On the So-Called “Myth of Christian Martyrdom”

Academic hostility to Christianity is reaching hilariously transparent levels. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this story, but it’s the first time I’ve heard a mainstream media source like Yahoo talking about it. Apparently a Notre Dame (supposedly a Catholic University, but long ago turned into a “catholic” University) Professor believes that all that talk of Christians being slaughtered as martyrs by the Romans in the early days of Christianity is a myth, and has written a book about her studies. Okay, well, sort of a myth. They were killed, but it was PROSECUTION, not PERSECUTION! Silly us! Here.

Let’s see what our Professor friend thinks:

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.

Translation: Christians weren’t killed for HAVING their beliefs! They were killed for FOLLOWING them! So what does this mean? Let’s have Professor Moss tell us!:

“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.”

So let me see if I understand this: For refusing to worship foreign gods, the early Christians were martyred. But this doesn’t count as persecution, because EVERYBODY was required to worship Roman gods. Ergo, Christians weren’t persecuted. QED.

So, if we pass a law forcing everybody to worship the Supreme Court, and the Christians refuse and are killed, that’s not persecution since EVERYBODY is supposed to comply, not just Christians. Can you see how, and I’m just going to say it, STUPID this is?

Sure, if we redefine persecution to extremely narrow terms, it’s not persecution. On the other hand, since I’m redefining “book” to include something with ideas worth reading about, then she hasn’t written a “book”, just a large pack of bound papers containing bad ideas.

What? Well, if she can do it…

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2 Responses to On the So-Called “Myth of Christian Martyrdom”

  1. Terry Morris says:

    Render unto Caesar, don’t ya know.

    So early Christians were rude, subversive and disrespectful, according to Moss, because (gasp!) they refused to take oaths, join the military or otherwise participate in (holy) Roman society. And these combine, to her mind evidently, to justify the torture and murder of such people. I guess I’m in big, big trouble then!

    Actually I’m glad she wrote the book. I have a number of (nominal) Christian friends and relatives who “reason” almost exactly the way Moss does in the passages cited. Except that they tend rather to twist themselves all up in knots defending the principled early Christians on the one hand, while condemning their modern posterity for taking the same principled positions on precisely the same issues. Same with the founding fathers. But as Noah Webster once wrote:

    “…but reason, without revelation, is a miserable guide; it often errs from ignorance, and more often from the impulse of passion.” (that’s a paraphrase, but it’s pretty close)

    And boy are they passionate about what they believe! A typical conversation goes something like this:

    Me: “Unjust, immoral laws must be disobeyed; a law is only as good as the people are willing to obey it.”

    Opponent: “But it is the law!”

    Me: “Again, it is an immoral law, thus it is ipso facto non-binding.”

    Opponent: “It is the f__king law!!!”

    Me: “Okay, okay, calm down, it’s the law. So what are your thoughts about the founding fathers and their “revolution” against the mother country?”

    Opponent (still hyped up): “Don’t change the subject!”

    Me: “I’m not changing the subject. My question is relevant to our discussion. So I ask you again, what are your thoughts about the founding generation?”

    Opponent (calming now): “Well of course I think they were right. You know this, so how exactly is this relevant?”

    Me: “Yes I do know it, but I wanted YOU to say it in the context of this conversation. It is relevant because they were law breakers.”

    Opponent (roller coaster of emotion here): “Huh?! They weren’t law breakers; they were godly men and women defending their rights! You’ve lost your damn mind!!!”

    Me: “Well, maybe I have lost my mind, but I think if you’ll go back and study the history again – carefully this time – you’ll find that they were, in point of fact, law breakers. What do you think – Boston Tea Party: lawful or unlawful?; formation of the Continental Congress: lawful or unlawful?; defiance of the Stamp Act: lawful or unlawful?; skirmishing with British soldiers at Lexington and Concord: lawful or unlawful?; declaring American independence: lawful or unlawful?, etc., etc., etc. Shall I go on?”

    Opponent: “No. I’m just saying that if you defy the law, you should be prepared to suffer the consequences.”

    Me: “Yes, you mean injustice, perhaps even martyrdom. Agreed.”

    End of conversation. 🙂

  2. You know, it’s also worth mentioning that, unlike the Founding Fathers of America, the Christians weren’t attempting to rally the people in armed rebellion-quite the opposite, in fact, since they were, you know, being martyred (oh, I’m sorry…PROsecuted). I mean, they wanted freedom to practice their religion in peace, without being forced to pay homage to foreign gods! Is it any wonder that members of that religious group were hesitant to militarily support an Empire that forced them to pay homage to false gods, apparently on pain of death?

    And if not saying oaths is subversive now, well, that’s just silly.

    The more you think about it, the stupider it sounds.

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