Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Seminary professor calls for

Gary Simpson says current U.S. policy intends to achieve global hegemony

There are a lot of skewed notions of patriotism floating around in current American culture, according to a theology professor at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota. And, says Dr. Gary Simpson, the idea that a true patriot never has to say he or she is sorry about the government’s foreign policy is just plain bogus.

Speaking to a roomful of Lutherans at Central Lutheran Church during February, Simpson said, “Our current president says America is not on the road to empire, because empire means you want to acquire territory.” But, cautioned the systematic theologian, “there are other ways for empires to ascend [besides through territorial expansion].”

Speaking on the topic “Empire and the Christian Vocation of Repentant Patriotism,” Simpson quoted Martin Luther, who said, “A Christian’s first duty is always first to call its nation to repentance.”

There is a “moral rationale” for empire, he said. “It goes back to Greece and Rome. The assumption is, ‘We’re more moral than they are.’ Religious people would say, ‘God has called us to rule these other people — benevolently, of course.’”

Simpson said, “This is fundamentally an aristocratic idea. The assumption is that the privileged ought to have the right to rule everybody else.”

A moral rationale for empire is strong in the United States, he argued.

A democracy, he suggested, has no business trying to run the world, regardless the rationale its leader may find for doing it.

“George W. Bush and the neo-conservatives who are informing his policies believe in ‘benevolent empire.’ They advocate an ‘implicit’ empire, in contrast to an ‘explicit’ (obvious) one.” Said Simpson, “You could call this ‘imperialism lite,’ because it’s harder to detect at first glance.”

Simpson said, “The Neo-cons [neo-conservatives] want to create and preserve ‘America’s benevolent global hegemony.’ The president substitutes the word ‘leadership’ for ‘hegemony,’ but the intent is the same.”

Hegemony is a situation in which a dominant power gains and maintains effective control over all its competitors.

According to Simpson, the neo-cons are promoting “full-spectrum dominance,” an idea not fundamentally different from what the Roman Empire pursued and accomplished in the Mediterranean world 2,000 years ago.

He suggested that the current administration borrows from the ancient concept that “fortune favors the brave.” It’s pretty easy, he said, to update that slogan for the current scene. “The modern equivalent is, of course, ‘Stay the course.’”

He reminded his listeners that, for Christians, “fortune is an heretical god.”

The current president is not the first to advocate that the United States behave like an empire, Simpson said. “There have been a dozen U.S. presidents who advocated empire — but when you go to Washington, D.C., you never find anybody visiting their monuments. I think there’s a reason for that.”

Simpson said the Iraq war is about setting a new agenda for the United States in the world. “The neo-cons have not repented for the illegal invasion of that country, and they don’t intend to.” He said, “I’m a patriot. I refuse to give up the flag my ancestors died for. I’m not willing to hand it over to anybody who wants to take it captive.”