Retribution by Edward Armitage

Edward Armitage’s huge painting Retribution was painted in 1858 for Leeds Town Hall. It was rather topical; the previous year had witnessed the Indian Mutiny, during which Indian troops working for the British, called Sepoys, turned against their imperial masters. Horrors were committed on both sides, though the bodies in this painting may refer to the massacre of Cawnpore, during which 120 British women and children were killed having been promised safe passage. "Remember Cawnpore!" became a battle cry among British soldiers in their campaign to recapture rebellious territory. Armitage shows a fearless Britannia about to deliver the final blow to the Indian tiger.

I’m quite a patriotic fellow and I’ve always been interested in my nation’s imperial past. That said, I respect the Indians’ desire for self-determination and freedom. It is clear to me, however, that human empires are always morally wrong. They involve taking over another nation’s land, resources, people and identity. We were given dominion over the natural world by God in Eden but this did cover our fellow humans. By taking God’s offer and applying it in ways He never intended, we created exploitation, slavery and racism. The only empire to which humans should and will belong, is Christ’s:

"And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom; that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”

Daniel 7:14