In Candida Moss' The Myth of Persecution, a leading scholar on Christian history reveals how the early church exaggerated, invented, and forged stories of Christian martyrs, and how the legacy of martyrdom continues to inspire the religious right and conservative cultural warriors.According to early Christians, followers of the faith lived in constant fear of persecution. The brutality of Roman treatment of Christians is shocking: girls were sent to brothels to be gang-raped, young mothers were stripped naked and thrown to wild animals, and fragile old men were tortured and burned alive, all for no reason other than their Christian beliefs. Yet, despite these horrors, and out of love for Jesus, Christians stood resolutely against the might of the Roman Empire.According to The Myth of Persecution, the problem with this idealization of Christian martyrdom is that it didn't happen. While some individual cases of martyrdom are authentic, there was no systematic persecution of Christians during the first three hundred years of the faith as is popularly believed. These stories, were exaggerated, invented, or forged many years later as propaganda, or as fund-raising techniques to build churches.Moss argues that the rhetoric of persecution and martyrdom used by today's Christians is a powerful way of silencing dissenters. Just as the early churches used martyrdom to exclude heretics, today martyrdom is used to condemn others as enemies and opponents.
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March 05, 2013
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