Section on US Empire

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Paul and Secession from Empire

This is a sermon offered at the Eighth Day faith community on January 30, 2011. It presents some information from recent scholarship on the writings of the Apostle Paul, and its relevance to the church as we confront the American empire, and how we in the Eighth Day community might respond.

We’ve talked a good deal in this community about empire.  We’ve found considerable insight in scripture and current literature that challenges the dominant consciousness of our day: its militarism, consumerism, individualism, and idolatry of money, prestige, and power.  This has given our community a foundation on which we’ve worked to build an alternative vision of peace, solidarity with the oppressed, downward mobility, ecological sanity and community.

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The Church’s Calling to the Coming Crises

This is sermon I offered at our Eighth Day Faith Community on Sep 6, 2009. It seems to me that the coming ecological, economic, political and social crises that so threaten humanity call the church to respond deeply.

Bible Texts: Isaiah 35:4-7, Psalm 146

Over the past several years, we’ve talked a lot in Eighth Day about the intertwined series of profound crises that our world faces over the next several decades from:

  • the environment,
  • resource depletion,
  • the economy,
  • inequality and poverty,
  • nuclear weapons,
  • consumerism,
  • corporations, and
  • governance 

Their combined impact threatens human civilization on an unprecedented scale.  I’m not going to review all the threats here.  We’ve done that enough!

Rather, this morning I’d like to place those threats in a different context and examine a theological response that offers me hope.

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Now I Understand Why They Hate Us

How a middle-class white guy came to accept the evil embedded in American political and military might

This is an essay on my coming to understand the depth of US militarism. It has taken me a lifetime to understand that we are a deeply militaristic society, and our self perception as a beneficent, peace-loving country hides an uglier reality. It first appeared on AlterNet (

Shortly after the attacks of 9/11, many American voices raised the question, “Why do they hate us?”  The “they” in this case was Muslim fundamentalists, but the same question could have been asked of South American peasants, of the people of Iraq or Iran, of the poor of India or Indonesia, or, indeed, of the poor anywhere. 

In fact, they don't only hate us; the feelings of people around the world toward the United States are a complex mixture of positive and negative. 

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Crises of Empire … and some possible responses

This is a lecture that I offered at the Servant Leadership School/Festival Center in July of 2008 at a conference on Jubilee economics. I exlore briefly three previous Western empires and look for lessons for us in the waning years of the American empire.

Twenty-five years ago, when I first moved to DC and began practicing medicine at a small clinic not far from here, the depth of poverty and the societal callousness to it shocked me.

  • People could be utterly destitute and still not eligible for any form of health coverage.
  • Welfare was unbelievably stingy, offering benefits less than half the poverty level and then making it illegal to receive money from any other source.
  • Broken families, violence in the streets, and a lousy educational system were the norm, and few people seemed upset about it.

I’m embarrassed to say that it took me a while to see through our American emphasis on personal responsibility to realize that the major cause of this poverty was injustice.

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When Things Fall Apart

Compassion and Justice — What Then?

This is a talk from the 18th anniversary of Joseph's House (our home & hospice for homeless men and women), trying to assess the economic, social and political future of our society, the likelihood of significant disruption, and what role compassion and justice might have in preparing for this difficult time and living through it.David Hilfiker

A generation ago (1976) theologian Francis Schaeffer asked the question: “How Should We Then Live?”  In the face of everything we know about our world, rooted in our spiritual connection with God (however we name God), given our own strengths and weaknesses, how then should we live?  It’s a hopelessly vague question, perhaps a hopelessly romantic question, but it keeps throwing itself upon me, so I try to work with it.

Some twenty years ago, before Joseph’s House was even an idea, I worked at Community of Hope Health Services, a small clinic over on 14th and Belmont Sts, in what was then a very poor neighborhood.  As I was beginning to see the depth of the oppression and exploitation that had caused my patients’ poverty, I was also beginning to understand the Hebrew prophets’ contention that any nation should be judged on how it treats its poor. 

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