The founders of Christianity knew how they would win
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Jesus (Luke 6:27-31)
The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandments there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Paul (Romans 13:9)
Generally, there are two means to use against an enemy — violence and politics — and two strategies — take-over and take-down. To put it in a 2×2 matrix
Many movements try to use several methods so that the enemy has to protect himself on many fronts. For instance, American conservatives are trying to both neutralize the courts (by limiting the Judiciary’s powers of even allowing Congress to overturn Court rulings) and co-opt them (by making more conservative judges). Similarly, in Iraq, the terrorists are trying to destroy the Iraq government (violently take it down) and conquer Iraqi lands (by moving forces into cities like Fallujah, creating mini Islamic Republics that keep existing infrastructure).
Christ and Paul ruled out the destruction, conquest, or neutralization of the Roman Empire.
No Destruction: The State’s military must be supported
If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles
Jesus (Matthew 5:41)
No Conquest: The State must not face rebellion
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Paul (Romans 13:1-2)
No Neutralization: The State’s finances must be supported
Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him.
Jesus (Mark 12:13-17)
By ruling out destruction, conquest, or neutralization, The Apostle and The Christ forced the faithful to co-opt the Empire. And indeed by AD 313 the Roman Empire had submitted itself to the Christian Faith. But how did this work?
In 4th Generation War, sometimes called “netwar,” the object is not to destroy your enemy’s ability to resist — it is to destroy his will to resist. This is why some famous 4GW tactics — terrorism, exagerating civilian casualties, hit-and-run-attacks — are the tactics of the weak. Because a lot of enemy will can be destroyed by using little strength.
Jesus and Paul understood that the Roman Empire was a hyperpower. It was undefeatable in any meaningful sense. Even areas “liberated” of the Roman military (like Germania) quickly fell into the Roman economic and cultural orbit. Further, as Jesus lived a day’s walk from a town that had been butchered in reprisal by Roman troops, and Paul had been a secret policeman for a State Church, both respected the Roman security system.
To understand why love was an appropriate tool to co-opt the Empire, think back to friction networks.
Friction exists when two entities oppose each other. This can be a block moving along a table. Or two enemies who hate each other.
To co-opt the Empire Jesus and Paul decided to limit friction — to become slippery.
(If the friction nets were complete slippery on each other, they would “embrace” by sharing all attributes — they would be “in bed” with each other)
As long as Christianity could avoid becoming existing, supporting the state was a methodical route to Christian victory. The Empire. To see how this worked, imagine the Roman power structure as a table.
The State rested on many groups, the People, the Senators, the Armies, the Merchants, etc, who gave their power to the state. In this way they supported Rome like legs support a table. (The same, of course, is true of any government.)
However, they demanded that the state protect their interests. So while the state ammased power from these special interests, it had to turn around and spend it on them too!
This situation is stable. But the Christians knew things would change — they only had to wait
“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
Jesus (Matthew 24:4-8)
Sure enough, the Romans soon faced new barbarian enemies — further drains on its power
You can think of this like an even heavier load being placed on the Roman Table
The Romans had to look for a cheap new power source. The power source had to be already running (because the barbarians were at the gates now), resiliant (because the barbarians are violent and effective), and inexpensive (it had to support the state even if the state couldn’t export security to it). Christianty was for Roman political power what cold fusion would be to modern-day electric power. Sure Romans now found themselves ‘encouraged’ to convert, but that was a lot cheapter than gold for a new army, an army for a new market, or a new market to enrich the merchants, or more merchants to tax to enrich the Senators.
By loving their enemy, by intermeshing their friction nets, the Christians had only to wait for a Crisis and see the Empire spread their belief over the Realm. This is why Rome became Christian when Rome became weak. Christianity treated Rome as it wanted to be treated — as an object of veneration and protection.
And so the last become first, the poor become rich, the weak became strong, and Christianity co-opted the Empire.
In the modern world, the United States is the only hyper power. Is there a “new Christianity” out there, giving us a co-option attack like the Christians gave Rome?
Early Christianity was, and continued to be, a netfaith, until finally deformed under the heat of the Islamic Invasions. But that is a post for another time….
Jesusism-Paulism, a series in six parts
1. Love Your Enemy As You Would Have Him Love You
2. Caiaphas and Diocletian Did Know Better
3. Every Man a Panzer, Every Woman a Soldat
4. The Fall of Rome
5. The People of the Book
6. Embrace and Extend
11 thoughts on “Jesusism-Paulism, Part I: Love Your Enemy As You Would Have Him Love You”
One thing that you seem to be leaving out of your argument is that Christianity's strong prohibitions against suicide, euthanasia, infanticide, and abortion led to large differences in reproduction. If you're not killing your kids because they're inconvenient but raising them to be good christians instead, each generation will shift the pagan/christian population balance in favor of the christians.
i think your reading of these passages of readings of christ as a mere instigation of long term war with the goal of ending the roman empire is selling the teachings short. christ's ethics like those of the stoics and aristottle before him have in mind the way to live the happiest and most harmonious possible in spite of the state. in short, to wage a short-term war against state oppression. uon which the long term war only follows as a necessary consequence.
Not a Believer
The bible is according to Matthew, Mark, Luke……
and its not according to Jesus and even then The concept of 'According' to me means the possibility that the individual wrote the script, and not possible to verify if actually WRITTEN by such and such….
All religions or should I say religion followers wish to endorse their brand on the rest of us.
fortunately in Europe and in Britain we do not suffer from The Christian Right from interfering in the major aspects of governance.
In the USA the Christian coalition has excessive powers in the corridors of power, which is very dangerous, especially if you consider that the USA attacks other countries for mixing state and religion, but it does this hypocritically at home.
What do you mean by “Christian coalition has excessive powers in the corridors of power.â€ Is there a cabal of Christians that meet together and discuss what to do? Or do they just wait for higher instructions from their pope, pastor, etc? Everyone with reason smirks when they read bigots write “Jews have excessive powers and control the government”
In Europe you do not have a strong Christian group. But there are many examples of a strong atheistic government surprising religion (like France banning Muslim dress, Jewish Skullcap, and the Christian crucifix). Atheism is a faith unto its own.
Finally the USA does not attack “other countries for mixing state and religion.” The USA attacked al Qaeda and the Taliban not for their religious beliefs but because of their nasty habit of attacking the USA. If you have an example of this, please state it.
There is a significant chronological problem here, namely that the 'barbarian' pressure on the Roman Empire really only became significant after the nominal conversion to Christianity. You could plausibly accept Roman prejudice and co-opt Persia to the barbarian role, but for all the problems the need to maintain armies on the Persian front caused in the third century, it too was largely stable by the early fourth.
The real problem even within this analysis, however, lies in the assumption that Christianity offered the only possible religious support to the Roman Empire, when it was only one religion operating amongst many. You yourself note that conversion was imposed by the state upon the majority of the population, and acceptance of the tenets of faith was tenuous even then, as the polemics of fifth and sixth century writers make clear. Christians adopting the same strategy on the other side of the Roman-Persian border, for example, found themselves driven to the brink of extinction when that Empire adopted an entirely different state religion.
Apparently between 164 and 180 there was a great deal of famine and pestilence (plague) roaming the Roman empire. Depopulation was a reality and the state weakened drastically. In China the same problems came and entirely swept away the Han Dynasty.
If nothing else, this was probably a contributory element to the weakening of the Empire.
I do not accept that anti-abortion christian thought only developed post Constantine. See here for ample quotations from early christian writings. The subject of quickening and the eventual settling on conception for the start of pregnancy did come later, it's true but quickening is set at various dates from conception and is generally known as the date when the woman first notices fetal movement (sometime between week 14-22).
“Is there a “new Christianity” out there, giving us a co-option attack like the Christians gave Rome?” After my comments in part V, I have a few notions. None of them would have as large an impact on society as the Christians did on Rome. Collectively, though, they would bring great change to society.
DISCLAIMER: Not coincidentally, merely suggesting these would likely start a server-melting flame war on most other blogs and chat boards:P I fully realize I'm about to generalize like crazy, but you kind of have to on a topic like this. I also realize that some of these are incomplete and potentially contradictory with each other; I'm still thinking these through.
HOMOSEXUALS. Think about it. They probably come closest in our society to having the same status Roman Christians had. Until recently, they were kicked out of the military upon discovery, even if they had excellent service records; we're running short of people to serve in the military and they ARE well educated. At a time when divorce rates are sky high, they're campaigning for the right to get married. When having kids for most couples is a question of fertility and/or money, and kids are going unadopted, they face hostility when they try to adopt. At a time when many of us are shirking responsibility, they're asking to take on more of it.
IMMIGRANTS. In general, this is nothing new. In the Civil War, Irish immigrants were recruited by the north. They fought bravely, suffered large casualty rates, and started crawling off of the bottom rung of society. Ditto many groups in WWII: women, blacks, american indians, and particularly asians. When a major crisis hits, people get desperate enough to think past their prejudices and give a chance to otherwise marginalized groups to gain their labor and support. Sometimes, the results are transitory, sometimes they are enduring.
So which immigrant groups are likely to be most important?
MEXICANS: Many of them (especially the illegal immigrants) are regarded as hired help at best, invaders at worst. Yet there's enough of them to make politicians salivate at the notion of getting their vote, and someone with the courage and discipline to sneak across the border and live as an illegal in this country would probably do well in the military.
MUSLIMS: Immigrants from Muslim countries are too often regarded as potential terrorists. Yet they're also better educated than the norm and are more likely to have the language and cultural knowledge needed by Sysadmin in the countries we're up to our necks in. And the mere act of convincing the Muslim-American communities would require some changes in how we do things overseas, convincing people that gap-shrinking isn't a code word for Crusade.
Contemporary Christian views on suicide, abortion, etc, seem to be post-Roman. In the Late Empire, Saint Augutine divided what we would call infanticide (post-quickening abortion) from what we might call post-conception birth control (pre-quickening abortion).
To the extend that inherent “Judeo-Christian” values averted these acts, it should have let the Christians population grow in line with the Jewish population (assuming higher Jewish culturally-destructive exogamy rates equallyed higher Christian culturally-destructive martyrdom rates), which was never more than a tenth of the Empire .
To the extent that Christianity improved families and led to higher population growth, it probably acted in the same way as the contemporary Pre-Modern/4G hybrid Christianity that we see today.
In any case, I am skeptical that population growth rates could be significant in a small amount of time. To what extent was Roman population growth limited by Malthusian agriculture and Ricardo's Iron Law of Wages? While much earlier Exodus recounts an exploding Jewish population as a percentage of the Egyptian population, this (a) was never high enough for Jews to take-over Egypt and (b) caused by explicitly favorable Egyptian rules for Jews.
I still feel chronology is a problem here if you wish to maintain that the principal additional pressure upon the Roman state was external, and particularly if you wish to argue that it was 'barbarian'. Rome suffered a series of problems in the first and second centuries, but none were caused by significant exogenous pressure, and the frontiers of the Empire remained stable for all the power struggles at the centre. The third century (200-300 CE) was another matter, as catastrophic defeats at the hands of the Persians led to a restructruing of the state, and a need to move revenue away from local towns towards the centre, all of which caused opposition and a rapid turnover of emperors. Whilst these reforms were not complete by the time Constantine struggled to introduce his own formalised state religion, the Empire had weathered the storm, and it is difficult to argue from a structural point of view that external pressure at that point was so significant that it demanded a new religious organisational system to butress the state. This doesn't affect your point that Christianity was in many ways positioned to benefit from a perceived need at the centre to create a more formal state religion, but the analysis needs adjusting somewhat to avoid the suggestion that such pressure was principally external and barbaric.
The real probelm, however, is the hindsight involved in the statement that “Jesus and Paul merely created a movement that would profit during times of similar pressure”. One option available to pre-industrial elites who wished to strengthen the ideology of the centre was to adapt or co-opt reliogious practice, and to create a more formalised state religion than that offered by the divergent, local and fluid systems often lumped together as 'paganism'. Christianity, however, remained only one of many systems which could fulfill that role. Diocletian, for instance, clearly developed imperial religious ideology in ways which made him more than one divine figure among many. His attempts to enforce this departure from traditional practice did great damage to Christian communities in their heartlands of the eastern Mediterranean where, for all that some accepted martyrdom many, including bishops, did not. The nature of that urban, eastern Mediterreanean world meant that by the time of Diocletian's persecutions Christianity, in both what we would now call 'true' and 'heretical' varieties, had also made significant converts in the Western towns of Persia. There, however, the fourth century saw the imperial centre adopt a different state religion based around fire worship, and enforce it with just as much vigour as Constantine enforced Christianity. The result was the virtual destruction of Christian communities which had in 300 CE seemed every bit as strong as those in Alexandria. Overall, I would therefore argue, there is nothing about Christianity which dictated in would benefit at times when the state sought a more formal religious basis: in some cases (Constantine) it did, and at others (Persia, Diocletian, Julian) it did not.
My basic problem is, therefore, that I feel your argument works by reading history backwards, by assuming that what happened was bound to happen, and that it can therefore be explained in terms of the nature of early Christianity. Of course, in doing so you are writing a Christian history entirely consistent with both Providence and the outlook of many third and fourth-century Christian writers, and creating a new Christian history suited to some of the problems you feel Christians face. But here you seem to be doing something altogether more dangerous, claiming that secular historical investigation can offer a proof of the effectiveness of the suggestions you offer. This is, I fear, to stretch a point further than your evidence allows.