February 06, 2015

Ugly History

So, yeah, I've had enough.

There's this little video clip that's gone all viral on the interwebs.  It's a portion of a speech made by our illustrious leader a few days ago.  In this clip he dares to mention atrocities that were committed hundreds of years ago...*gasp* by Christians.  The statement he made has caused a huge stir, inciting remarks about history itself and why he'd bring up such a thing.
 (DISCLAIMER:  I am not a fan of, nor do I support our current governmental regime in any of it's capacity!!)


Now.  The comments that have been filtering around social media have all been to the extent of "why is he bringing up something so old", or "the Christians didn't persecute the Muslims, they defended themselves".  (these are not exact quotes, if you want to read them, head over to Walton & Johnson on Facebook)
Reiterating my disclaimer one more time, so there is no misunderstanding:  I didn't vote for this cat...ever.  I don't agree with the vast majority of his policies, neither do I support or believe in the majority of what our precious Congress is doing.  I am however, a raging ancient history nerd.  I am also a caller of bullshit.  I've listened to this clip,  heard him talk about Islam and those who misuse their faith, I heard him make reference to religion as a whole, I also heard the comment about the ugly side of Christianity.  What I heard in the multiple times I listened to this speech...was that all religions have done something heinous at one time or another, including but not limited to present day.  What I did not hear, was him attack or single out any one particular religion.

My mother raised me Roman Catholic, she was one of my many catechism teachers over the course of my religious education.  I was best friends with members of a devout Southern Baptist church, I spent many a Sunday and Wednesday evening there.  At some point in my youth I began to question, as all young people with an eager mind do.  I began to raise my hand in catechism and Wednesday night fellowship.  I began to read and study.  Then one day this wonderful thing happened...I hit 10th grade and world history.  My history teacher was amazing.  He didn't hold back the truth from us when it came to history.  He taught us things the books left out, called in local speakers to tell us what the wars in Vietnam and Korea were like.  He took our class to see Schindler's List  when it came out.  We weren't the same after those 3 hours.  He also taught us about all the religious wars.  Since then I've only studied more and strengthened my knowledge of how religion developed over the course of the world.  Last semester when I took my first Humanities course....I had to stop talking in class.  I was told to wait and give the younger ones a chance to grasp the concept before I handed the answers out.

The general consensus on the web is that the Prez is picking on the Christian population, and they couldn't have possibly committed terrible acts.  It seems to me people only heard the one line, not everything else around that line.  I like to have all the information.  If I'm going to rage at someone, I want to make sure I got my facts right before I get pissy.  With that said, lets get down to brass tacks, backed up by verifiable facts.  The notes I'm pulling from right now are from the History Channel online, but much of this information has been handed to me via encyclopaedia and college text book.

The Byzantine Empire.  The beginning of the Christian religion.  Up until around 330 A.D., folks were basically religiously diverse, many of them practicing a form of polytheism and/or goddess worship.  The views and teachings of "the Nazarene" (as they called him) didn't become welcome or popular until close to this time period.  Prior to this, followers of his faith were often chastised, harmed, or killed because they didn't follow the emperors chosen religion.  It was Emperor Constantine I who recognized this faith as a valid religion and named it Rome's official.  By this point in time, Rome had spread far and wide, conquering, taking, renaming, and claiming every piece of weaker land from the edges of Italy all the way to Greece and beyond.  He ultimately split the regions and named Byzantium Constantinople and established the Byzantine Empire.  Even after the new religion was accepted, the old ways of life didn't stop.  Instead of persecuting Christian criminals in the Coliseum, it was any pagan criminal.  Once people were picked up for various crimes, including practicing a faith not recognized by the government, they were used as entertainment-often being thrown out onto the Coliseum floor to only be mauled by wild tigers.

The Byzantine Empire spread and ruled much of the Mediterranean, extending up into Africa.  Emperor Justinian continued to conquer lands as he waged his ongoing wars.  He had the Hagia Sofia (Church of Holy Wisdom) built, along with many many other relics that are still standing today.  His goal was to overtake as much land across the globe as humanly possible.  Around 622 A.D., Islam was born.  As Justinian's army moved into the Middle Eastern areas, Muslims gathered to fight back and hold ground in the countries where their religion had taken hold.  After a few years of back and forth, the Crusades began.  Pope Urban II declared a holy war  around 1095, and sent hundreds of people to reclaim the land the Romans had lost to the Muslims a couple hundred years earlier.  It was not only the Muslims the Christian armies were fighting against, the Ottoman Turks were heavily involved in the warfare as well.

As the Byzantine Empire fell due to debt and war, a separation of land and rule began to take shape.  Three hundred years, and 7 crusades later, the land remained in a state of turmoil.  Toward the end the Christian Crusaders' goal was to regain Muslim controlled territories and convert pagan territories in order to maintain what little hold they had.  As ugly as war is today, with our precise weaponry and rules of war, theirs were far far uglier.  There were no rules and troops were not paid, they often ran out of provisions when marching.  There were no 3-ton and 5-ton vehicles to carry troops in, they marched for miles and miles with heavy armor and weapons and only leather on the bottoms of their feet.  They raided homes, took advantage of men, women, and children.  The spoils they were able to obtain were their payment.  Christianity has just as ugly a history as any other major religion or group of people on the Earth.

His words may have hit too close to home for some folks.  Personally, of all the things I've heard him say, this one was on point.  Horrible things have been committed by people of every religious background.  The Mayans, the Celts, the Romans, and the Egyptians all used human and animal sacrifice.  The Jews have one of the strongest armies in the world.  Hitler tried to wipe them off the face of the planet simply because they existed.  The Spanish Inquisition was aimed at anyone who did not follow the Christian church's rule: i.e. Jews, Muslims, pagans, and all those named as witches.  It's estimated between 3000 & 5000 were put to death over the course of 140 years.

Yes, as awful and mean as it sounds, humans have done bad things in the name of religion.  Take it for what you will.  History doesn't change, neither does it lie. Get upset, get angry, do whatever you need to do to process the fact that the world is waking up.  Wars are going to be fought over religion, that's just the way it is.  As long as one group believes themselves to be the "one true"...then we doom ourselves and our children to lifetimes of war and dissension.  I believe the radicals on both sides of the fence need to calm their little nerves and get over themselves.  God manifests to people in different ways and it should be no ones business.  Learn to do right because it's the right thing to do, not because of some reward/punishment aspect.  With the level of technology today, there is no excuse for someone to be willfully ignorant to something like this.  If you follow a faith...you might want to find out what it stands for before you cling so mercilessly to it.

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