Tag Archives: Christian Church

That old wheel of fortune

The Hagia Sophia. This style of church is called a basilica: an enormous dome set on a square base. I drew it as it was in its heyday, before being goombah’d up with minarets.

You see how this went? Christianity, which had been oppressed and persecuted 500 years earlier, grew popular within the Roman Empire until the Church came to be in charge and so now it squashed down the other religions. It’s never a bad idea to be aware of this stuff—what they call a ‘cultural shift.’ Which religion (or ideology) is in charge now? Where is it promoted? How is it promoted? Which religion or ideology is being discouraged? An easy way to tell is: look at what ideology you can make fun of—and what you’re not allowed to make fun of. If you mock a way of thinking and scorn is heaped upon your head, or your opinion gets you in trouble, or your opinion gets blocked on social media—the ideology you’re mocking is in charge.

I’m a Christian, which means Jesus is my Savior. You can expect me to champion Christianity’s indispensable role in shaping our great civilization. Nevertheless, I try to stay clear-eyed about Christianity’s past. All human beings are flawed. We Christians regularly fail at being Christ-like. Not only that, we live in a fallen, constantly-changing world. Religions and ideologies gain and lose their influence. Justinian built what may be the most magnificent Christian church human beings had ever seen—the Hagia Sophia. Fifteen hundred years later, it’s a mosque—a Muslim house of worship. https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-greece/hagia-sophia

If you’d like to learn more about Justinian, try this fascinating book: Justinian’s Flea by William Rosen. It covers everything about that place and time but its focus is the bubonic plague. This year seems like a good time to read it. Highly recommended by me! http://www.justiniansflea.com/

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

It’s official!

In ad 380, Christianity had become so popular that Emperor Theodosius made it the official religion of the Empire.

It wasn’t quite so easy as that. Theodosius was a Christian, but he wasn’t very good at it. In fact, he ordered a horrific massacre to put down a rebellion. Bishop Ambrose wouldn’t let Theodosius into the church until he’d properly repented. It was a clash of wills. Ambrose insisted that you need to be humble before you can enter God’s house. Theodosius did repent and worked harder to be a better Christian, like stop massacring people so much. The upshot was that now everyone in the Empire—including the Emperor—submitted to the Church rather than the Church submitting to the Emperor.

Don’t worry—we’re still getting around to how we lost hieroglyphics.

https://johnmanders.wordpress.com/2019/08/26/you-got-some-change-coming/
https://landmarkevents.org/theodosius-makes-christianity-the-official-faith-of-the-roman-empire-380-a-d/
http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/300.html

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

The new religion

The Roman Empire became so enormous that it was too huge for one emperor. The Empire got split into East and West. Rome was still the capital city of the western half. Byzantium became the capital city of the eastern half. Within both halves of the Empire was a growing movement, a new religion—people who worshiped Jesus Christ. This was a problem, because—just like the Egyptians and pharaoh—Romans were expected to worship their emperor as a god. Christians had to worship in secret. Whenever they were found, Christians were rounded up, punished and even executed in grisly spectacles at the Colosseum where they were put in an arena with abused, starved lions. People bought tickets to watch. Human beings can be horrible, gang.

https://johnmanders.wordpress.com/2019/08/12/being-a-christian-in-the-roman-empire/
https://johnmanders.wordpress.com/2019/08/15/those-rotten-romans/
https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-27/persecution-in-early-church-did-you-know.html (requires subscription)
https://christian-apologist.com/2018/04/15/early-christian-martyrdoms-persecution-in-the-roman-empire/

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

Being a Christian in the Roman Empire

Damnatio ad bestias (condemnation to the beasts) was a barbaric way of executing criminals and Christians. Worse, it took place in an arena for public entertainment.

Judea, where Jesus was born, was part of the Roman Empire. After He was crucified and resurrected, Jesus’ disciples continued His ministry. They told people they met on their travels about Jesus, His life and His message. It wasn’t so easy to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God in an empire whose official religion was polytheistic—Romans worshiped many gods and considered their emperor a god, too. And so the early Christians (Jesus’ followers) were a persecuted religious minority. They started out with a small, devoted membership that grew larger quickly. As the Christian Church grew, the Roman government became uncomfortable with this threat to civil order. Romans who worshiped Jupiter and the other gods looked at Christians with suspicion. Being a Christian back then could get you arrested and put to death.

Nicola Denzey Lewis writes:

The Christian writer Tertullian complained…, “if the Tiber reaches the walls, if the Nile does not rise to water the fields, if there is no rain, or if there is earthquake or famine, if there is plague, the cry at once arises, ‘The Christians to the lions!’”

https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/places/related-articles/christian-martyrdom
http://www.jaysromanhistory.com/romeweb/christns/chrslion.htm

A Funny Thing Happened on the Road to Damascus

Once again I had the honor of being substitute preacher at Second Presbyterian Church in Oil City. While we’ve been without a pastor we elders have stepped up and taken turns at the pulpit. Our new pastor, Rev. Greg Gillispie, will take over in July.

This time around my subject was the stoning of Saint Stephen and the introduction of that one-man paramilitary wing of the Sanhedrin, Saul—found in Acts 7:55-60.

My talk centered around storytelling—particularly visual storytelling. Here you can see character designs for Stephen and Saul; an explanation of character arc used Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, Lightning McQueen from Cars, and Walter White from Breaking Bad; Saul’s Road to Damascus moment; and Saint Paul who shaped the young Christian Church through his writings.

This was some of the best fun I’ve had speaking in front of a group. I am grateful for a supportive and forgiving congregation! Best wishes & welcome to Rev. Gillispie.