Pax Romana or Pax Christe?

Posted: December 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

Last Sunday night, at our worship gathering called the CORE, we sketched the difference between the Peace of Rome and the Peace of Christ, one contrasted in one way or another in the Gospels.

On the Roman side we drew the story of empire imposed; the crushing overlay of imposed peace, that was really a mechanism of external control. Power that takes no prisoners represses any dissent, therefore there is no conflict. Call that the peace of Augustus Caesar, said Roman culture. Never mind the collateral damage.

On the Gospel side we listen and watch as Christians name an alternate reality by borrowing the same words applied to Caesar: Savior, Lord, Peace, Kingdom, Epiphany, Good News…

The purpose can hardly be disguised. “We,” say the Gospel writers, “proclaim a Lord and Kingdom of a different order, that brings a different sort of peace, and it is not Roman, not construed by the principalities and powers of this age and world.” And if that were not enough, “The King of the Jews, power-less as he appears hanging on the instrument of crowd-control, the cross, actually is released into the world in such a way that he can never be killed. The war is over, Rome will fall, but God is the Lord of the universe.”

So the angels sing to peasants who can hear it because they are not seduced by an empire, the Roman empire, that takes from them but does not give. Here is another announcement, bizarre and unreal: Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace, among those with whom he is well pleased.”

A different herald, a different kind of savior, a different kind of peace.

It is for every generation to choose, to make a decision about which path shall be taken, which empire grasped, what Lord before which we shall bow down. Those things never change. And the choice remains for us today. However sweet the Hallmark cards seem, it’s a messy choice: Choose this day whom you will serve, this or that. Put that on a Christmas card and see how it sells.

  1. Menina says:

    “When virtue is lost, benevolence appears, when benevolence is lost right conduct appears, when right conduct is lost, expedience appears. Expediency is the mere shadow of right and truth; it is the beginning of disorder.” – Lao Tzu

    The divine nature of great thinkers’ wisdom is always interesting to me.  The Pax Romana falls at the “expediency ” end of the spectrum, in contrast to Pax Christe at the “virtue” end.  I don’t think the Romans ever operated on the “virtue” end of the spectrum.  Did the Greeks?  How many civilizations have fallen from virtue into expediency and then just fallen?

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