Notre Dame professor tackles ‘myth’ of Christian martyrdom
2013 05 09
By Liz Goodwin | The Lookout
Candida Moss, a professor of early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame and a practicing Catholic, wants to shatter what she calls the “myth” of martyrdom in the Christian faith.
Sunday school tales of early Christians being rounded up at their secret catacomb meetings and thrown to the lions by evil Romans are mere fairy tales, Moss writes in a new book. In fact, in the first 250 years of Christianity, Romans mostly regarded the religion’s practitioners as meddlesome members of a superstitious cult.
The government actively persecuted Christians for only about 10 years, Moss suggests, and even then intermittently. And, she says, many of the best known early stories of brave Christian martyrs were entirely fabricated.
The controversial thesis, laid out in "The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom," has earned her a lot of hate mail and a few sidelong looks from fellow faculty members. But Moss maintains that the Roman Catholic Church and historians have known for centuries that most early Christian martyr stories were exaggerated or invented.
A small group of priest scholars in the 17th century began sifting through the myths, discrediting not only embellished stories about saints (including that St. George slew a dragon) but also tossing out popular stories about early Christian martyrs.
Historians, including Moss, say only a handful of martyrdom stories from the first 300 years of Christianity—which includes the reign of the cruel, Christian-loathing Nero—are verifiable. (Saint Perpetua of Carthage, pictured in the stained glass window above, is one of the six famous early Christian martyrs Moss believes was actually killed for her faith.)
Moss contends that when Christians were executed, it was often not because of their religious beliefs but because they wouldn’t follow Roman rules. Many laws that led to early Christians’ execution were not specifically targeted at them—such as a law requiring all Roman citizens to engage in a public sacrifice to the gods—but their refusal to observe those laws and other mores of Roman society led to their deaths.
Moss calls early Christians “rude, subversive and disrespectful,” noting that they refused to swear oaths, join the military or participate in any other part of Roman society.
Moss can at times seem clinical when attempting to distinguish between true and systematic persecution of Christians for their faith and intermittent violence against them for refusing to conform.
"If persecution is to be defined as hostility toward a group because of its religious beliefs, then surely it is important that the Romans intended to target Christians,” she writes. “Otherwise this is prosecution, not persecution."
With true government persecution, victims have no room to negotiate when trying to convince the government to stop targeting them, Moss said. But when the government’s laws inadvertently lead to the persecution of Christians, there remains room for dialogue and debate over changing those laws.
“The reason I make the distinction is in the case of people seeking you out, torturing you just because you’re Christian—which did happen for a few years—in that situation, you can’t negotiate,” she said. “You have no opportunity to resist or to fight back. In a situation where there’s sort of disagreements … there’s room for debate.”
Moss pointed to the new U.S. health care law’s requirement that insurance companies cover contraception as an example of a law that inadvertently targeted Christians but was interpreted as a direct attack on the faith.
Much like the Emperor Diocletian’s edict that all Romans make a sacrifice to the gods (which Moss describes as being like a mandatory “pledge of allegiance”), the contraceptive mandate was not designed to target or single out Christians, she says. (Christians and others who refused to make the sacrifice in the fourth century were slaughtered. Christian organizations that do not want to provide contraception under the 21st century law will be fined.)
Notre Dame is one dozens of religiously affiliated universities that sued over the birth control mandate, saying providing its employees and students with health insurance that covered contraceptives would violate the university’s religious freedom.
Some in the religious community framed the contraceptive mandate as a deliberate persecution of Christians, rather than as bad policy, Moss says, in a way that’s made it difficult for them to negotiate.
“Labeling it persecution is saying, ‘We’re under attack, we’re persecuted. The other side has no reason to do this and we have to fight. We shouldn’t have to negotiate or compromise,” she said.
Moss says she is personally against her university’s decision to sue over the mandate.
“I think that the University of Notre Dame does not control how I spend my salary, therefore controlling what kinds of health care people have access to is maybe something we should not be trying to do,” she said. “I think Catholic institutions should trust their employees not to use contraception.”
Moss said the early Christian “persecution complex” influences the present-day political debate in America. The cable news hobbyhorse that there’s a deliberate “War on Christmas” in America is one example of a modern day martyrdom myth, she said.
Read the whole article at: news.yahoo.com
Also tune into Red Ice Radio:
Joseph Atwill, Fritz Heede & Nijole Sparkis - Hour 1 - The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus
Santos Bonacci - Hour 1 - The Holy Science
Joseph Atwill - Hour 1 - Caesar’s Messiah, The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus
Acharya S - Hour 1 - The Christ Conspiracy
Kenneth Humphreys - Jesus Never Existed, Judaism & Christianity
Leo Rutherford - Religion, The Greatest Fraud Ever Sold
Dennis Price - The Missing Years of Jesus
Latest News from our Front Page
New Report: Unregulated Contaminants Common in Drinking Water
2013 12 05
Traces of 18 unregulated chemicals were found in drinking water from more than one-third of U.S. water utilities in a nationwide sampling, according to new, unpublished research by federal scientists. Included are 11 perfluorinated chemicals, an herbicide, two solvents, caffeine, an antibacterial compound, a metal and an antidepressant.
Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency analyzed ...
Unarmed man charged with assault after cops shoot at him but wound bystanders instead
2013 12 05
A grand jury indicted an unarmed, emotionally disturbed man on assault charges after police opened fire on him near New York City’s Times Square and wounded two bystanders.
Investigators said 35-year-old Glenn Broadnax, of Brooklyn, created a disturbance Sept. 14 by lurching into traffic and lunging toward oncoming cars.
Police arrived as a crowd gathered at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue and ...
The Kardashian 2013 Christmas Card: A Tribute to the Illuminati Entertainment Industry
2013 12 05
If there was an award for the less Christmas-y Christmas card in the History of the world, I believe that the 2013 Kardashian Christmas card would take the prize. Shot by elite fashion photographer David Lachapelle, the card is a rather grim and depressing summation of the entertainment world – an industry ruled by a shadowy elite that is turning ...
Oldest-ever human DNA found in 400,000-year-old ‘Pit of Bones’ poses evolutionary mystery
2013 12 05
Scientists have reached farther back than ever into the ancestry of humans to recover and analyze DNA, using a bone found in Spain that’s estimated to be 400,000 years old. So far, the achievement has provided more questions than answers about our ancient forerunners.
The feat surpasses the previous age record of about 100,000 years for genetic material recovered from members ...
Canada Seeks to Claim North Pole
2013 12 05
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has instructed government bureaucrats to include the North Pole in the country’s Arctic claim to be submitted to the United Nations.
Canada has considered the inclusion of the geographic North Pole in order to extend its northern sea boundary for seabed riches in the Arctic, the daily Globe and Mail reported on Wednesday.
|More News » |