I have heard all my life how early Christians were persecuted for their faith. I assumed if both the Roman Catholic Church and my little Holiness Branch of the Methodist Church agreed on it, it must be true.
Recently, I heard an interview with this Christian scholar on NPR. Here is a review of her book: http://www.salon.com/2013/02/24/the_myth_of_persecution_early_christians_werent_persecuted/
“Christians were never,” Moss writes, “the victims of sustained, targeted persecution.”
…Candida Moss’ new book, “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom,” is about the three centuries following the death of Jesus…
So what, then, to make of the third-hand, heavily revised, agenda-laden and anachronistic accounts of Christianity’s original martyrs?
Moss, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, challenges some of the most hallowed legends of the religion when she questions what she calls “the Sunday school narrative of a church of martyrs, of Christians huddled in catacombs out of fear, meeting in secret to avoid arrest and mercilessly thrown to lions merely for their religious beliefs.” None of that, she maintains, is true. In the 300 years between the death of Jesus and the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, there were maybe 10 or 12 scattered years during which Christians were singled out for supression by Rome’s imperial authorities, and even then the enforcement of such initiatives was haphazard — lackadaisical in many regions, although harsh in others. “Christians were never,” Moss writes, “the victims of sustained, targeted persecution.”
Now, there are always amateur scholars who dig around just enough to see the corner of a headstone and assume a massacre. Some folks might even say I fall into that category. This lady is, however, an esteemed expert.
What reminded me of this is the attacks I have received recently on my observations about Jesus and modern Christianity, especially the conservative version of modern Christianity (there is no ancient conservative Christianity. The fundamentalist movement in Christianity is a reactionary movement started in the 1800s).
First, from some preacher type in Australia, not sure how he found my blog, but glad he did, enjoyed the back and forth for a while, until I began to find it tiresome:
Then just now:
(JP is an old friend, and fellow student at a college I attended in the 1970s.)
He shared the following link with the following caption.
Very, very challenged by this blog post that Robert David Black shared! THINKING!
Funny thing, the huge majority of the Christians, especially Holiness folks , seem to have very little use for Jesus. They are too busy quoting Paul or the Old Testament. Most churches I ever attended use Jesus as a logo. The brand I was raised in doesn’t understand the concept that God is love.” Nor do they see his message in The Good Sam story. God is love is a mathematical equation. God=love, therefore Love=God. Without the understanding, the whole message of Jesus is lost on the modern conservative Christian. According to an updated version of the good Sam story, an atheist or a Muslim who does good deeds is more “christian” than the best theological master who does not support doing for the poor, the weak and the sick. I hope I live long enough to see Christianity embrace Jesus. Just sayin’
In a private message, JP replied:
Anthony… I’m not going to let you use my Facebook posts to spew your antagonism! I love you Brother! I want to be your friend! I enjoy and am challenged by a lot of your thoughts! But when you start off with derogatory statements about my people like “Holiness folks , seem to have very little use for Jesus” I won’t let it go! You can either respect that and restrain yourself, or I’ll do whatever I need to do to prevent it! I’m not into insulting people just for meanness or letting you do it either! BLESSINGS! – JP
My private response (until now, and no, I did not ask anyone’s permission to post their comments, neither the blogger, nor JP, in his public and private comments, I did change edit it to make it less specific to certain people and places):
Sorry, just going on my experience, with Holiness churches and schools. I dont mean to be hateful. If you consider speaking the truth about my experiences to be spewing antagonism, i am not sure what your mission is. I am only bemoaning the lack of “Jesusness” not only in living but in outlook amongst the folks i have known in the Christian world (also the Baptists I went to High School with were not much better)
If you will be honest with yourself, I believe you will realize that with the exception of Bro. L, most of the teaching we received at college, as well in our various home churches were not very Jesus focused, mostly Paul, who said he came in the name of Jesus, but then taught a whole new religion, Paulism, which overturned the key message of Jesus. As long as you are defending that distortion, I see no way for you to serve Jesus. Of course, you have spent a lifetime in the faith we were both raised in. With that kind of investment, it does not surprise me that one who addresses this issue would be considered antagonistic. In fact, I would be very happy to see Christians begin to follow the teachings of Jesus. Not sure why they don’t.
My question, am I being antagonistic? Or do Christians have a strong tendency to attack and then blame the attacked for being aggressive? Love to hear from you, whether you are religious, or not, Christian or not, Holiness or not, and whether you know me or not.