Prep Post #9: Chidester p91-104

There are a lot of things in this section that I found interesting, but I think what caught my attention the most was both the dramatic power shift between paganism and Christianity, and the how Constantine’s reign helped mold a significant portion of Christianity.

The power shift interests me, I think, because both of how fast it was and because of the reasons it may have been brought about. The fact that Christianity went from being a persecuted minority to becoming the “official” religion in the span of only a century really does make me wonder exactly why it happened so fast. And what were Constantine’s motives, if they were not purely religious? The fact that Constantine supposedly saw his vision of the cross with the words “conquer with this” underneath it and that he clearly saw the Christian God as a god of war makes me wonder if he was using the adoption of Christianity as a way to signify the power he held and as a way to use religion to fuel a political desire for unity in the state.  But why not use the pagan religion to do that? Why use a religion that was largely hated by the populace?  I’m not doubting that Constantine himself had some legitimate faith in the Christian God, but I personally think that the “conquer by this” wasn’t just limited to that one battle, but was applied to assuring that the Roman Empire was under his complete control.

The relationship between religion and politics will probably always exist, no matter how separate people try to make them. The relationship, I think, is complex in that it is not limited to “religion influencing politics”, but vice versa as well. It’s even more complicated then that, but just for the sake of this discussion, I think Christianity is one of the best examples.  Just as it was influenced in its early days by different cultures and customs, Christianity was undoubtedly molded by its adoption as the official Roman religion. First of all was the attempts of “unification” of the church, or idea of being ‘catholic’. The proclamation of the importance of belief over practice is probably one of the most significant. Most likely, Constantine’s desire to reinforce his power went into his call for Christians to be united through their common belief, but it nonetheless shaped the beginning of the religion.  Christianity, however continued to be almost always at conflict, something brought about by factors like difference in region, practice, and of course the aftereffects of the persecution.

The council of Nicaea is probably one of the most interesting events that occurred during Constantine’s reign. It was crucial in that it not only affirmed the unity of God, and therefore attempted at unifying the church, but it also showed that Constantine’s desire for uniformity went beyond religious and went into the political sphere as well. The fact that only Catholic Christians would have been accepted and tolerated speaks, at least to me, a lot about Constantine’s motives. By being strict with the laws of Christianity he was, yet again, exercising a display of power and control. 

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One Response to Prep Post #9: Chidester p91-104

  1. cmijangos says:

    I never thought of the power shift happening so quickly. That was a really interesting point that you brought up. I think it definitely helps that Constantine established the Edict of Milan and that he made significant contributions that helped expand Christianity. But definitely, drastic changes like this don’t usually happen so quickly, so I have to agree with you that Constantine might have had an ulterior motive in combining politics with religion. With this comes the idea you brought up, that government won’t ever really be completely separated from religion. Abortion and homosexuality are topics that some are set against because of religious beliefs, and so they are pushing for these issues to not pass. The battle between religion and politics will be one that will continue for a long time.

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