Q&A: A Quaker Perspective about the Issues of Empire and the US

Q&A: A Quaker Perspective about the Issues of Empire and the US
Ebony Watkins – Resisting Empire

I received a question of email recently that prompted me to put together a response here:

“I wonder if you would have one or two of your own articles or lectures that you could share with us, where you bring a Quaker perspective about the issues of Empire and the US?”

In this post, I am going to share previous written and recorded resources on this subject. I am currently working on some new material that I will share here as it gets developed.

Before sharing these resources (below), I wanted to trace my own process back a little bit:

I have been reflecting on the question of empire from both a Biblical perspective (as in what does the Bible say about empire?) and the Quaker tradition since I took a seminar at Union Theological Seminary’s, then-known-as, “The Poverty Initiative” in 2013. I had been using the language of empire and seeing it as an intepretive framework since I heard Wes Howard-Brook interviewed on the podcast Iconoclast in 2010. But it was the 2013 meeting where I really learned how to apply this framework more broadly and made friends with a community of people thinking this way. That seminar, which I was invited to by Rev. Shelly Fayette and Aaron Scott, was transformative. It is where I met Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Colleen and John Wessel-McCoy, Crystal Hall, Jessica Williams, Willie Baptist, Charon Hribar, and many more great folks who have impacted my own thinking and faith. The Poverty Initiative later became the Kairos Center which is most notably-known as some of the folks behind the Poor People’s Campaign. In fact, here is an interview I did with Willie Baptist and Colleen Wessel-McCoy of the Kairos Center a number of years later about some of my work that was influenced by the folks mentioned above.

Add to this, the influence of the writing of Wes Howard Brook, Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Dorothee Soelle, Ched Myers, James Cone, James Alison, and Kelly Brown Douglas and I found myself get a second education in the anti-poverty, Liberation Theology methodology. This was mostly all new stuff for me because Fuller Theological Seminary, where I went to grad school, largely did not focus on Liberation Theology (and some pushed against it). Thus, in this later context where I served as a pastor of a Quaker meeting, in a small town and community that struggled with questions of poverty and wealth, houselessness, and hunger that I began to make progress in how I understand these things.

Since that time, I have been working on three basic questions:

  1. What does the Bible say about Empire (And God, and God’s people)
  2. What was the early church, and early Quaker movements relationship to empire?
  3. What does this have to do with us today?

Below you will find books, articles, blogposts, videos, and podcasts where I have been in dialogue with others trying to work these questions out. I hope that you find something helpful below. Feel free to download or share as you see fit and if you have questions or would like to invite me to talk with your group, please reach out to me here: Contact Wess.


Here are some of my writings and reflections as I have been working through them cataloged in the hopes that others may find some of this helpful.

  • Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation as Resistance (Barclay Press – 2019) – This is a compilation of the first phase of my work on empire, especially in the context of the Book of Revelation (which is not about predicting the end of the world but about the early church’s relationship to empire). Revelation has been a huge focus for me and it started here.

Other Works Related to Revelation:

Keynote Lectures About Empire Among Quakers:

Articles about Quaker Practice in the context of Empire:

Videos and Podcasts: