Professor Candida Moss teaches early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame.
Candida Moss, a Professor at Notre Dame University and practicing Catholic, has written a book that tackles the “myth of martyrdom in the Christian faith.”
Sunday school tales of early Christians being rounded up at their secret catacomb meetings and thrown to the lions by evil Romans are mere fairy tales, Moss writes in a new book. In fact, in the first 250 years of Christianity, Romans mostly regarded the religion’s practitioners as meddlesome members of a superstitious cult.
The government actively persecuted Christians for only about 10 years, Moss suggests, and even then intermittently. And, she says, many of the best known early stories of brave Christian martyrs were entirely fabricated.
In Professor Moss’ new book, The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom, she maintains that the Catholic Church and historians have known for centuries that most early Christian martyr stories were exaggerated or invented.
[W]hen 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.
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When one of Jehovah’s Witnesses does something that his local elders deem a serious offense against God and Watchtower, he will probably be disfellowshipped and therefore shunned by other Jehovah’s Witnesses. When I say that he’ll be shunned, I don’t mean he won’t get any presents on his birthday or that he won’t be invited over for Christmas. I mean that he is dead to them. In most cases, the Witnesses will simply pretend he’s invisible (like that episode from the Twilight Zone) and many will simply wander off if he attempts to communicate with them in any way. Either that, or they’ll get angry and blast him for it.
They call it “congregation discipline.” When they speak of it, they make it sound like it’s a punishment from Jehovah God himself. In reality, the decision to disfellowship is made during a closed-door session with three local elders. It’s how they keep their followers in line.
So how does it work and how far does it go? Technically, people living in the same household aren’t required to shun one another or expel the wrongdoer. But I know of many cases where the local elders did pressure parents to kick out their adult (18 years old+) children even if those children had no where else to go. Since good Jehovah’s Witnesses are supposed to obey their elders, this can put the parents of the disfellowshipped person in a tight spot. So while the elders can make it hard for the family, at least they do have the right to say no to the elders. That’s mostly because the Society hasn’t made expelling family members from the home mandatory, even though shunning in every other respect is mandatory.
Continue reading Shunning: How Jehovah’s Witnesses Discipline Their Own →