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Christian Gifts

View Nelson Schneider's Profile

By Nelson Schneider - 12/24/22 at 04:17 PM CT

A while back, during one of the MJ Crew’s regular online gaming get-togethers, erstwhile MeltedJoystick photog and videographer, Matt, seemingly at random interjected the talking point that “Christianity invented charity.” While it came out of nowhere, it wasn’t at random, as I had previously been disparaging Christianity’s contributions to Western Civilization, and had described it “not as the Full Flower of Western Civilization, but as disease that Western Civilization merely survived, and which could relapse at any time.” Matt’s assertion about the origins of charity lead to a spirited philosophical debate between he and I (the other two MJ Crew members don’t do philosophy) over email that lasted for several months.

Since then, I’ve been cataloging a list of things that Christianity actually did invent, coming up with 7 (that most holy of numbers). And what better time to share the results of my navel-gazing than during the biggest holiday on the Christian calendar? Let’s hope Jesus and the Pope kept their receipts, because these are all terrible gifts that Western Civilization should return to sender.

7. Cultural Appropriation
While the Greeks and Romans both went through various iterations of multi-culturalism, none of these really reeked of the type of Cultural Appropriation that is considered a mortal sin in today’s court of public opinion. The Greeks had their Orientalizing phases, where they expressed great appreciation for culture and art coming from Egypt and the Near East and adapted it for their own use, but this was less like “Cultural Appropriation” and more like “Pokemania,” that time during the 1990s when Western Civilization just couldn’t get enough of certain Intellectual Properties that originated in Japan.

The Greeks and Romans also had a multi-cultural situation during their respective imperialist phases where each new culture they encountered and/or conquered would have its gods and rituals added to the existing, recognized pantheon of deities. Gods that were similar enough to each other, or were quite obviously the same character with a different regional name, were mashed-together via a process called “syncretism.” Essentially, it was a way of showing how similar people from different cultures were, instead of focusing on the differences, much like the “Melting Pot” of old-school American immigration.

Christian Cultural Appropriation, on the other hand, is the mirror image of what the Greeks and Romans did.

During the time of Christian dominance and evangelism across Europe, Northern Africa, and the Near East, missionaries would appropriate local religious customs and holidays and assign some Christian significance to them – even when the original holiday or tradition was completely different from anything within Christian doctrine – to aid in proselytizing, with the ultimate goal of removing the original intent of the holiday/tradition and replacing it solely with the Christian interpretation. This actually started at home with Roman holidays, with Emperor Constantine unilaterally declaring the new-fangled Christmas Season to be at exactly the same time as the old Saturnalia mid-Winter festival. What a coincidence! But as missionaries started to fly further and further afield, other pagan holidays from other pagan cultures – specifically from Northern Europe – got stirred into the mix so vigorously that today, when one thinks of “Christmas,” the mental imagery invoked is 99% pulled from pagan Winter Solstice traditions.

Aggressively syncretizing Solstice holidays into the Death-and-Resurrection Myth at the core of Christianity isn’t the worst of it, though. Christianity is, in its entirety, a total conversion appropriation of Judaism. While the itinerate Jewish preacher known as Jesus of Nazareth and his followers were of the Hebrew persuasion, they quickly found that their message didn’t really catch on with their own people, resulting in the founder’s execution for sedition. However, the apostles kept preaching after the fact and, while nearly everything in the written New Testament is thinly-veiled political allegory illustrating the acrimony between Judea and Rome, it turned out that the Roman underclass was much more receptive to the oral Christian message than the Jews were. One thing lead to another, and, after around 300 years, the entire canon of Western Mythology was abruptly thrown out, only to be replaced with the Hebrew Torah – a.k.a., the Old Testament – as the now-in-power Roman Christians appropriated the identity of “God’s Chosen People.”

6. Communism
The founder of Christianity wasn’t really big on material possessions, and preached that divesting oneself of such things was a step on the path of salvation. On one hand, when taken in the context of the Roman underclass, this message seems to be some hard-core Copium to make peasants, serfs, and slaves feel better about their abject poverty, misery, and lack of agency to change anything. On the other hand, when taken in the context of Christianity as the Official State Religion, this seems to be a way for the ‘Haves’ to convince the ‘Have Nots’ that they’re really much better off, and that their lives of misery will be rewarded, conveniently, after they die.

In early, pre-establishment Christianity, the entire movement took on the optics of a Burial Society, in which members – all underclass – would get together, pool their meager resources, and provide rituals and burials for those who would otherwise end as corpses rotting away in the streets and chewed by stray dogs. These actions were an attempt to provide some minimal form of equity for everyone, with the cost shared by the whole faith community.

Post-establishment, after centuries of the faithful doing some truly bizarre things to demonstrate their piety, monastic orders were established to regulate this kind of ascetic behavior. Each monastic order had its own bureaucratic, hierarchical “Rule,” with all of them espousing the ideals of communal living, communal work, shared resources, no personal possessions, and a complete stifling of individual identity in favor of a communal one. Even while monasteries grew wealthy through relic tourism and the sale of some of my favorite alcoholic beverages of all time – St. Germaine and Chartreuse – the individual monks were supposed to remain poor… which didn’t always work out, because in Christian Communism, just like in Marxist, Leninist, and Maoist Communism, wealth and power lead to corruption.

5. Martyrdom
You could, in good faith, argue that Leonidas and the 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae invented martyrdom hundreds of years before even the earliest days of Christianity. But you’d be wrong.

Dying in battle was, indeed, drilled into every Spartan boy, with the axiom, “Come back with your shield or on it” exhorting these warriors to fight to the death, never flee, and take post-mortem pride in the fact that they did everything they could. However, Spartans didn’t explicitly want to die in battle – they wanted to win – and if King Leonidas had come back with his shield rather than on it – and with a chain gang of captured Persians to sacrifice, enslave, or ransom – he would have been an even greater heroic figure than he is.

Martyrdom is very different. While most of the time we think of Muslim martyrs these days, blowing themselves up to take out their ideological enemies, Christian martyrs could be attributed with the invention of the “peaceful protest,” only taking it all the way to the point of suicide, typically by refusal to comply with the authorities, who, at the time, weren’t bound by any silliness like “human rights.” Sadly, neither of these martyrdom ideologies are truly as selfless as they want to appear. While the Spartans (and later the Vikings) believed that death in combat would be rewarded in the afterlife, they were also fighting for a tangible reward in the real world, be that secure borders or loot. Martyrs, however, also believe they will be rewarded in the afterlife, skipping to the head of the line during Judgment Day and receiving a Get Out of Hades Free card, while their suicide missions provide no benefits to anyone in the here-and-now… unless you want to consider inspiration for copy-cats a ‘benefit.’

4. Hate Speech (Blasphemy)
These days, we’ve got censorship coming at us at all times, Left and Right. While today most of the censorship revolves around so-called “Hate Speech,” in the past it typically revolved around “Blasphemy”… which is just Hate Speech against the priesthood’s imaginary friends.

It should be noted that Greece, Rome, and other pre-Christian cultures within Western Civilization all practiced some form of censorship. However, it is very difficult to judge the degree to which this affected the ordinary, everyday citizen, since all of the records and literature passed down to us from the past revolve around the activities of the ruling class, and they still paint a fairly rosy picture of free and open debate in the public square. Yes, Socrates, a prominent orator and half-assed stonemason was famously sentenced to commit suicide by poisoning for saying radical, novel, and potentially-subversive things… but we still have the records of the things Socrates said and did. On the other hand, when the Christians went about censoring Hate Speech against their ideology, their cabal of priests, their founder, their deity, or their martyrs, that shit got shut down and deleted.

Eradicating blasphemy is a thread that runs through the entirety of Christian history, ranging from the destruction of any texts critical of the movement, to the persecution of the Arians for their anti-Trinitarian interpretation of scripture, to the Crusade launched against the Cathars, to the still-ongoing conflicts between different religious groups – even dragging increasingly-secular governments into the mess.

Catholicism isn’t alone in its hatred of blasphemy – which Thomas Aquinas said was worse than murder – as the Fundamentalist Protestant denominations we collectively refer to as retarded Evangelicals have taken a great liking to the idea… at least until the brand new Church of Woke started leveling Hate Speech charges against them. Then there’s the middle-eastern knock-off of Christianity known as Islam, that still, to this day, levels completely unbalanced punishments against cases of blasphemy, including public decapitation, while its members gleefully spew Hate Speech of their own against everyone and everything that doesn’t conform to their backward religious rules.

3. Cancel Culture (Excommunication)
In the pre-Christian days of Greek democratic and Roman republican politics, powerful elected leaders would commonly be “ostracized” – that is, “sent to the fringes of civilization, based on votes taken on pot shards (‘ostraka’)” – once their terms in office were up in order to prevent them from exerting further influence upon local politics. Ostracism wasn’t permanent, with a default duration of a decade, and the ability to recall ostracized people in the event their expertise was suddenly needed. Moreover, ostracized politicians who returned home never faced a loss of status, property, or social standing. It was more like a tactical time-out or cooling-off period than what followed.

Catholic Christians took the idea of “getting rid of people we don’t like” to an entirely new level with excommunication, which could be used to bar people not only from receiving Church sacraments, but from participating in society in any way. The excommunicated weren’t deported to the fringes of the known world, but continued to live among their oppressors, receiving the cold shoulder from former peers and colleagues, while forbidden from participating in any aspect of social, religious, political, or economic life. Excommunication’s political usefulness can’t be understated, as, in the era of unelected leaders officially approved and anointed by the Church, threatening to excommunicate a King or nobleman was a great way to force him to support a political position he otherwise would not have backed.

Does that sound familiar at all? Like, say, a modern person saying the “wrong” thing on social media and suddenly losing their job, becoming unemployable, and heaped with abuse by those in power and the mob? Politicians resigning in disgrace? Actors getting kicked off of their own TV shows? No? Maybe it’s just me.


2. Orwellian Doublethink
In George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “1984,” we are presented with some very bizarre ideas by the fictional totalitarian State that serves as the story’s main antagonistic force.

“War is Peace.”
“Freedom is Slavery.”
“Ignorance is Strength.”

Yet not a single one of those statements would look out of place in Christianity’s laundry list of self-contradictory affirmations of faith.

“Poverty is Wealth.”
“Meekness is Strength.”
“Death is Life.”

Holy crap, that last one! Of course, the worst part of Christianity’s bizarre mental gymnastics is the fact that Western Civilization was actually-in-the-real-world subjugated by these beliefs for the better part of a millennium before the Critical Thinking skills taught by the Scholastic movement, ironically to build better priests, backfired and kicked off the Enlightenment. At least Orwell’s totalitarian state is fiction… at least for now.

1. Though Crimes/Thought Policing (Orthodoxy)
The one overarching thing that touches upon every part of the Christian tradition is Orthodoxy – that is, ensuring that you have the correct beliefs about every aspect of religious life. While the Greeks and Romans would occasionally persecute someone for being ‘outside-the-box,’ as it were, they were far more interested in whether a person was willing to publicly go-along with cultural traditions – called orthopraxy – than the specifics of what said person thought about those public displays of patriotism and faith. The Jews struggled with this, but ultimately Judea and Rome came to a mutual agreement wherein the Jews would be exempt from the overtly religious parts of Roman public life, so long as they expressed patriotism and said prayers for the emperor in their own way. When the Christians first splintered off from Judaism, it was during a time of great political upheaval, and not only were there numerous different Jewish splinter groups – each lead by its own so-called ‘messiah’ – ying for influence, there were also a lot of different ideas contained in the young Christian sect. As time went on, each individual group of Christians – typically congealed around the leadership of a female deacon – would come to express their understanding of the oral gospels in their own ways.

Somehow – the primary sources for this are thin, as expected (see item 4 on this list) – Early Christianity transitioned into Pauline Christianity, and the illiterate, underclass, (mostly) female leadership was replaced by literate, upper-class, self-appointed, exclusively-male bishops: You might recognize names like St. Basil or St. John Chrysostom. Oh, boy, did these guys NOT like independent thinking! Their writings and sermons directly encouraged the members of their congregations to spy on each other to ensure that no one was participating in any heathen rituals or – even worse – in possession of any heretical books! Ever since then, the history of Christianity has been one episode after another of hunting down wrong-think, policing the minds of the faithful, and wringing confessions out of people who committed no actual crime. There’s nothing quite so insidious as the Sacrament of Penance, through which Christians were expected to spy on themselves and confess the very minutia of their thoughts and actions to the clergy. That sure seems a lot worse than having back doors built into iPhones.

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Matt

Wrote on12/26/22 at 03:12 PM CT

Your thesis of Christianity inventing the seven items seems suspect. Actually Chrisitanity, I would claim, did not "invent" many of the concepts on the list.

Cultural Appropriation. I agree that Christian "Cultural Appropriation" is the same type of syncretism that the Ancient Greeks and Romans practiced, and I would argue that this is a very human thing to do. To be human is, in fact, to borrow and syncretize cultures. For example, you don't have Mahayana Buddhism without the Greek/Roman/Christian/human style of "Cultural Appropriation" (this is a poor umbrellla term with too much modern baggage). As Buddhism spread along the silk roads it borrowed, adopted and adapted cosmologies to become the largest branch of Buddhism. It's very different than the Buddhism of North India that orginated with Siddhartha Gautama. And it's a religion older than Chrisitianity. Another example would be found in some scholars arguing that the Hebrews adopted and adapted monotheism from Ancient Egypt. And Islam clearly "Culturally Appropriated" elements of Christianity and Judaism. Humans have always borrowed and shared culture, just as they borrow and share techonolgy. No matter how far you go back, humans export and import culture.

Communism. Christian communal life is quite different than the communisum of Marx and Engels, though in practice they share some elements. Christianity has an end in the metaphysical whereas Marx's end is purely connected to material reality, devoid of any metaphyiscal realities. Monastic communities and the early Christians worked to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth through practicing the teachings of Jesus. At its core it's very different from a class strugle to elimate all class.

Martyrdom. Christian martyrdom developed in the context Judaism. The first account that I can think of comes for 2 Maccabees with the story of a mother and her seven sons rejecting Helenization, hundreds of years prior to the Christian martyrs. But I can also think of persecution of Buddhists in Tang China, Sassanid Empire, Hindu Kingdoms, etc. Were those Buddhists not martyrs?

Blasphemy. Christian martyrs were always accused of blasphemy in some sense. Initially they were blashpemous because they did not sacrifice to the cult of the Emperor in Rome. In Japan, the Tokugawa Shogunate under Hideyoshi and Ieyasu fiercly persecuted Christians for their heresey and heterodox thinking. Humans label anything thought that is contrary to the status quo as blasphemous. I wonder if it is a defense mechanism for maintaining in-group and out-groups.

Cancel Culture (Excommunication). Humans are communal creatures and acting or speaking in a way contrary to the community has, historically, led to similar outcomes. What is so weird about the current cancel culture is that it has emerged from a classically liberal political climate. It's current iteration is more closely linked to the Enlightement than that of Christianity in any way. Following the chain of causes makes that evident.

Orwellian Doublethink. Those are the teachings of Jesus. The problem with the label as doublespeak is that the totalarian government of 1984 with all its power erases language in order to control thinking, whereas the Christian maxims come from a lowly homeless man executed by the Romans. Those are quite different power dynamics.

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