Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, April 7th, 2014.


Holy Martyrs

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Obama Administration

This is almost sorta kinda a book preview. I’ve been going through some books looking for bits to bolster my arguments for this and that, and I found a book called The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom (HarperCollins, 2013). The author, Candida Moss, is a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame.

Most of the book is about early Church history. Moss says there is little actual historical evidence to show that early Christians were persecuted all that much, many legends to the contrary, and when they were persecuted it was usually more about politics than religion. Although it’s well written, if you aren’t really into early Church history this wouldn’t be a book to spend money on.

However, in her last chapter she makes a brilliant argument about how the myth of martyrdom is corroding religion and politics today. She writes, “Members of any Christian group can claim to be persecuted as long as they feel opposed.”

Yes, exactly. Opposition is no different from persecution. Having to buy health insurance is no different from slavery, or the Holocaust, or whatever.

I’m not 100 percent persuaded that the romance of martyrdom is just the residue of early Christian history, but the opposition equals persecution meme explains a lot. Further, the sense of persecution relieves them of any responsibility to reason with the opposition. If you are being persecuted, your only duty is to defend yourself by any means. You don’t have to make nice.

If you pay close attention to right-wing rhetoric, you realize that the Right believes persecution authenticates their message and proves their cause is just. Moss continues,

“Similarly, in her review of David Limbaugh’s book Persecution, Ann Coulter writes, ‘There is no surer proof of Christ’s divinity than that he is still so hated some 2,000 years after his death.’ Somehow, and quite perversely, hatred has become a witness not just to truth, but to Truth. No longer are reasoned argument, good judgment, or logic able to win the day, because failing to convince others of one’s opinions would be a better sign that one’s opinions were correct. Framed by the myth that we are persecuted dialogue is not only impossible, it is undesirable. We revel in the outrage and scandal that our words and opinions elicit. We don’t want to be understood by out opponent. We will fan the flames of hatred and bask in the knowledge that we are right and their criticism proves it.”

“There is no surer proof of Christ’s divinity than that he is still so hated some 2,000 years after his death.” Kinda takes one’s breath away, huh? And one might ponder, in what sort of bizarro alternative universe would that be true?

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