The Myth of the Myth of Persecution

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My less than enthusiastic review of The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom appears in the latest edition of Themelios. Here’s an excerpt:

Candida Moss’s The Myth of Persecution brings to mind John Lennon’s song Imagine: “Nothing to kill or die for / And no religion too / Imagine all the people living life in peace.” In her book, Moss imagines a world without Christian martyrdom, and she imagines that this new world might be free of right-wing politics as well. Moss believes that she can bring about a more peaceful political discourse in America by imagining that Christianity’s martyrdom phenomenon never happened. Christianity’s history of persecution makes it impossible for Christians to cooperate with their political enemies, so she attempts to erase the persecution of Christians from history. Once Christians have learned that they never really suffered, then they will be ready to live peaceably with the political left.

In order for Moss’s agenda to have any hope of success, she has to construct a straw man. Throughout the book she derides “the Sunday-school story” in which the church has been ceaselessly persecuted for the last two thousand years. Anyone even passingly familiar with Christian history knows that the church did not suffer continuous persecution since the crucifixion of Christ, yet Moss pretends that persecution without ceasing is the metanarrative of the American church. I expected to meet a straw man in the pages of this book, but I did not expect him to be so flimsily constructed. As it turns out, however, Moss must construct him so flimsily because her evidence is embarrassingly weak.

You can read the rest here.

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