Each year, Jon designs and teaches a course for The Deaconess Anne House (the St. Louis branch of the Episcopal Service Corps) called Jesus & Empire. During the course, Corps members learn about the radical political activism of the early Christian community and its creation of counter-cultural communities that actively resisted the oppression (economic, political, religious, etc.) of the Roman Empire. Corps members then develop strategies that assist the church in creating anti-empire communities in the present American context.
Jon with members of the Deaconess Anne House, a new monastic/Episcopal Service Corps community that he founded and served as first Ex. Director.
Here's this year's syllabus
September: The Roman Empire and its 21st Century Capitalist Counterpart
Session Synopsis: This session will explore the means of oppression and subjugation used by the Romans to build and maintain Empire and supremacy. This discussion will provide key contextual information that will help the class understand Jesus’ kingdom movement. Parallels will be drawn between the Roman Empire and the American Empire.
Jesus and Empire, pages 15 – 34
How the US has Hidden It’s Empire
“What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”
October: Following Jesus by Organizing for Justice Part I
Session Synopsis: In this session, the class will explore methods, practices, and assumptions of faith based community organizing. Material covered; how to do a one-on-one conversation; Self-Interest and Power; Building your Values Triangle
November: The Kingdom Movement, from Moses to Jesus
Session Synopsis: In this session, participants will discuss God’s movement toward freedom that began with Exodus, moved through the prophets, and continued with Jesus. Jesus’ kingdom movement, message, and mission will be contextualized as part of a broader liberation movement with real world consequences for human bodies, rather than an other-worldly campaign for human souls.
Exodus 1 – 15
The Gospel of Mark (All 16 chapters)
December: Following Jesus by Organizing for Justice Part II
Session Synopsis: In this session, the class will explore methods, practices, and assumptions of faith based community organizing. Material covered; Power Analysis; Problems vs. Issues; Actions and Issues;
January: Subversive Storytelling: The Parables and the Theological Imagination
Session Synopsis: In this session, will discover the subversive nature of Jesus’ parables and how they encouraged their hearers to imagine the possibility of a more just and equitable world. Participants will also discuss how modern “parables” can help dismantle oppressive metanarratives.
Parables as Subversive Speech pages 9 – 29
February: The Early Church as a Community of Resistance
Session Synopsis: In this session, participants will study the book of Acts and discuss the counter-cultural nature of the early Christian community. Questions explored will include, “What was the mission of the early church?” “Was the early church a threat or an asset to the Empire?” “How does the image of the church in Acts challenge the modern church?”
The Book of Acts
March: Christian Socialism 101
Session Synopsis: During this session, the class will receive a primer on Christian socialist theory.
“Wealth, Socialism, and Jesus,” https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/wealth-socialism-and-jesus
A Handbook of Socialism pages 17-38
What is Christian Socialism pages 1 – 48
April: Session VI: Christian Capitalism 101
Session Synopsis: During this session, participants will explore the question, “Why have Christians who follow the poor man from Galilee embraced capitalism?”
“The Gospel of Wealth” by Andrew Carnegie, https://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/rbannis1/AIH19th/Carnegie.html
Video of Christianity and Socialism, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfFkX2L-7Lc
May: Every Sunday is a Protest: Why the Christian Liturgy Should be Illegal
Session Synopsis: In this session, the class will discuss how the liturgies of the church, especially the Eucharistic liturgies, create a spaces of ritualized resistance and encourage participation in social justice, service, and the transformation of society.
The Eucharistic liturgies found in the 1979 BCP
June: Why Jesus: The Link Between Christianity and the Hope of a Better World
Session Synopsis: In this final session, the class will explore the question, “How does faith in Jesus influence political activism, civic engagement, and the dismantling of Empire?