Chidester Response (Constantine’s Christian Empire)

At the beginning of the 4th century, the Christian population was a “serious threat to the political and religious order of the Roman Empire”. This reminds me of the views of the Jewish minority in Germany in the mid-1900s. Although they were small in numbers, both the Christians of the 4th century and Jews of the 20th century were seen as a problem and they were the scapegoat for basically any troubles that arose in the society.

I think that it is interesting that Constantine created a Christian empire based upon a vision. If I had seen a vision, personally, I would not have been so quick to make a decision that would affect society as a whole. To me, the reading makes this appear to have been, as Karina mentioned about Saul/Paul, a “siddhartha moment”; it seems like Constantine made an impulsive decision that affected a vast number of people. If he hadn’t declared this as the religion of his empire, would Christianity be as big as it is today? If you were Constantine, would you have eliminated all non-Christian practices in order to try to control all aspects of life? Or would you have allowed religious diversity? Do you think that it was a successful tactic or do you think it was more detrimental than beneficial?

In my opinion, I don’t think that you can ever successfully unify a large group of people by forcing your beliefs upon them. I think that Constantine tried to eliminate people from thinking for themselves. I think that he made things more complicated by trying to make everyone hold the exact same beliefs because some people believed differently about the Son and the Father and others were perfectly happy with their pagan beliefs and rituals.  This reading makes me appreciate the religious freedom we have in America today because many of us take it for granted. If I was forced into Christianity, I don’t think I would be as passionate as I am today as an insider who made the decision to be Christian on my own. Being able to have the freedom to choose what religion to follow is a great liberty and I think it helps societies thrive to have different points of views.


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