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Apr 20 2013

Yesterday in Christian Privilege

Okay, not yesterday but a lot of yesterdays ago. Austin Cline notes that in 392 BCE, Valentinian I (sic — it was actually Valentinian II; his father had died in 375), Arcadius, and Theodosius I (there were multiple rival emperors and “protectors” at the time) declared it illegal to hold circuses on Sunday so as not to distract from Christian church services:

“Contests in the circuses are prohibited on the festal Days of the Sun (Sundays), except on the birthdays of Our Clemency, so there will be no crowds which can divert men from the worship and mysteries of the Christian faith”

As Cline points out, this “benefits Christians over non-Christians in a couple of ways,” most notably by privileging Christian services over any other religion (the circuses could, of course, compete with Jewish worship on Sunday) and by eliminating one of the main things that people might do other than go to church. This is hardly the only example of Christian influence over the Roman empire during and after the 4th century. Those same emperors, in fact, had only two years earlier declared a law that had men who “act[ed] the part of a woman” burned at the stake. And Justinian in the 6th century ordered gay men to be forcibly converted to straight men through “extreme punishments” like castration because homosexuality, he said, caused “famines, earthquakes, and pestilences.”

21 comments

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  1. 1
    anubisprime

    @ OP

    And Justinian in the 6th century ordered gay men to be forcibly converted to straight men through “extreme punishments” like castration because homosexuality, he said, caused “famines, earthquakes, and pestilences.”

    I often wondered where the present day uber jeebus droolers got their hysterical information from…

    Seems mystery solved!

  2. 2
    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Ed,
    You mean 392 CE. There weren’t any Christians in 392 BCE.

  3. 3
    Jordan Genso

    @2

    I was thinking the same thing, since it also wouldn’t make sense for Ed to point out that the father died in 375 BCE (which would be later in time than 392 BCE).

  4. 4
    Jasper of Maine

    mysteries of the Christian faith

    I see the good ‘ole Christian “mystery-philia” goes back over 1600 years.

  5. 5
    Jasper of Maine

    I’d point out that I enjoy a good mystery too… but the point is typically to solve them – like getting a 500 -piece jigsaw puzzle. I don’t just sit there at a pile of disconnected pieces and marvel at them. I try to solve it.

  6. 6
    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Also:

    (the circuses could, of course, compete with Jewish worship on Sunday)

    Think you mean “Saturday” here.

  7. 7
    slc1

    (the circuses could, of course, compete with Jewish worship on Sunday)

    Er, Jewish worship services are held on Friday nights after sundown and Saturday.

  8. 8
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    @Jasper

    In this context “mysteries” mean “rituals participated in by those who have been initiated into a specific religious cult”. Christianity was a mystery cult like Mithraism or the Eleusinian Mysteries.

  9. 9
    tommykey

    Reminds me of a couple of posts I did on my blog several years ago about parents not able to take their kids to church because the kids spprts games comflicted.

  10. 10
    Modusoperandi

    Mysteries?
    Scooby Doo gang tears off mask…
    “Mean old Mister Yahweh!”

  11. 11
    howardhershey

    Castration turns gay men straight? How does that work?

  12. 12
    Mobius

    @Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Ed,
    You mean 392 CE. There weren’t any Christians in 392 BCE.

    Yeah, that kinda jumped out at me, too. But…typos…they happen.

  13. 13
    busterggi

    And some people actually think Christianity has evolved.

  14. 14
    D. C. Sessions

    Now we know how the current crop of fundigelicals got their role models, and their fear of the consequences if we don’t crack down on all of that immorality stuff. It’s the only way to last for thousands of years, the way the Roman Empire did after adopting the Christian program in the late fourth century.

    Or do I have the timeline off a bit? (And why did PZ and I name sons “Alaric?”)

  15. 15
    johnryder

    Huh, so the people who say that the Roman empire fell because of lax policies towards homosexuality are just completely full of shit? Who would’ve guessed?

  16. 16
    karmacat

    As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same

  17. 17
    fifthdentist

    But I thought exposed boobies caused earthquakes? Or is that only in Muslim countries?

  18. 18
    fifthdentist

    They probably claimed that Rome was founded as a Christian nation, too.

  19. 19
    organon

    The model of religious freedom. One has to wonder what part the FF played in this in 392 CE (olden times). Because timelines are just too complicated. The ideas they try to ascribe to such names as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, etc. And then there are the liberals who wrote the Fedarilist Papers and other books and documents in the 1960′s to try to trick citizens into believing falsehoods about the Real ™ Founders. But along came David Barton to go back to original documents to expose real history.

  20. 20
    helenaconstantine

    Aside from Ed’s other mistakes, he seems to think circus refers to clowns and trapeze artists, but in the Codex Theodosianus and Roman sources generally, the circus is a place, not a kind of performance. Specifically it means the race track where they held chariot races a la Ben Hur. That is why it says contests. See on this Cameron’s Circus Factions.

    And Ed might also want to mention that Thedosius was the first emperor to make sacrifice to the traditional gods a capital crime–a bit more extreme than the responsum he cites.

  21. 21
    blf

    I rather thought the BCE thing was leading up to some xian nutter making the claim…

    Is this a case of a typo being confused (however briefly) for an instance of Poe’s Law?

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