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Product details

  • Paperback: 194 pages
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press (1 Oct. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426710054
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426710056
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.1 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 832,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Victor Pilmoor on 7 Aug. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Brueggemann bravely develops the Babylon theme referred to in quite a number of his works. He is clearly addressing the home team (USA's) extravagant consumerism, fiscal arrogance and political hegemony. Though, the rest of us can hardly take comfort from this.

In his mastery of the Old Testament he coordinates the poetic perspective of Ezra, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Jeremiah along with Daniel to identify the nature of ancient Babylon and contrasts it with its counterpoint in the spiritual Jerusalem.

Well worth a second read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Bevan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 30 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback
Biblical Israel enjoyed (if that's right word) a hugely ambiguous relationship with the empires that surrounded it. On the one hand, the Babylonian and Persian empires appear to have been the fire in which Israelite religion was forged anew. On the other, prophets like Amos effectively `threaten Israel with empire', much as a parent might once have threatened a child with the bogeyman. Writer and preacher Walter Brueggemann examines that conflicted relationship through discussion of a range of biblical texts before doing something rather startling - applying the lessons to contemporary America, both as the seat of a modern-day `empire' and as a place in which people of faith can discover a new localism that resists the octopus-like imperial grasp.

Drawing first on the book of Lamentations as voicing an awareness of empire's `failure in [respect of] human vocation' (48), he then turns his attention to aspects of the works of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Deutero-Isaiah as `a sustained act of emancipatory imagination' (71), which envisage God saving the people from empire as they return from exile - ironically, by imperial edict. Just how difficult this return at empire's behest must have been is marked by the conflicting ways in which the three prophets describe the episode, and justify it theologically.

While admitting the renewed Israelite polity in Judea is a priest-centred (hierocratic) one, and therefore ever-exposed to the danger of an over-cosy relationship with power and authority, Brueggemann perhaps doesn't make enough links between the exclusionary strand, typified by Ezra and Nehemiah, and the empire from which it takes its orders.
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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
64 of 64 people found the following review helpful
A prophetic-but-still-realistic prescription for the church in America 17 Nov. 2010
By D. Ray - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann is Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia (1986-2003), and formerly Professor of Old Testament (1961-1986) and Dean (1968-1982) at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who considers "evangelical pietism" his "spiritual home" (ix), Brueggemann remains a formidable Old Testament scholar and author of nearly 60 books, hundreds of articles, and several commentaries on the Bible.

Inspired by the 2003 Emmylou Harris song, "Time in Babylon," Brueggemann essentially answers in Out of Babylon, "How might the church living in the United States empire faithfully carry out its calling?" Brueggemann advocates for a model of "accommodation and resistance"--an approach through which the church can avoid the "one-dimensional accommodation [to empire]...of the extreme Right" and the "one-dimensional resistance [of empire]...of the extreme Left," given that "resistance without nuance leads to irrelevance and marginalization" (151-153). He arrives at this conclusion by mining the Old Testament prophets and the Psalms for insights on the relationship between the "local tradition" (14) of Yahweh adherents, on the one hand, and the "all-defining empire" (10) in which they live, on the other.

Brueggemann employs this study chiefly as an aid for contemporary Christians "who must live agilely in the midst of the deeply problematic power of the U.S. empire" (1). He observes, "As the Jews in the Babylonian Empire had to struggle with the seductions and insistence of empire, so Christians in the midst of U.S. empire must struggle for a peculiar identity" as well (15).

Brueggemann segments his work in eight chapters. In the first, he assesses the 6th century BC "facts on the ground," as reported by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Psalter, bringing to light similarities between empire and local tradition then and now. In the second chapter, Brueggemann turns to Amos, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zephaniah as he asserts that an "internal failure" of the local tradition evokes the "external threat" (28) of empire; said another way, Brueggemann argues that church has itself brought on the oppression of the empire, by failing to strictly observe Torah. He also permits the possibility that the United States empire, as was the case with Babylon, may be seen as both God's faithful carrier of local tradition and as brash world dominator, though Brueggemann places significantly more emphasis on the latter.
In chapters three and four, Brueggemann discusses how heartfelt poetry gives voice to the local tradition as God's people grieve the loss of Jerusalem and the Temple. This poetry of grief and loss presents a stark and penetrating contrast to the empire's "ideology of certitude" (39), and threatens to put the empire's "old certitudes to risk" (41). It is, therefore, not mere poetry, but a "raw poetry of contradiction" (39) which evokes the "emancipatory imagination" of those who refuse resignation and passive accommodation to Babylon (cf. 69).

Chapter five, then, forms what this reviewer finds to be one of the more insightful discussions in Brueggemann's tome. Brueggemann outlines the different strategic and rhetorical approaches of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah in response to Babylon (80-91). From Ezekiel's "affirmation of empire," to Jeremiah's "affirmation that turns to devastating critique," to Isaiah's "complete dismissal" of empire (91), Brueggemann demonstrates the local tradition, both then and now, is shrewd to embrace different approaches as it interacts with the empire.
Brueggemann also recognizes God's people living-in-empire may not be able to flee from the empire in a geographical sense, given the ubiquitous presence of the government. Instead, Brueggemann offers that the church may "leave" the empire in a liturgical sense; and for contemporary believers in the United States, specifically, "Christian liturgy, in U.S. empire, may be seen as a way of sustaining a peculiar (baptismal) identity that always seeks space for life outside the claims of empire" (106).

However, he is quick to notice, "[M]uch current liturgical performance assumes rather than subverts empire" (106). That is to say, many churches in the U.S. confuse the American Dream with God's dream. In opposition to this bastardization of the gospel, Brueggemann argues, regularly gathering God's people around counter-cultural liturgical forms has the power to shape us by said norms, with the result that we may begin to consider life-in-empire differently. Indeed, liturgy has the potential to awaken the U.S. church to realize that God's dream is infinitely more than flag, finances, and fruit pie.

Chapter seven provides an obligatory nod to the Emmylou Harris song, unpacking and applying its lyrics as contemporary poetry for the church in U.S. empire. Beyond this, Brueggemann's here considers the church in post-exilic, ubiquitous Persia, through the lenses of Ezra and Nehemiah, Daniel, Joseph, and Esther. Brueggemann concludes his compelling comparison and analysis of these narratives (135-149) thus: their "common theme is boldness, daring, and imagination that are to be enacted in a variety of strategies. All of these narratives underscore the importance of intentionality in the local tradition, and refusal to forgo identity, though the refusal is perforce sometimes understated and opaque" (150). This implies the U.S. church-in-empire is wise to embrace a similar approach of shrewd and intentional accommodation to empire, in some instances, and resistance of empire, in others.

One hindrance for some readers may be Brueggemann's occasional politicization of "accommodation" and "resistance." To wit, pro-life citizens in America, for example, would vehemently disagree with Brueggemann's characterization that the "extreme Right," of which they are typically considered a part, is prone to a wholesale "one-dimensional accommodation" to the empire (cf. 151-153, above). Indeed, protestors of government-endorsed abortion clearly resist governmental authority. Similarly, citizens of the far Left who may favor welfare and other government entitlements are plainly not resisting the empire, but are expecting it to provide for their daily needs. To be fair, these quick examples support Brueggemann's assertion, if nothing else, that the U.S. church will accommodate the empire in some cases and resist it in others. Brueggemann not only finds this varied response likely, but desirable, if the church is to uphold and defend freedom. "[A]s long as we are in an ideological posture to insist on a one-dimensional reaction to empire, there is no freedom" (155). Truly, "Israel, in its displacement, did not push toward a monolith of faith or voice. Rather, it allowed immense diversity and freedom of articulation, surely recognizing a commonality of belonging, even with widely variant voices. It is the nature of the poetic to permit other voices to stand alongside" (76).

Brueggemann grounds his work in two significant, often hotly disputed, premises: one, that the United States is not a faithful carrier of the aforementioned "local tradition," but rather is an "empire" and "predator economy" (127) seeking "to impose its will around the world...and to monopolize resources in every possible way" (31); and two, that we as the U.S. church "specialize in capitulating and selling out to the dominant culture" so that "the promises of the gospel are readily lined out as `the American dream'" (151). To be sure, not everyone in the church agrees with Brueggemann. To his first contention, many argue the United States was and is a faithful Christian nation. Also, proponents of the democratic capitalist political-economy Brueggemann laments would argue such a system creates precisely the best forum for upholding and defending the same "diversity and freedom of articulation" he urges the church to embrace. To Brueggemann's second premise, contemporary church leaders in his sights would likely argue they are merely communicating the gospel contextually, out of a desire to meet the American culture "where it's at."

Points of disagreement aside, Brueggemann's book rises to the top in its creatively-applied analysis of Old Testament rhetoric. Those in the church who are heavily oriented toward practice may be disappointed in that he offers relatively few concrete prescriptions for the U.S. church-in-empire. His brief recommendations (106, 125) include counter-cultural liturgical forms, prayer for the city (cf. Jerermiah 29:7), "remembering our true place" (cf. Psalm 137:5-6), and confronting and instructing the empire "about the truth of governance" (cf. Daniel 4:27). While these are helpful, readers eager to implement and live out his paradigm may desire more.

On the whole, this reviewer appreciates Brueggemann's recommended model of "accommodation and resistance," for it strikes one as both faithful and realistic. Believers in America are called to be faithful while we pay taxes to the government, drive on Interstates, go shopping, and breathe the imperial air. Said more poetically, even after "an orgy of radical rhetoric one must still `come to terms'" (133) with living in the ubiquitous American empire. To this end, Brueggemann's insightful (and to be sure, inciteful) study provides thoughtful fodder for leaders in the U.S. church striving to help God's people live-in-empire more shrewdly, intentionally, and faithfully.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Faith within Empire 19 April 2011
By Aaron R Metthe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Israel, over its biblical history has lived under some of the largest and most expansive empires in history. Egypt, Syria, Babylon, Persia, Rome. Those are some massive empires to dwell under. Walter Brueggemann, an established Old Testament scholar and professor wrote a pretty accessible book on how Israel's faith was shaped while awaiting empirical take-over, sitting under this empire, and longing for freedom from empire to return to their land and their way of life.

At risk of over-simplifying, Brueggeman takes us on a journey of Israel v. empire in order to shape our understanding today of how our local tradition of faith today fits into empire in its contemporary context. He has some sharp principled points on how empire functions. Empire displays privilege (social stratus), limitless prosperity, assimilation of diverse cultures in varying degtrees, violence to achieve results and others as the icons of powerful empirical rule.

Israel, he argues, attempted to tell an alternative story to empire, a story Brueggeman loosely refers to as the "local tradition of faith".

This local tradition of Israel, with its alternative story to the way things are and the way life is meant to be lived, is then accountable to their story. As God shares with them how to "do life", Israel is tempted to live an empire sort of life. Much of the book looks at the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel as voices for the alternative story God is trying to tell, and warnings that as Israel desires to be empire, they will also own the consequences of being an empire. Downfall.

This book is for those who are interested in the explosive theme of empire throughout Scripture, that also draws out implications for living under empire today. He touches on the balance of accomadation and resistance that a local tradition of faith today needs in order to stay true to the alternative story while living with the "facts on the ground" of living life within empire
How To Live Faithful in Babylon 11 April 2014
By Carol A. Raymond - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It becomes more difficult each day to live openly as Christians in America. We are told to be tolerant, but many around us are not at all tolerant of our beliefs. This book shows how the Jews were able to remember their God and live faithful in Babylon. We can see that with each of God's warnings about what happens when we follow the world instead of Him that there are also scriptures that show us God is always calling us to Him. Brueggemann encourages us to keep on keeping on! We can live under the empire but still look forward to returning to Zion!
Church and Culture 21 Sept. 2014
By rwprince - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Good exploration of the church's role in our culture.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Pond of Theory and an Ocean of Invective 22 Oct. 2013
By Gerry Fahrenthold - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Brueggemann has a very limited thesis on living with faith in the midst of empire which he wraps in two dimensional, universal condemnations of the US, the church in the US and people of faith in the US. He makes the case that Jews in Babylon practiced a faith centered on the concept of exile and (hope for) restoration while those in Persia and later in Egypt evolved a model of faith with accommodation and "local" resistance to empire. The case is not well argued or organized. He notes that the Old Testament narrative was created by a group that used "the particular interpretation of events that is appropriate for those who offer the interpretation." In other words, it is a biased account. He then uses this same biased account, without critical analysis or challenge, to make his arguments. Some historical context and commentary on the nature of the Babylonian, Persian and Egyptian empires would have helped support the idea that Jews evolved a different model in different empires. It is simpler and more logical to argue that given that the Jews in Babylon adopted life in exile and hope for restoration as their mantra while in Babylon, they then had to change the narrative once they had actually returned from exile. They had to adopt a new model without undermining the previous one so the most viable option was accommodation with the new empire where possible and resistance when necessary. His very thin thesis serves as a nice framework for his real passion which appears to be anti US invective. There is an abundance of it but I can give you a few highlights. The US generates "ANTIHUMAN values, policies and practices". I suppose that he means that the US really is the Great Satan. The mission efforts of the US church are nothing but the exportation of US evil and are so corrupt that one cannot sort out "what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God." And to wrap it all up there is no hope for the church in the US as his model of accommodation and resistance to empire can't work. "I KNOW", he writes, "enough about the politics and economics of the church, especially local congregations to understand that the subject of resistance is beyond consideration." So every aspect of the US and the church in the US is absolutely and universally evil, without exception,gradation or degree, and is also by the way beyond redemption. Just ask him, he knows.
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