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Christ was persecuted, but what about Christians?
Roman persecution of Christians was depicted in paintings such as "The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer" by Jean-Leon Gerome.
March 30th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

Christ was persecuted, but what about Christians?

CNN examines the tumultuous early years of Christianity in a special narrated by Liam Neeson. Watch “After Jesus: The First Christians,” Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) She walked into the Roman arena where the wild beasts awaited her. She trembled not from fear but from joy.

Her name was Vibia Perpetua. She was just 22, a young mother singing hymns as the crowd jeered and a lion, leopard and wild cow encircled her.

One of the beasts attacked, hurling her to the ground. She covered an exposed thigh with her bloody robe to preserve her modesty and groped in the dust for her hair pin so she could fix her disheveled hair.

And when a Roman executioner approached Perpetua with a sword, her last words before collapsing were aimed at her Christian companions: “Stand fast in the faith, and love you all one another and do not let our sufferings be a stumbling block to you.”

Millions of Christians worldwide will celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on this Easter Sunday. But the story of how the church rose to prominence after Jesus’ death is being turned upside down.

According to a belief passed down through the centuries, the church grew because of Roman persecution. The blood of Christian martyrs such as Perpetua became “the seed of the church,” said third-century church leader Tertullian. It’s the Hollywood version of Christianity reflected in epic biblical films such as “Ben-Hur” and “The Robe.” Vicious Romans relentlessly targeted early Christians, so the story goes, but the faith of people like Perpetua proved so inspiring that Christianity became the official religion of Rome, and eventually the largest religion in the world.

But that script is getting a rewrite. The first Christians were never systematically persecuted by the Romans, and most martyrdom stories with the exception of a handful such as Perpetua's were exaggerated and invented, several scholars and historians say. It wasn’t just how the early Christians died that inspired so many people in the ancient world; it was how they lived.

“You had much better odds of winning the lottery than you would have becoming a martyr,” says Joyce E. Salisbury, author of “The Blood of Martyrs: Unintended Consequences of Ancient Violence.”

“The odds were pretty slim. More people read about martyrs than ever saw one.”

Do Christians have a martyr complex today?

The debate over exactly how many Christians were persecuted and martyred may seem irrelevant centuries later. A scholarly consensus has indeed emerged that Roman persecution of Christians was sporadic, and that at least some Christian martyrdom stories are theological tall tales.

But a new book by Candida Moss, a New Testament professor at the University of Notre Dame, is bringing that message to the masses.

Moss says ancient stories of church persecution have created a contemporary cult of bogus Christian martyrs. She says too many American Christians are acting like they’re members of a persecuted minority, being thrown to the lions by people who simply disagree with them.

Professor Candida Moss, author of "The Myth of Persecution," says most stories of Christian martyrs were fabricated.

She cited former Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney claimed last year that President Barack Obama was waging a “war against religion,” and Santorum said the gay community “had gone out on a jihad” against him. Other Christians invoke images of persecution when someone disagrees with them on controversial issues such as abortion or birth control, says Moss, whose "The Myth of Persecution" was recently released.

The problem with invoking persecution is it implies your opponents are evil and no common ground can be found with evil,  Moss says.

“When someone is persecuting you" she says, "there is no room for dialogue."

Others say Moss’ claim is dangerous.

People such as Perpetua did die because of their beliefs. The first Christians were tortured, reviled and held in contempt by Romans and their example helped the church grow, they say.

The Rev. Robert Morgan, author of  "On This Day in Christian History: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories about Saints, Martyrs and Heroes, " says it’s true that some of the accounts of martyrdom were “undoubtedly embellished” and that many of the persecution stories were “handed down in an atmosphere of confusion and pressure.”

Still, being a Christian in the first century was a risky move persecution was significant. Jesus and most of his apostles were executed, he says.

“To deny the history of the movement is a way of attacking the movement,” Morgan says.

Some opposition to contemporary Christians is indeed evil, Morgan says. Christians are being killed today in places such as Nigeria and North Africa.

“Christians do not have a victim’s mentality,” Morgan says. “They take their stands, they know what they believe and they do good in this world. They are the ones who have established orphanages, hospitals and charitable institutions. For some reason, there’s this animosity against them.”

Hatred of Christians is woven into much of the New Testament. Jesus constantly warned his followers to expect persecution. The Apostle Paul wrote many of his epistles from jail. And the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, is dramatically recorded in the New Testament book the Acts of  the Apostles.

The Easter message itself is a story of martyrdom Jesus, unjustly executed by the Romans. The idea that Christians are at war with demonic forces in the world is reflected throughout the New Testament, says Bryan Litfin, a theology professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

“If Jesus was just a soft moral teacher who taught us to love one another and petted little babies, the Romans wouldn’t have crucified him,”  Litfin says. “Jesus is a polarizing figure, then and today. The early Christians weren’t foisting a narrative out of the blue about being martyrs. ”

'Like the action heroes of the ancient world'

If the first Christians pictured themselves as waging war against the world, the martyrs were their version of the Navy SEALs. They were the elite Christians who inspired and united others of their faith.

There was a purpose behind spreading stories of persecution: Nothing brings a new group closer together than a common enemy, Moss says.

“The idea that you are persecuted forges a concrete identity,” Moss says. “It really solidifies your sense of group identity.”

The stories of Christian persecution were so popular that they spawned a market during the first centuries after the crucifixion. The places where martyrs were born and died became early tourist stops. Towns competed with one another to draw rich pilgrims seeking martyr memorabilia, Moss says.

“People would go and buy the equivalent of a T-shirt,” Moss says. “You’d have all these little combs with saints on them that people would buy, and lamps with saints on them. People would also buy fruit from trees that grew in the vicinity of martyrs’ graves. Of course, the prices were completely jacked up.”

Church leaders began to embellish and invent stories of martyrdom to inspire the faithful but also to settle theological feuds, Moss says. If, say, a bishop wanted to denounce a rivals’ theology, he spun a story in which a martyr denounced the same doctrine with his last breath, Moss says.

“Martyrs were like the action heroes of the ancient world,” Moss says. “It was like getting your favorite athlete endorsing your favorite brand of soda.”

But how often did Romans force Christians to endure torture or die for their faith? Christianity took roughly 300 years to conquer Rome. The emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 and gave Christians religious freedom.  Christianity became the official religion of Rome by the end of the fourth century,  scholars say.

For the first 300 years of the church, Christians were often ridiculed and viewed with contempt. But Roman leaders spent about "less than 10 years" out of the first 300 actually persecuting Christians, Moss says. There are only six reliable cases of Christian martyrdom before A.D. 250 out of “hundreds of stories,” including Perpetua’s, she says.

Many scholars have greeted Moss’ contention that Roman persecution of Christians was exaggerated with a shrug. They say it was common knowledge in the academic world.

“There weren’t that many Christians who were persecuted,” says Gail O’Day, dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity in North Carolina. “When you actually read the Roman historical records, the Christians just weren’t that important to them. Most Christians just got along with empire.”

When Roman persecution did occur, though, it was vicious. The Emperor Nero covered fully conscious Christians with wax and used them as human torches. Other Christians were skinned alive and covered with salt, while others were slowly roasted above a pit until they died.

Perpetua’s passion

One of the most famous martyrs was Perpetua.

She lived in Carthage in North Africa (modern-day Tunisia) and was arrested in March 203 with four others as they prepared for baptism. The Roman Emperor Septimius Severus had decreed that any new conversion to Christianity would result in death.

History remembers Perpetua because she kept a diary during her imprisonment. It’s called "The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity" (Felicity was a slave girl arrested with Perpetua). It’s the oldest-surviving document from a Christian woman. The emotion in the diary is almost unbearable. Perpetua describes the pain of leaving her infant son, who she was still nursing. She describes a prison visit from her weeping father, who kissed her hands while trying to get her to renounce her faith.

Perpetua's father visited her in prison, begging her to think of him and renounce her faith.

A narrator picks up the story in the diary after Perpetua was sent to her death. He says in the diary that Perpetua’s faith was so inspiring it caused the prison’s warden, a man called Pudens, to convert. The narrator also describes Perpetua's death.

While she was imprisoned, Perpetua says God gave her visions to reassure her. After one, she wrote:

“I understood that I should fight, not with beasts but against the devil. But I knew that mine was the victory.”

You can’t discount the power of such stories, even if persecution “wasn’t extremely common,” says Litfin, the Moody Bible Institute professor.

Persecution was central to the rise of the early church, he says.

“How many people in your church would have to be pulled out and executed and tormented for it not to have a tremendous effect for many years on your memory and self-perception,” Litfin says. “The early Christians are not foisting a narrative out of the blue about being matyrs.”

The early Christians' secret weapon

Other scholars say it wasn't simply persecution that helped the church grow. Instead, they say, Christians had a secret weapon.

The martyrs may have gotten all the press, but it was ordinary Christians who got it done by the way they treated friends and strangers.

Life in ancient Rome was brutal and nasty, says Rodney Stark, author of "The Triumph of Christianity." Stark’s well-regarded book gives one of the most detailed descriptions of the early church and ancient Rome.

Forget those antiseptic portraits of Roman cities you see in biblical moves such as “The Robe.” Roman cities were overcrowded, raw sewage ran in the streets, people locked their doors at night for fear of being robbed and plagues were rampant. Soap had not yet been invented, Stark says.

“The stink of the cities in the summertime must have been astounding,” Stark says. “You would have smelled a city miles before you got to it.”

Christians stood out because they created a “miniature welfare state" to help the less fortunate, Stark says. They took in infant girls routinely left for dead by their parents. They risked their lives to tend the sick when plagues hit and others fled in terror. They gave positions of leadership to women when many women had no rights, and girls as young as 12 were often married off to middle-aged men, he says.

Ordinary Romans might have thought Christians were odd but liked having them for neighbors, Stark says.

“If people had really been against them, I don’t think they would have grown like they did,” Stark says.

Christianity became so popular that when Rome did unleash one of its sporadic waves of persecutions, the empire couldn’t stop the church’s momentum, Stark says.

“If you knocked off a bishop, there were 20 guys waiting to be bishop,” Stark says

Christian belonging, not blood, is what drew many people, another scholar says.

The Easter story of a risen savior wasn’t distinctive in Rome’s competitive religious marketplace. Dying for one’s beliefs wasn’t considered heroic; it was expected in the Roman world, says Selina O' Grady, author of "And Man Created God: A History of the World at the Time of Jesus."

The early church, though, was radically inclusive. First-century Rome was undergoing globalization. The peace of Rome had made travel easier. People left homes and tribal ties for Rome. The empire was filled with rootless and excluded people: immigrants, traders, slaves.

The Christian message offered guidelines for living in this strange new world, she says.

“Its universal message, its proclamation of equality, unconditional love, offered everyone in the Roman Empire a new family, a new community, and a way to live,” O’Grady says.

Roman rulers eventually found reasons to support the church, she says.

The Christian message of obeying earthly masters “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's" reduced the potential for social unrest, O’Grady says.

“Christianity told the poor and lowly that their status was noble and that there would be recompense in the afterlife,” O’Grady says. “It was a wonderful recipe for creating good, obedient Roman subjects.”

A turning point for the early church was the conversion of Constantine. Scholars still debate Constantine’s motive. By that time the empire was rife with division, and Christians had become a major political bloc with members in the highest reaches of Roman society, says Stark, the sociologist.

“Constantine was interested so much in church affairs for the rest of his life, but I don’t think there’s a reason to not think he was a sincere Christian,” Stark says. “But he was also an egomaniac and an emperor.”

The growth of Christianity was too complex to be attributed to any one factor whether it be Constantine, persecution or Christianity's message of compassion and inclusion, Stark says.

“I don’t think there was a primary reason,” he says. “It was a collection of things. It was all part of a package.”

Wrapped in that package, though, were the persecution stories of people such as Perpetua.

Today, churches have been named after Perpetua; films and graphic novels have been made about her life. She is considered a saint.

Her words still inspire. People still read her diary. There’s probably a Christian somewhere in the world now facing danger who is taking courage from Perpetua’s ordeal.

One passage in Perpetua’s diary is particularly luminous.

Perpetua stopped keeping her diary just before she was sent into the arena. No one knows for sure what she felt when she faced her moment of death, but she did write what she expected to see afterward.

She wrote that God gave her a reassuring vision while in prison. In the vision, she saw a great bronze ladder ascending to heaven. At the foot of the ladder was a great serpent surrounded by swords and knives.

Perpetua said she ignored the serpent and climbed the ladder. When she arrived at the top, she saw a great garden and a white-haired man in shepherd’s clothing milking a sheep. He was flanked by thousands of others Christians dressed in white.

“And he raised his head and beheld me and said to me: Welcome child.”

The man gave Perpetua curds from the milk of the sheep, and she said it tasted sweet.

She then wrote:

“And I took it with joined hands and ate it up: and all that stood around said, Amen.”

Centuries later, millions of people who look to Perpetua are still saying amen.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Easter • Faith • History • Jesus

soundoff (6,965 Responses)
  1. ironman59

    It should be no suprise that anything in the bible has been exagerated beyond what little truth there was (such as persecution). It is how all religion works. Find something that educated people will support that can be used to manipulate the masses.

    The day that religion is gone from this world is the day that mankind truly moves forward.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      FORWARD!

      April 1, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • dwight

      And when humanism reigns, people will have no need to care for one another because basically we are just animals doing what we do to survive. As religion dwindles so does society moral obligations since we have no one to be obligated to but ourselves. One of the major themes about Christianity is giving and helping those around you. Christianity has already dwindled in the U.S. and supposedly we are better for it as unwed mothers put pressure on the system, people kill each other for a pair of shoes, children are corrupted as early as we can manage to corrupt them, etc. We sue people for minor infractions and this is good? Humanism is all about me, myself and I, while Christianity was about others.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • sam stone

      dwight: you sure have a distorted view of humanism. but, by all means, blather on

      April 1, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • dwight

      Sam you didn't refute the statement. Humanism might consider itself a bain to all humanity, but in reality when times get tough it becomes less you and more about me and even taking humanism out of it. What does humanism seek to do make man a God so you have replace one religion for another, that has no real moral obligation besides we are human.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • The Demon Deacon

      Bill Deacon
      Is irrelevant. Billy is an obsequious papal apologist troll. So Bill, I imagine you spent most of the weekend in your counting room totaling up the amount of cash and pledges your clip joint took in. Did you clear enough to keep the place open and did you get to skim a few dollars off of the top for your trouble?

      April 1, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  2. take

    Once again a cnn writer creates a message and they stamp it with some no name professor to make it appear valid. There is no journalism here.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Petra

      CNN's religion blog seems to be a humanist's attempt at dismantling every religion especially christianity as America's most prevalent belief system. And they are so hard at work spinning their web.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • skytag

      Looks to me like you're positing a scenario you have no reason to believe as if it is fact. Not exactly Christian behavior. Shocker.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  3. Petra

    This article is akin to saying the Holocaust was not as bad as first proclaimed and that anti-semitism is not alive and well today. Unless I missed it, where in this article does it speak of modern day persecution especially in communist and muslim nations? Many christians are imprisoned for simply sharing their faith. This professor needs to go back to the library and write about today's persecution.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • ME II

      "Christ was persecuted, but what about Christians?
      CNN examines the tumultuous early years of Christianity in a special narrated by Liam Neeson. Watch “After Jesus: <b.The First Christians,” Sunday at 8 p.m. ET."

      April 1, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Petra

      Yes, the scope of this article is limited. Thank you.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Navarch

      It was in the middle. "Some opposition to contemporary Christians is indeed evil, Morgan says. Christians are being killed today in places such as Nigeria and North Africa." Read the whole article before you comment.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Television, the new magisterium.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • The Demon Deacon

      Bill Deacon
      Is irrelevant. Billy is an obsequious papal apologist troll. The blue devils lost.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  4. tony

    The original idea of worship was sacrifice. Kill and then burn.

    Funny how that turned into give money and don't burn it.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  5. tony

    The collection bowl is the best god. Look how many go back to give more.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  6. JustSarah

    If the christian church was still as loving and inclusive as this article makes it seem to have been, I think there would be a lot more people open to religion. Especially where this article claims to have given status to women. I wish that was a more pervasive thought in all religions. I also like that early christians actually seemed to have cared about the sick and poor and offering aid to those who needed it. The religion and basic teachings seem to have been corrupted over the millenia. I hope it can be brought back.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • dwight

      Giving doesn't start with the church, but with the Christian. The church didn't open its doors, people did. When we make it the church, we aleive our own personal responsibiltiy.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:05 am |
  7. Bob

    Since Vic is dumping bible bile on us by the bucketload, most of that stuff being the standard "my way or you'll be punished" threats from his nasty god, let's take a look at some of the other fine instructions purportedly from the vicious Christian sky fairy in his horrid Christian instruction manual AKA the bible, from both OT and NT:

    Numbers 31:17-18
    17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
    18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

    Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

    Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

    Leviticus 25
    44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
    45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
    46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

    Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

    Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

    And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

    So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
    Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

    April 1, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • dwight

      Why won't God heal amputees.com what? You sound like you are mad at God for some reason. I'm sorry, but God was never about healing body parts, but healing the soul. Jesus did heal, but only to show His power, but his message was still dedicated to the inner man. You are disgruntled at the world and have nothing good to say. The OT times were tough and God's law matched the times, but the NT was about salvatio n and helping others despite not getting anything in return and for some reason this ins't a good message. The core of the NT is about love. I guess it is foolish for a mother to protect her child or a police man to get in the way of bullet, but this is what you do for your fellow person and shows the greatest kind of love.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • The Brown Note

      The bible specifically states that whatever you want, all you have to do is ask. So, about those amputees that keep asking for their limbs back... no more excuses.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Jay

      Wow, someone needs a hug and a friend. Anyone who writes that much against something surely has alternative motives. Why can't everyone just get along. You don't believe and others believe. Sometimes the atheists try harder to convince others than the religious. First, you can't take everythiing written in the bible as literal. Second, why won't you cure amputees?

      April 1, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • ME II

      @dwight,
      Many people point to present day miracles, including supposed healing, as a reason to believe. The point of the above question is if God heals why is it that He only seems to heal ambiguous diseases that have been known to heal themselves? Why won't prayer replace a missing limb? Perhaps, because it doesn't work?

      April 1, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • ME II

      @Jay,
      Irrelevant.
      Just curious, but if you can't take the Bible literally, then why believe in God?

      April 1, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • Vic

      @Bob

      You are missing the whole point of what I posted!

      You are quoting the Old Testament Law which no longer applies to us Christians. That's what I posited in my post!

      This is what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us:

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/30/christ-was-persecuted-but-what-about-christians/comment-page-22/#comment-2254490

      April 1, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • skytag

      dwight, there is no God. When people heal it's because they healed themselves, hopefully with help from friends and family. There is no evidence that there is any God answering anyone's prayers or influencing the outcome of any event anywhere in the world. Christians have their rationalizations to explain this, but at the end of the day there simply is no evidence that there is a God answering any prayer of any kind.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      Vic, "The OT doesn't apply to christians". So you don't believe in the Genesis stories and the ten commandments?

      April 1, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Bob

      Vic, read what I posted again, but more carefully, and then you are welcome to try a different response. Some of the quotes I presented are from the NT. I'll leave it as an exercise to you to figure out which ones, since you are apparently claiming bible expertise.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  8. ray ray

    Christians are also responsable for the the murder 10s of millions in Europe the midle east and the Americas. They seem to forget or are never taught the truth. As a result people of most faiths live in a delusional world. I am all for the second amendment (gun) to make sure the religious lunitics don't touch the first amendment................

    April 1, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • dwight

      IT wasn't Christians, but rather the Catholic Church that murdered thousands of people and this was largely in response to the Muslim movement which was converting people by the sword and killing people, so it became a religious war, but this was far from what Christ taught or envisioned. People do bad things when they are motivated by greed. Largely Christian citizens during the Middle Ages lived quiet lives and didn't go around killing people.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      I think that was a minor point of the article. It's not the Christians who have been killed or the Christians who have killed. It's the Christians who have live and how they have lived who build the faith. Martyrs are exactly what they are, examples of faith under duress.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • The Demon Deacon

      Bill Deacon
      Is irrelevant. Billy is an obsequious papal apologist troll.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  9. Rainer Braendlein

    @Vic

    When does real faith exist?

    Bonhoeffer said: "Only the believing one is obedient, and only the obedient one believes."

    Real faith can exist only in a sphere of obedience.

    Hopefully, there will be no rude awakening for you at Judgement Day.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • The real Tom

      Does Jesus like it when you lie, Rainman? Because it's obvious you aren't hoping anything of the sort. You are looking forward with glee to the torture of everyone who's ever called you an ass.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Jill

      Rainer Braendlein, squelch that pomegranate. Don't obfuscate the primary prenuptials with rasberries. Often, the pertinent cat presents fabled necessities in the parking chamfer. Realize your net precedent. Triangulate! Save the best for the alligators. Ever the bastille notches the orchestra but Wendy is not green and horses will capitulate. Filter out the log from the turnstile and cry prevalently.

      So there brown stare. Feed your inner walnut and resolve. Subject your lemon to the ingenious door in the presence of snow and animals. Aisle 7 is for the monetary cheese whiz. Faced with the kitchen, you may wish to prolong the sailboat in the cliff. Otherwise, rabbits may descend on your left nostril. Think about how you can stripe the sea.

      Regale the storm to those who (6) would thump the parrot with the armband. Corner the market on vestiges of the apparent closure but seek not the evidential circumstance. Therein you can find indignant mountains of pigs and apples. Descend eloquently as you debate the ceiling of your warning fulcrum. Vacate the corncob profusely and and don’t dote on the pancreas.

      Next up, control your wood. Have at the cat with your watch on the fore. Aft! Smarties (12)! Rome wasn’t kevetched in an autumn nightie. (42) See yourself for the turntable on the escalator. Really peruse the garage spider definitely again again with brown. Now we have an apparent congestion, so be it here. Just a moment is not a pod of beef for the ink well nor can it be (4) said that Karen was there in the millpond.

      Garbage out just like the candle in the kitty so. Go, go, go until the vacuum meets the upward vacation. Sell the yellow. Then trim the bus before the ten cheese please Louise. Segregate from the koan and stew the ship vigorously.

      And remember, never pass up an opportunity to watch an elephant paint Mozart.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • skytag

      Faith is nothing more than a belief in something for which you have no evidence. I see no reason to believe there will be a Judgement Day or any rude awakenings.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      The question isn't actually whether the stories of the Bible are true or not because their is more than enough historical evidence. The question actualy is whether we have the real faith or not.

      The real faith is beyond reason, and enables us to overcome our degenerated nature which we have inherited from the fallen Adam.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • The real Tom

      Why don't you own up, Rainy? You would LOVE to see those who ridicule you and your religion roasting on a spit. That's why you bring up judgment day at every possible opportunity.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • sam stone

      Rany: Your proxy threats are laughable.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • sam stone

      Rainy: A degenerated nature? What makes you think we have this nature?

      April 1, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • skytag

      Rainer, there are many people, places and even events mentioned in the Bible that are consistent with what we know from other historical accounts of the time. But there is no evidence that biblical claims involving miracles and spiritual events are accurate.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  10. gladiatorgrl

    Gotta luv mythbusters....

    April 1, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Even today, nothing spreads Christianity like persecution. Perhaps the author is in denial.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • .

      Tarver, if you need to have a gun to your head to believe, you never had faith in the first place.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  11. LWJR

    Biblically illiterate people eat garbage writing like this. Fictional stories like the ones he quoted are abundant from 3-4th century Asia Minor, N Africa, and Rome. But Roman historians conclude that INTOLERANCE of Christianity was rampant in the empire. Why else the 'edit of Milan' by Roman emperor Constantine. CNN is probably the most intolerant anti-christian source of propaganda on the net today, followed closely by MSNBC and Huffington Post. NERO would be proud.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Colin

      Oh nonsense, the Edict of Milano was issued as Christianity tipped the scales in the empire and set about supressing paganism and Judaism.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • tony

      The bible itself is the best evidence of a non-existent god for humans.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • .

      Constantine did it for political reasons. After his "conversion", he issued coins with the sun god on it; why? Because he never fully converted. Sheesh.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • skytag

      You sound awfully angry for someone who seems to consider himself to be a Christian. So much for following the teachings of the Bible.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • Dane

      Yet they have an entire section of their website devoted to it? It's header is "Belief" and it's filled with all manner of stories about religion, many of which try to bend the truth to convince people that their deity is real.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  12. The Brown Note

    Oh yes. They're so persecuted. You'd never see them dare to come out in the daylight.... and protest a soldier's funeral or anything. So downtrodden they are.

    By the way, hey zeus more than likely never existed. So I don't understand why they continue to get enraged over such acts as Google blowing them off with a photo of Chavez. After all, it is his holiday, not the mythical savior's.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • LWJR

      One nutter does not a religion make. That's like saying all LIBS are like Vladimir Lenin, no?

      April 1, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Seyedibar

      In the case of religion, being a nutter is a requirement to join.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • The Brown Note

      Say what you want about liberals. I really don't care. They're just as stupid as republicans. The only difference is that liberals believe that education makes them intelligent. They forget about life experience and common sense.

      Your thinly veiled attempt at making an insult has failed.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • skytag

      Oh look, another person who has no idea what liberals really believe. At least they don't believe education is a bad thing.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • .

      It's rather more like all CONSERVATIVES are like Hitler, no?

      April 1, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  13. Lawrence Husby

    (sarcasm on) How appropriate for a Sunday Easter writing (sarcasm off) . You guys at CNN should pick your writers more carefully. better. Well stupidity is not against the law.
    Matthew 5:11
    "God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Colin

      She is historically accurate (aparat from the nauseating opening)

      April 1, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Ignorance and denial are the CNN/Obama agenda.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • .

      Does March 30 mean anything to you? It should. That's when the article came out. When was Easter? Oh yeah, yesterday, MARCH 31ST.
      Now quit whining.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Seyedibar

      ... and Batman punches evildoers in the face.
      Like Jesus' philosophy, it's a nice sentiment, but that doesn't change the cold hard fact that it's all fiction.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • skytag

      You don't sound like you feel blessed, and calling people stupid doesn't seem very Christian. Are you sure you even know what you believe?

      April 1, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  14. Vic

    I agree with Candida Moss on the premise that martyrdom is NOT what helped Christianity spread but its message of kindness which is what the Love of God & Salvation are all about!!!

    Christianity is FAITH (BELIEF) in Jesus Christ based and not Law based!

    SALVATION comes through FAITH ALONE in JESUS CHRIST while judgment and condemnation come from the Law which no longer applies since the DISPENSATION of GRACE!

    We are forgiven as long as we believe! The ONLY UNFORGIVABLE SIN is BLASPHEMY!

    Matthew 12:31,32
    "Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come."

    John 3:16,17
    "16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."

    Romans 8:1,2
    "8 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death."

    Romans 10:4
    "4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."

    Romans 10:9
    "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;"

    Ephesians 1:7
    "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace"

    Ephesians 2:8,9
    "8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

    Philippians 3:8,9
    "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,"

    !!! THAT'S WHY CHRISTIANITY SPREAD !!!

    [All above Scripture is from the New American Standard Bible (NASB)]
    http://www.biblegateway.com/

    April 1, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Bob

      Vic, nice pick and choose there, but actually, your Christian book of horrors AKA the bible contains some very nasty demands from your fictional sky fairy too. Have a look at these horrors from both NT and OT. Quite a message of unkindness, in fact murderous, vicious revenge, in this set:

      Numbers 31:17-18
      17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
      18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

      Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

      Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

      Leviticus 25
      44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
      45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
      46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

      Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

      Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

      And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

      So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
      Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      April 1, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Vic

      @Bob

      You are missing the whole point of what I posted!

      You are quoting the Old Testament Law which no longer applies to us Christians. That's what I posited in my post!

      This is what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us:

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/30/christ-was-persecuted-but-what-about-christians/comment-page-22/#comment-2254490

      April 1, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Bob

      Vic, read what I posted again, but more carefully, and then you are welcome to try a different response. Some of the quotes I presented are from the NT. I'll leave it as an exercise to you to figure out which ones, since you are apparently claiming bible expertise.

      And seriously, what part of "from both OT and NT" did you not understand?

      April 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  15. Porque de tal manera amó Dios al mundo

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5q-FP9DL5A&w=640&h=390]
    Juan 3:16

    April 1, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  16. Avoice

    Yes and Ahmadinejad said that the Jews were not persecuted during WW2. Of course he is not a learned professor, only a president...

    April 1, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      What the President of Iran claims is that Israel belongs in Europe, as it was Europe who took away the Jews' humanity and executed them. Moslems should not have to give up their land over what France and Spain and Germany and Stalin did.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  17. palintwit

    Well. Harry Reems is dead. Sarah Palin is not and the new pope hasn't quit yet. What's a tea party patriot to do?

    April 1, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • obamaphone

      Drink Everclear out of a mason jar and boink your cousin.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  18. ann

    Persecution is not just about being put to death. It's the fear of being put to death or at least being discriminated against that makes people feel they need to hide who they are and what they believe. Even today a lot of people will say, "you can be a christian, but keep it to yourself". Which is basically telling someone that they cannot truly practice their faith. A Christian is supposed to tell others about Christ. Also do not forget that Early Christian's often felt the need to conceal their correspondence by writing in code so as not to be detected. Why would they do so if Christian was openly tolerated? So I think it is fair to say that persecution was not just tall tales and Martyrdom is not the only way to experience persecution.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • sam stone

      ann: if you want to tell people about christ, have at it. but, if you do so and those to whom you are witnessing tell you to fvck off, do not claim persecution. after all, everyone has a right to their opinion

      April 1, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • ann

      Persecution is not about someone telling me they don't want to hear the message. But telling someone they can never ever say a word is a different matter.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • midwest rail

      Please cite where ANY Christian in America has been denied the right to speak.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • .

      Did you read the story at all? The article did NOT say that there were no martyrs at all, just that there were not as many as you would like...
      And to even TRY an equate Christianity in America as the kind of persecutions early Christians experienced makes you look quite childish and hysterical. Telling you to keep it to yourself is NOT the same as being thrown to the lions. Get over yourself.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • myweightinwords

      The truth is likely somewhere between no persecution and the level of persecution most believe existed. Stories told by word of mouth have a tendency to grow with each telling, tiny embellishments added along the way until the stories are much more than the truth. This is just human nature.

      It is my firm belief that anyone who truly lives what they believe will have no need to tell others about their faith, because their faith will speak for them.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Steve

      Just do a search on Conscientious Objector and Alcatraz...

      April 1, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • skytag

      Christians do not fear persecution in this country. Some Christians simply choose not to rub their religion in other people's faces, and some are not secure enough in their beliefs to feel comfortable being challenged about them, so they keep their beliefs to themselves.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:05 am |
  19. Justice

    it's unbelievable how rude cnn is for having an article like this on Easter Sunday. The author has a baseless story, and it really doesn't matter, because by her saying such thing is a persecution by it self. So she is proving her self wrong by writing the article. Let me give an example of christian persecution, and this one happened less than 3 years ago. It happened in a church in Baghdad, called the Sayedat al najat, meaning Our lady of redemption. About 50 worshipers were attacked and murdered during mass, just because they were Christians. So my well rounded author, is that not persecution enough for you?

    April 1, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • SixDegrees

      You really ought to try reading the article before criticizing it. You're ranting about things that don't even appear, which makes you look like a loon.

      Of course, perhaps that's simply true.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • cw

      Did you even read the article? Or did you just assume this was another "biased" CNN piece?

      April 1, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • skytag

      An article is persecution? What a whiner.

      April 1, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  20. Rainer Braendlein

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-XAjkKQup8&w=640&h=390]

    April 1, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • The real Tom

      Rainman, what do you think videos of Handel's Messiah show?

      April 1, 2013 at 11:02 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.