“Of the spirited roars of lost warrior’s songs,
Distant echoes are all that remain.”
I make no secret that I am a Christian. Shockingly, that means I run into a lot of other people who also profess to be a Christan. As the world continues to burn, I take comfort in knowing that the end of America, or even the end of this world and my life in it, is not the end of me, and again, I find myself surrounded by people who profess the same thing. The bad thing though, is most of the time they accompany that sentiment by saying something like “I’m so glad God is in control, so I don’t have to care about it.” Every time I hear that, I want to lose my mind, because it reminds me of how far we have fallen. Christians used to be the foremost warriors of the earth, and I am not only referring to the crusades. (Interestingly, when I start to talk about this, both Christians and non-Christians have made comments about how “unlike Christianity” the earlier church seems to be; for instance, many people seem to be under the persuasion that the early church was pacifistic, or non-violent, at least.) One of the saddest things that I have seen regarding current events is how readily many modern Christians seem to be willing to simply “sit back and pray,” doing nothing else about the current dilemma. It is sad because Christians have not always been this way – the “sit back and let God sort it out” mentality is a relatively modern convention. How did we come to this?
I have spent a lot of time tracing the differences between modern and historical Christianity, partially because the progression is darn interesting but also because I would see Christians pick up the torch that we left on the ground, and carry it forward once again. Christianity has a long and proud heritage, one that I would see reclaimed, if possible. One step in that process, perhaps the first step, is for us to remember what we once were. I have talked about this before at MVT, and Max referenced some of what I said last night on another thread, so it seems now is a good time to start a thread (and hopefully a discussion) about this here. Before I do that, a couple points. First, I do not suggest that modern (evangelical) Christianity is evil, only incomplete. As such, please do not take any of these criticisms as “religious” per se – I am not calling anyone’s salvation or relationship with God into question, only showing an inconsistency between what many Christians say they believe and how they act. Many people have been misled into believing faith means inaction, as if God expects them to simply sit back and watch, and my intent is to show that mindset for the deception that it is. Second, later in this post I will elaborate what defines evangelical Christianity compared to its historical form, so if you consider yourself an evangelical, do not write this off yet – you might agree far more than you realize. Lastly, this post is a historical and not biblical analysis – I can do a biblical analysis later, but since many here do not hold scripture authoritative, I will attempt to confine this thread mostly to the historical analysis, and probably do a biblical analysis later.
While people will make the assertion that the early church was pacifistic, such is absolutely not the case. Some of the earliest converts to the church were Roman soldiers, who continued their occupation after their conversion. Although it is true that, in the years following the death of Jesus by Roman crucifixion, many Christians were executed without resistance, this was not a statement about violence as such – to over-simplify it, the early church believed that the only people they could allow to be abused was themselves. Following that line of reasoning, while they would allow themselves to be taken prisoner as an act of service toward God and the people taking them prisoner, they did not avoid action on behalf of others. Within the first two centuries, Christians became known for their fierce dedication to helping others at personal expense, even as they were persecuted by Caesar after Caesar. Their dedication to action on behalf of others was so striking that even several of the pagan Caesars were impressed, not the least of which was Marcus Aurelius who, though he persecuted and butchered Christians in the earlier days of his reign, is said to have relented and extended his protection to them after they saved him and his army. (He never converted, but he did have an engraving of the event carved into the Piazza Collona.)
As the centuries progressed, Christians began to play a more decisive role in international warfare. Following the military expansion of the Islamic horde, it was the Church who was chiefly responsible for driving back the Islamic invasion in the battle of Tours. (the “Battle that saved Western civilization.”) It was later a volunteer army of the Church that drove back the Muslim invasion of Byzantium, during the first Crusade. Afterwards, Christian volunteers formed into military orders, of which the Templars and the Hospitallers (neither of which were crusader forces, for the record) were the most prominent, and who were regarded by their enemies as the finest warriors on the battlefield, a reputation that endured for over two hundred years, and who were responsible for driving the invading Muslim armies out of Europe. Christians continued to be known by their martial prowess for hundreds of years following, and though they did not always win, they never failed to put up a respectable fight.
Christianity’s marital heritage continued well into the settlement of the American colonies. During this time, under the militia system, the churches in the colonies taught that defense of the community was the duty of every man, and in many areas, men were required by law and by doctrine to be trained and armed. “Conscientious objection” was not allowed, as they considered it self-evident that it is the duty of all to be ready to defend the weak. In some areas, notably Puritan New England, law required that all male churchgoers be armed and trained. Again, conscientious objection was not permitted; all men were to be armed and trained, whether they wanted to be or not. This belief and practice is partially why the colonies, comprised primarily by Christians, were able to endure where so many other attempts had failed, and is also partially responsible for the successes in the War for independence; by some accounts, on the day of “the shot heard ‘round the world,” the colonists were able to raise over fifteen thousand militiamen in under twenty-four hours, and that before America even declared her independence. From shortly after the death of Jesus to the War for Independence, Christians could be counted on to be at the front of pretty much any necessary fight.
So what happened?
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