Christian Persecution Myth?

why-did-the-Romans-persecute-christiansOriginally published by World Magazine.

One of the traditional purposes for studying History has been to learn from it, to see how past events can shed light on the present.  This is possible assuming the history presented is true.

Unfortunately, in our postmodern era of relativism, history has become a malleable tool to justify one’s philosophical and/or political inclinations—with all the wild anachronisms, projections, and conjectures that entails.

Happily, there is a little known antidote to these distorted revisionist histories. Ironically we can often learn about the past by looking at the present—for the patterns of human nature do not change.

Consider the book The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom, by one Candida Moss.  Despite the fact that Christian martyrdom under the militant Roman Empire has long been an unquestioned historical fact, Moss claims that it was largely a “myth,” that many of history’s best known narratives of Christian martyrs were entirely fabricated.

This thesis, as most modern-day academic theses concerning early history, is fundamentally based on conjecture, projections, and above all, anachronisms—the sort that earlier turned Christ into a homosexual hippie and Muhammad into a humanitarian feminist. Neither Moss nor anyone else can prove or disprove what the primary historical texts say—that Roman persecution of Christians was very real, widespread, and brutal.

We weren’t there.

But from an objective point of view, is it not more reasonable to accept the words of contemporary eyewitnesses, than it is the conjectures of a politically charged book that is separated from its subject by 2,000 years?

Among other ideas unintelligible and inapplicable to the ancient world, Moss invokes “T-shirts,” “favorite athletes,” and “brands of soda” to “prove” that the ancient narrative of Christians tortured and killed for their faith was all a gag to make a profit: “Martyrs were like the action heroes of the ancient world,” Moss says. “It was like getting your favorite athlete endorsing your favorite brand of soda. …Of course, the prices were completely jacked up.”

In short, the merit of Moss’ thesis rests in the fact that it satisfies a certain anti-Christian sentiment—that it satisfies a modern-day political perspective—and not that it offers any facts or serious arguments. Indeed, by projecting cynical postmodern perspectives onto the mentalities of people, both Romans and Christians, who lived worlds and centuries away, the thesis is ultimately farcical.

Even so, let’s tackle the myth charge from a different angle.  Let’s leave the question of eyewitnesses, texts, and traditions, and instead rely on common sense—that which is in short supply in the academic community—by considering the following question: If at least 100 million Christians are currently being persecuted today, in an era when Western ideas of humanitarianism and religious tolerance have permeated the rest of the world, thanks to globalism, is it not reasonable to conclude that 2,000 years ago, when “might made right” and brutally prevailed, that Christians were also being persecuted then, especially when contemporary sources clearly indicate as much?

Consider the modern Islamic world alone, where today’s overwhelming majority of horrific Christian persecution occurs, as documented in my new book Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians.  Today in the 21st century, Christians under Islam are still being tortured, imprisoned, enslaved, and killed; their churches and Bibles are routinely banned or burned.

Why is that?  Because Islam is a supremacist cult, which brooks no opposition and demands conformity, one way or the other: Islamic law (see Koran 9:29) teaches that those who come under its hegemony must either convert, or keep their faith but live as ostracized third-class citizens (dhimmis), or die.

The supremacist culture of the Roman Empire—an even older martial cult devoted to the gods of war—was not much different and demanded compliance from the subjugated, regardless of how modern, armchair historians try to romanticize it.

If today’s Muslims—who are acquainted with modern ideas of humanitarianism and tolerance—are still brutally persecuting the Christian minorities in their midst, are we seriously to believe that the warlike Roman Empire, which existed at a time when brutality and cruelty were the expected norm, did not persecute Christians, especially when the records say it did? The Roman punishment of crucifixion alone sheds light on the ruthless severity of the ancient empire.

Moreover, Christianity was and still is the one religion that refuses to comply with its supremacist overlords, that puts its beliefs above the preservation of life.  Unlike other religions which approve of dissembling and outward conformity—Islamic law permits Muslims to outwardly renounce Muhammad, if doing so will save their lives—Christians have long had a habit of “annoying” their superiors by refusing to comply, even to save their lives.

Thus, just as Christ irked Pilate, the representative of the supremacist Roman Empire, by refusing to utter some words to save his life, his disciples and countless other ancient Christians did the same; and today, countless modern day Christians are doing the same. And in all cases, their supremacist overlords—whether pagan Romans or modern Muslims—persecuted, and continue to persecute, them for it.  (Most recently in Iran, Islamic authorities are trying to force an American citizen to abjure Christ, even as he resists under torture.)

Historical texts aside, today’s Christian persecution is a clear indicator of yesterday’s Christian persecution—for those who exercise some common sense, that is.

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  • AnOrdinaryMan

    Though not an authoritative historical work, the novel Ben-Hur provides a number of examples of Roman brutality towards those that opposed them. This was the best selling book(next to the Bible) of the 19th century. Ibrahim, as usual, is right on target.

    • Tracy

      Yes, most of our bible based beliefs are on film everywhere.

  • Western Spirit

    As always evil oppresses good even as it hides its true face behind good to fool the gullible. Evil always always always poses as good and the persecution of Christians both yesterday and today is no exception to this rule.

    And via this persecution reveal the true worth of Christian principles as being a genuine good and the Biblical teaching of the fall of man resulting in the dominion of evil in the world to be true.

  • Tracy

    So,now it has become a life or death sentence to state what religion,cult you are affiliated with?I personally do not adhere to any denominational religion all though first being raised as a Catholic.We all know the Catholic history Ironically they are the richest in the world, go figure.

    • Hurricane

      Yes Tracy, the Church has a lot of money. Because it takes a lot of money to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and provide shelter to the homeless. Did you know the Catholic Church is the world's largest charitable organization? If you combined all the other charities in the world, they STILL wouldn't add up to what the Catholic Church provides. The Church provides adoption service, education, hospitals, addiction counseling, abuse counseling, shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, clothing, job placement, and much more to all people around the world. So, yes the Church has a lot of money and thank God it does!

      • NYgal

        The Catholic Church still holds Jewish holly books and artifacts, stollen from various Jewish communities, which it still refuses to return, even today. Vatican, after negotiations, barely allowed Jewish religious scholars to have a look at the plundered treasure.

        Too bad Christian Churches selectively read the Bible passages, otherwise they would know that G-d will not bless those who curse and hate Jews.

        • Pennswoods

          Please look up OVADIA YOSEF on your search and look up his "Gentiles were created to serve Jews" rant as quoted in the Jerusalem Post in October 2010. Ovadia Yosef is a former Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem… His hatred of Christians in his sermons and in the media has been condemned by the ADL.

  • Mary Sue

    Too many Westerners poo-pooh the notion that there's actual persecution of Christians because the range of their knowledge makes them believe pretty much that America, or Europe, = the World, so they idiotically believe that if Christians aren't being thrown to the Lions in America, that persecution isn't happening anywhere.

  • esperanto

    Check out this VIDEO DEBATE:

    "The British Debate “Muslims,Free Speech and the Right to Offend”


    "The 2nd Joel Richardson Interview,and he gives More Reasons why the Antichrist will be the Muslim Mahdi"

  • Tan

    This professor is just another holocaust denier. This delegitimization of Christian persecution is designed to make people have less sympathy for Christians, just as all of the holocaust denials regarding the Jews and the Armenians were designed to have less sympathy for them. Had this professor done this to Muslims, she would have been accused of being anti-Muslim and this would have been all over the news. But when it comes to Christianity, the Left doesn't see Christians as victims of any persecution because they hate Christians; therefore, they don't want any sympathy for them. That's just my opinion.

    • Toa

      It's not your opinion…it's plain fact.
      The "comical" aspect of this woman's silly thesis is that she is a "Professor" of New Testament and Early Christianity at Notre Dame. Talk about a mole from the other side!!

      • Tan

        That is very true. In fact, political correctness in the media has also been responsible for Christian persecution going unreported. The Left's unholy alliance with Islam cannot be denied, both from a historical point of view and a current events point of view. For example, Haj Amin al-Husseni's alliance with the Nazis, the Soviet Union's clients like the PLO, PFLP, Iran, Libya, Iraq, and Egypt, and then today you have the Muslim Student Association allied with Students for Justice in Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement, and of course the UN with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

  • Mik

    No persecution in NT times? Janneus the first of the Hasmoneans (the Macabees) to take the title king has 800 Pharisees when they decided that it would be better to side with the governor of Syria instead of a secular king of Israel. Or how about Quintilio Varus who during the time right after Herod's death crucified 2000 people along the entrance to Jerusalem in order to convince the rest of the danger of rebellion.

    Not a Christian among the 2800. It was standard practice of Pax Romana. The Pax was really good for the top 7% or so. Not so much for the rest.