Reading the New Testament Conquest Accounts in a Postcolonial Setting – David Pao (Part 2)

In my last post I highlighted two insights from David Pao about the New Testament accounts of conquest. Pao also makes a distinction between theological and political imperialism. He cites the following from George Tinker, “Jesus, Corn Mother, and Conquest: Christology and Colonialism,” in Native American Religious Identity, ed. Jace Weaver (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1998), 139.

To call upon Jesus as Lord suddenly began to strike me as a classic example of the colonized participating in our own oppression. To call upon Jesus as Lord is to concede the conquest as final and to become complicit in our own death, that is, the ongoing genocidal death of our peoples. It is an act of the colonized mind blindly reciting words that the colonizer has taught us which violate our own cultures but bring great comfort to the lordly colonizer and his missionaries.”

Pao then goes on to examine some New Testament (NT) passages. He says that “one does find an unwavering insistence on the theological claim that Jesus is Lord, but these narratives [in the NT] are equally insistent in their refusal to translate this claim into a mere ethnic or national assertion.” (p 124)

One NT passage Pao discusses is Ephesians 6:10−17. He sees the warfare in this passage in terms of “the maintenance of eschatological peace.” (126) Pao says that “Paul focuses on living in peace rather than in anger (4:26−30). Again, the way of peace became the weapon against the evil one.” (126) He goes on to say,

Paul earlier identified this “mystery of the gospel” as the creation of the one body in Christ (3:1−6). This conclusion therefore reinforces the significance of such weapons as ones that subvert the status and power of their hearers for the sake of this Gospel of peace. (126)

Then Pao examines the Book of Revelation and says the following.

In the midst of this conquest narrative [in Revelation], the critique of the use of the power and strength of this world is striking: “If you are to be taken captive, into captivity you go; if you kill with the sword, with the sword you must be killed” (13:10). Being captured and the refusal to use the sword then became the ultimate weapon through which the ultimate war can be won. Again, not only does the author resist transferring the strong and clear theological claim into political and national claims, he subverts the utility of physical power by focusing on the power of being faithful to the slaughtered Lamb. (127)

In my next post I will highlight more insights from Pao’s book chapter.


Source: David W. Pao, “”Holy War’ and the Universal God: Reading the New Testament Conquest Accounts in a Postcolonial Setting” in After Imperialism, edited by Richard R. Cook and David W. Pao (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2011).

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