit of it! Both were given to the Emperor Augustus before Jesus of Nazareth was even born! That is just one example, says Crossan, of the way in which the two competing systems, Roman Peace by Domination and Judaeo-Christian Peace by (Distributive) Justice sometimes found themselves using the same language. The danger has always been that in using the language of earthly success, Judaeo-Christianity would stray into the sphere of power politics ... and so it has - all too often. This book is a must-read for anyone who is sick of political domination by fear and greed and longs for justice and peace through non-violent action. Doesn't that mean you and me?
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the effort., May 16, 2007
This review is from: God and Empire (Hardcover)
Crossan is not always easy to read. His viewpoint that the Bible is a God inspired but humanly producted document will offend many fundamentalist and they will not accept his arguments that sometimes the writers of the New Testament got it wrong. But if you are willing to engage your brain as well as your heart and soul, he gives insight in the truth of Jesus and how His message interacts with civilization and man's laws.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Subversive Faith, January 13, 2008
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This review is from: God and Empire (Hardcover)
Crossan warns his readers that we will need some background in his Jesus studies to understand and appreciate this work. His caveat is well taken. My understanding of Jesus studies has come more from Marcus Borg than from Crossan, but I know where he is coming from. I have an appreciation for the Jesus studies, but sometimes I wonder if their conclusions come from a prior conclusion as to what is or is not possible. Having said that, there is much in this work that Christians living under the American empire should take to heart. People who take seriously their citizenship in the Kingdom of God are always a subversive threat to the kingdoms of this age. I especially appreciate Crossan's juxtaposition of the non-violent radicality of the Kingdom of God to the violent normalcy of civilization as it has evolved. The question remains: how can people who are citizens of the now present Kingdom of God live in the now dominant kingdom of this age?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth several readings, April 24, 2008
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Briefly, this is a must read for those who wonder what the present literal/metaphorical Christian fuss is about. It's about violent Christianity versus non-violent Christianity.

Ironically, non-violence is at the core of many moral codifications, Christianity being one of them. Crossan explores the challenge and asks the question. We get to answer it or not.

The First Axial Age, circa 500 BCE, saw the concurrent formation of Socratic philosophy, Judaism (leading to Christianity), Buddhism and Confucianism. This period has been briefly examined by Karl Jaspers in The Way to Wisdom and extensively by Karen Armstrong in The Great Transformation.

Crossan's question as to how we can move from the violence of empire to the non-violence of god may be today's critical question. This is what Bob Funk called The Second Axial Age which is an improvement over the first because it includes everyone, even women and slaves, who were left out the last time.

I have read God and Empire twice with different insights both times. I am about to read it again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anew look at our future, September 22, 2007
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This review is from: God and Empire (Hardcover)
I was surprised at the content because I was expecting a comparison of Jesus versus Rome and the current situation with our empire, USA. It was not that. However by using scripture and the writings of Paul and John of Patmos, he makes it clear that the choice for us is the non-violent Jesus that Paul desribes and follows and the violence that surrounds the Jesus of John (revelation). In the present climate he feels and I would agree that the violent Jesus is what most people expect and want. Woe to the planet and its people.
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27 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult read offers scant evidence to prove his point, August 26, 2007
This review is from: God and Empire (Hardcover)
I really wanted to love this book. The premise on the jacket copy offering the life of Jesus and ministry of Paul as peaceful and non-violent examples that have been distorted by a misreading of the Book of The Revelation of John is really something I buy into.

But instead, after wading through a really difficult to read 4 chapters leading up to the critical analysis of The Revelation, what I found instead could simply be boiled down to "John got it wrong." I found nothing in his writing to support a premise that modern fundamentalists are misreading The Revelation. No, his theory as I read it is simply that The Revelation is in contradiction with earlier Gospel writers, primarily Mark, and that The Revelation itself is a distortion of Jesus life and teaching.

Having had such high hopes from reading just the cover blurb, I have to say I'm disappointed. While I agree wholeheartedly with his opinion of a central message of Jesus teaching being one of peace, I just can't say that he stayed on track well enough to prove it. He offers the standard case for believing Mark and the "authentic" letters of Paul as the most historically valid books of the New Testament, but he offers little explanation that would disavow The Revelation as later but divinely inspired. I also felt he really missed an opportunity to examine The Revelation more in the context of contemporary allegory or metaphor for the Roman empire at that time versus a literal prophecy to be fulfilled some several thousand years later. A closer examination along these lines with more comparisons to earlier Biblical apocalyptic writers might have yielded a more believable path to his conclusions.

Finally, as a couple of other reviewers have noted, he is not an easy read.
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God and Empire
God and Empire by John Dominic Crossan (Hardcover - March 13, 2007)
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