Thursday, May 09, 2013

Plus Ça Change: Christians Accused of Being Hateful by… Nero (!) …Two Thousand Years Ago (!)

In the year 44 King Herod Agrippa I imprisoned and beheaded James the Greater, the first of the Apostles to die 
writes Andrew Todhunter in the March 2012 issue of the National Geographic. The least one can say is that The Journey of the Apostles (with photos by Lynn Johnson) is extremely revealing. Plus ça change, they say, and it turns out that the period of time in that phrase goes back not only over a period of a generation or two (as perhaps commonly thought), or perhaps over a century or two, but over a period of not one but two millennia!

How many times have you heard that Republicans are horrid, that conservatives are racist, that the West is intolerant, that Christians are hateful?

Well, it turns out that the reason that the early Christians were persecuted, it was because they were… — scratch that! In fact, you see, the early Christians were not persecuted per se, it turns out, they were in fact getting their just desserts for being — yes, wait for it — hateful!

The chickens coming home to roost, to use a phrase used by self-serving leftists the world over. Karma! "Haven't the Christians (early or otherwise) asked themselves why they are despised so much? Haven't they asked themselves why their adversaries (the Romans, in this case) treat them the way they do? Haven't they looked into their (dark) souls?" (Ever notice how the — alleged — hatred in the souls of people in the West is always highly reproachable, while that of everybody else always seems to be understandable and natural and somehow a good thing?)

To quote Tacitus, the early Christians were convicted of — get this — "hatred against mankind".

Indeed, hatred is so much of a no-no, hatred is so politically incorrect (already 2,000 years ago), that when Nero accuses the Christians of being behind the great fire in Rome, with all the death and destruction that this entails, even this "crime of firing the city" is not so much the primary reason given for the Christians' conviction, the Roman historian tells us, as is the (obviously indisputable) fact of the presence in their souls "of hatred against mankind."

Let us let Andrew Todhunter (re)tell the story:
In 64, when a great fire in Rome destroyed 10 of the city's 14 quarters, Emperor Nero, accused by detractors of setting the fire himself, pinned the catastrophe on the growing Christian movement and committed scores of believers to death in his private arena. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote: "An immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind … Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired." In the year 110 Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch, was arrested by the Romans under Trajan, shipped to Rome, and condemned to death ad bestias—by beasts—at the public games. Bloody episodes like this would recur sporadically for the next two centuries.

Tradition holds that 11 of the Twelve Apostles were martyred. Peter, Andrew, and Philip were crucified; James the Greater and Thaddaeus fell to the sword; James the Lesser was beaten to death while praying for his attackers; Bartholomew was flayed alive and then crucified; Thomas and Matthew were speared; Matthias was stoned to death; and Simon was either crucified or sawed in half. John—the last survivor of the Twelve—likely died peaceably, possibly in Ephesus, around the year 100.
How 'bout that?! Now, in true leftist fashion, we understand the real reason why the Christians were persecuted — or, rather, why they were "persecuted", in quotation marks, since, in some obscure karmic manner, those hateful beings obviously deserved their fate. As French intellectuals said about Americans after the 9-11 tragedy, ils l'ont bien mérité… They had it comin' to 'em…

Update: Two or three years later, a special NG issue on The Rise & Fall of the Roman Empire will mention the Tacitus excerpt again, albeit with a slightly different translation (a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of "hating the human race")