How Christianity gave us the United States and made the World a Better Place

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 31st, 2013

History 101

The Pope kept European Rulers from Oppressing their People lest they get Excommunicated from the Church

In 39 AD the Romans crucified Jesus of Nazareth.  Because they said he called himself the King of the Jews.  Or rather those with political power who felt threatened by Jesus’ popularity said this.  His death was to protect power and privilege of those who had it.  Ultimately, though, His death would do more to destroy power and privilege.  For the Golden Rule allowed people to live together in peace.  To build communities.  And to help one another.

Emperor Diocletian split up the vast Roman Empire into four parts.  The tetrarchy.  The rulership by four.  Each of the four parts had its own emperor.  When Diocletian stepped down from power those emperors began vying for power.  By 312 two emperors were in open war with each other.  Constantine.  And Maxentius.  On October 28, 312, they met in battle near the Milvian Bridge over the Tiber.  On the eve of battle Constantine had a vision.  The Christian God would help him win the upcoming battle if he placed the Christian symbol on his soldiers’ shields (accounts differ it was either the Chi-Rho sign or the Latin cross).  He did.  He won.  And became Constantine the Great.  Sole ruler of the Roman Empire.  And because of his victory in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge he began his conversion to Christianity.  Making the Roman Empire Christian.

Christianity spread throughout and united Europe.  And the Pope kept European rulers from oppressing their people.  Lest they get excommunicated from the Church.  In time, though, some resented rule from Rome.  In particular when Pope Leo X sold indulgences (a way to help purify one from sin) to fund the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  This was one of many problems that had many calling for a reform of the Church.  One in particular, Martin Luther, published his The Ninety-Five Theses in 1517.  Kicking off the Protestant Reformation.

Plymouth Colony succeeded when Communal Property became Private Property

Henry VIII, King of England, was a good Catholic.  But his wife wasn’t giving him any sons.  And he wanted a male heir.  So he asked the Pope for an annulment from his wife.  Catherine.  So he could marry Anne Boleyn.  The Pope refused.  So Henry left the Catholic Church.  And initiated the English Reformation.  Making England Protestant.  England would swing back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism without being either but something in between.  Making a group of Protestants very unhappy.  As they felt the English Reformation did not go far enough.  A group referred to derisively as Puritans.  They were so hated that they were being persecuted along with the Catholics.  So they left England.  Landing in the Netherlands first.  Then they sailed across the Atlantic.  They sighted land on November 9, 1620.  They eventually came ashore and established Plymouth Colony.

About half of Plymouth Colony died within the first few years.  From disease.  And hunger.  The economic system they were using was killing them.  Communal property.  Everything the colonists produced belonged to everyone.  People produced according to their ability and took from the common store according to their needs.  A sort of Marxism.  Before there was even a Karl Marx.  To save the colony Governor William Bradford abandoned the idea of communal property in 1623.  Communal property became private property.  And the colony was saved.  As people worked twice as hard to produce more on their land than they did on communal land.  And because they did they replaced famines with bumper crops.  So instead of dying off the American colonies became the prosperous New World.

The Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) came to the New World.  By the time it ended Catholic France lost its North American possessions to Protestant Great Britain.  To pay off the enormous debt of that war Parliament decided to tax their British American colonists.  Who made out very well in the conflict without the costs the British incurred.  But they did this without discussing it with the colonists.  Treating them as second-class citizens in the British Empire.  Who had no representation in Parliament.  Which led to anger over taxation without representation.  Leading to the Boston Tea Party (December 16, 1773).  Which led to the Intolerable Acts and the Quebec Act (1774-1775).  Which led to the shot heard ’round the world.  The Battles of Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775).  Which ultimately led to July 2, 1776.  When the Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence.  After a few revisions it was formally passed 2 days later.  On July 4, 1776.  Known forever after as Independence Day in the United States.

In the United States your Last Name does not Determine the Quality of your Life

The American Revolutionary War did not start out well.  As the British pushed them back with little effort.  Until Benedict Arnold (future traitor) did some superb soldiering.  Impeding the advance of General Burgoyne.  The Americans met him in battle for the last time on October 7, 1777.  On the second day of fighting in the Battle of Saratoga.  And won.  Forcing an army in the mightiest empire in the world to surrender.  Shocking the world.  And getting the French to take notice.  Who then entered the American War of Independence.  The turning point of the war.  And world history.  For France was anxious to get back what they had lost to the British.  As was Spain.  Who joined the conflict as France’s ally.  Turning the American War of Independence into a world war.  And a war of attrition.  As their new foes forced them to send British forces all around the globe.  Leaving fewer to fight in North America.  With a British public growing weary of the war in North America.

America won.  Eventually.  Taking 8 years until the Treaty of Paris officially ended the conflict (September 3, 1783).  And peace and prosperity followed.  Thanks in large part to Jay’s Treaty (ratified by the Senate in November 1794).  Which improved relations between Great Britain and the new United States of America.  And began a Special Relationship between two nations of a common people, culture, religion and tradition.  When the treaty expired there was a minor hiccup in that Special Relationship that resulted in war.  The War of 1812 (1812-1815).  But peace and prosperity soon resumed.  With the South having a larger say in the national direction thanks to the Three-Fifths Compromise in the United States Constitution (1787).  Giving the South greater representation in the House of Representatives as they counted 3/5 of each slave to determine their number of representatives.  As the North industrialized and immigration filled their factories and swelled her population the South was losing that larger say.  One thing led to another that eventually resulted in the American Civil War (1861-1865).

The agrarian South had more in common with feudal England than they did with the industrial North.  Rich landowners (the planter elite) comprised an aristocracy that controlled politics.  While peasants/slaves worked the land.  The South was holding onto the Old World.  Where there was power and privilege.  While the North was building the New World.  Though the South talked about states’ rights they used the power of the federal government wherever they could.  Such as the Fugitive Slave Act (1850).  When war broke out the South won most battles.  Until General Grant started his great advance down the Mississippi River.  With the Vicksburg Campaign (May 18 – July 4, 1863) culminating in the capture of Vicksburg.  And control of the Mississippi River.  Severing the Confederacy into two.  Pretty much guaranteeing a Union victory.  It was just a matter of time.  In the east the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863) also ended in a Union victory.  President Lincoln went to the Gettysburg battlefield for the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery there.  Where he gave his Gettysburg’s Address (November 19, 1863).  Which ended with “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  And so far it hasn’t.  Remaining that shining city upon a hill.  The destination of people everywhere yearning liberty.  And a better life.  Where all men are created equal.  And your last name does not determine the quality of your life.

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Catholics, Protestants and the Gunpowder Plot

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 5th, 2013

History 101

The East-West Schism of 1054 gave us the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church

Constantine the Great won the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (312 AD) thanks to divine intervention.  Or so the story goes.  The Christian God communicated to Constantine and his soldiers in a vision on the eve of battle.  If they put the first two letters of Christ’s name in Greek on their shields they would be victorious in battle.  So they did.  And they were.  Thus beginning Constantine’s transformation from paganism to Christianity.

Christianity was illegal in the Roman Empire.  And persecuting Christians was a national pastime.  But Constantine changed all that.  By first decreeing religious tolerance with the Edict of Milan (313).  And following that up with the First Council of Nicaea (325).  Where Christian bishops met to resolve some of their differences.  And try for the first time to reach a consensus for the Christian church.

In time Christianity would spread throughout the empire.  Through northern Europe.  And all the way to Britannia (Roman Britain).  But things were a little different going east.  Where the eastern Christians did not see things the same way the western Christians did.  Leading to the East-West Schism (1054).  Giving us the Roman Catholic Church in the west.  And the Eastern Orthodox Church in, of course, the east.

King Henry VIII was no fan of Martin Luther and he defended the Catholic Faith

The schism between east and west would prove to be a costly one.  The Fourth Crusade (1202-1204) went to free the Holy Land from Islam.  The European Crusaders were from the Latin Catholic Church.  Who never made it to the Holy Land.  But they did sack Constantinople.  Where the Latin Crusaders slaughtered Orthodox Christians.  Weakening the Eastern Roman Empire.  Opening the door for Ottoman conquest (1453).  And making the way clear for Islam to spread into Europe.  So instead of freeing the Holy Land from Islam they brought Islam into Christian Europe.  But that wouldn’t be the last Christian-on-Christian fighting.

In 1517 Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses attacking the Roman Catholic Church.  In particular its selling of indulgences to buy your way into heaven.  A funding scheme by Pope Leo X to pay for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  Thus kicking off the Protestant Reformation.  A schism in Western Christianity.  Splitting up Christianity in Europe between the Catholics and Protestants.  Leading to centuries of warfare.  Especially between Catholic Spain & France and Protestant England & Germany.

In England King Henry VIII was no fan of Martin Luther.  And he defended the Catholic faith.  But he had a problem with the Pope.  For he wanted a divorce from his queen.  Katherine of Aragon.  So he would be free to marry Ann Boleyn.  Well, the Pope said ‘no’.  So Henry said goodbye to the Roman Catholic Church.  And set up the Church of England.  With Henry himself as the head of the church.  Soon England was full of Catholics and Protestants.  And they fought each other to maintain the true faith.  Bitterly.  And cruelly.  The Church of England would swing between Catholicism and Protestantism through these turbulent times.  From Henry VIII to Edward VI to Queen Mary to Elizabeth to James I.

James continued Elizabeth’s Persecution of Catholics which led to the Gunpowder Plot

James I was King James VI of Scotland.  On the death of Elizabeth he moved south and took the English throne.  Becoming James I of England.  Scotland was Presbyterian (which fell in the Protestant camp).  The Presbyterians did not like the Church of England for they felt it was virtually Catholic.  Something the Catholics would disagree with.  The Puritans (basically Protestants) also criticized the Church of England for being too Catholic.  Which annoyed Elizabeth.  So she persecuted both Puritans and Catholics.  James was raised a Presbyterian but he hated Presbyterians.  And Puritans.  Who he thought were nothing more than Presbyterians who spoke more eloquently.

So the Puritans were a thorn in James’ side.  This animosity between the Puritans and James would lead to the Puritans leaving England and eventually landing in the New World.  James hated Puritans so much that he preferred Catholics over them.  However, Elizabeth had taken England into a very anti-Catholic direction.  And he did not want to appear to be soft when it came to Catholics.  So he made life unpleasant for them.  Even banished Catholic priests.  Sick of this persecution of Catholics someone did something about it.

Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The gunpowder treason and plot
I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

Robert Catesby planned the Gunpowder Plot.  To rid England of anti-Catholic rule.  The plan was to blow up Parliament by filling a cellar beneath the House of Lords with barrels of gunpowder.  But someone tipped off Lord Monteagle.  Authorities arrived in the cellar to find Guy Fawkes surrounded by barrels of gunpowder, a fuse in one hand and a match in the other.  Leading to a new holiday in Britain.  Guy Fawkes Day.  Where people burned effigies of the Pope.  To celebrate the Protestant victory over the ‘Catholic’ plot that tried to topple the government on the 5th of November in 1605.  And providing even more animosity between Protestants and Catholics in England.  Which would later erupt in the English Civil War (1642–1651).  But today Guy Fawkes Day is just about fireworks and celebrations.  Without the religious overtones it once had.

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Constantinople, Byzantine Empire, Ottoman Empire, the New World, Tobacco and Slavery

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 16th, 2013

History 101

With the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 Islam spread Unchecked into Christian Lands

Constantine the Great moved the capital of the Roman Empire to a place on the Bosporus.  Where the ancient city of Byzantium once sat.  Where Asia met Europe.  Where the Mediterranean Sea met the Black Sea.  And the great rivers beyond.  The Danube.  Dnieper.  And the Don.  Constantine named his new city Constantinople.  And made it a jewel.  With great Christian churches.  To celebrate his new conversion to Christianity.  Which started following the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.  Where on the eve of battle Constantine and his soldiers had a vision of the Christian God.  Promising them victory if they placed His symbol on their shields.  Which they did.  And they won.

Constantine spared no expense in his new city.  Which was easy to do because it was a very wealthy city.  For the greatest trade routes went through the Bosporus.  Which is why when the western half of the Roman Empire fell the eastern half, or the Byzantine Empire, carried on for another thousand years.  Give or take.  As it thrived on that trade pouring through it.  Especially from the Far East.  Along the Silk Road.  Which peaked during the Byzantine Empire.  Bringing the exotic goods of the Far East west.  From silk to porcelain to spices.  Which flowed unhindered to Christian Europe while the Christians still controlled the Byzantine Empire.

But all good things must come to an end.  Thanks to the Seljuk Turks.  And the rise of the Ottoman Empire.  Islam had united the Arab people.  And with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 Islam spread unchecked into Christian lands.  Up through the Balkans into southern Europe.  Lands they would contest for time and again.  Making for some bitter Christian-Muslim animosity that continues into modern times.  But more crucially at the time was the loss of control over that trade from the Far East.  Making those goods not as reasonably priced as they once were.  Which proved to be quite the problem.  As the European Christians had grown quite fond of them.  Luckily for them, they could do something about that.  Thanks to all of those wars they fought with the Muslims.  The Crusades.  Which brought back a lot of Greek books of science that were collecting dust in some of the old great Greek cities all around the Mediterranean.  Founded during the Hellenistic period.  Which came before the Roman Empire.  Thanks to a fellow by the name of Alexander the Great.  Who spread Greek learning throughout the known world after he conquered it.

Christopher Columbus sailed West to establish Far East Trade without going through Muslim-Controlled Constantinople

From those books the Europeans were able to become better sailors.  On ships that could catch the wind and navigate their way great distances.  Portugal and Spain led the way.  Prince Henry (1394-1460), the Navigator, trained navigators in Portugal.  His students pushed further and further down the African coast until Bartholomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope (1486).  Vasco de Gama would round the Cape of Good Hope and sail up the eastern coast of Africa all the way to India (1498).  Pedro Álvares Cabral was heading south to round the Cape of Good Hope in (1500).  Swung out too far west.  And ran into Brazil in South America.

Spain then financed the voyages of Christopher Columbus.  Who had read that the earth was round.  And wanted to prove it.  As well as spread Christianity.  Columbus wanted to find a way west to the Far East.  Sure it was just beyond the horizon of the Atlantic Ocean.  After a voyage longer than his near mutinous crew expected they finally landed on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas (1492).  Thinking he found an ocean passage to the Far East.  Around the Muslim controlled land route.  He would later understand that he had found the New World.  Which we would be calling Columbia.  Had his dispatches beat a Florentine passenger’s on a Portuguese ship who wrote about what he saw.  Amerigo Vespucci.  Which is why there is not a North Columbia, a Central Columbia and a South Columbia.  Instead, there is a North America, a Central America and a South America.

With Columbus’ success Spain financed others.  Vasco Núñez Balboa.  Who crossed the Isthmus of Panama and reached the Pacific Ocean (1513).  Ferdinand Magellan.  Who sailed around South America through the Straits of Magellan and into the Pacific Ocean.  Sailing on to the Far East.  And back home.  Being the first to circumnavigate the globe (1519-1522).  Hernán Cortés.  Who conquered the brutal Aztec regime in Mexico (1521).  Eventually the Spanish would bring great riches of gold and silver back to the Old World.  Meanwhile France financed Jacques Cartier in his attempt to find a Northwest Passage to the Pacific.  Who sailed up the St. Lawrence River to Montreal (1534).  Then Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec (1608).  Where they established a lucrative fur trade with the native Indians.

Cultivating Tobacco took Large Tracts of Farmland which required more Laborers that they had in the Colonies

Queen Elizabeth of England financed Walter Raleigh.  Who explored the coast of North America (1584).  Looking for a place to settle a colony.  On a subsequent voyage he brought 100 settlers with him.  And settled a colony at Roanoke, North Carolina (1585).  Which became the Lost Colony of Roanoke (1591).  The Virginia Company of London, a joint-stock company, would have better luck.  They raised financing by selling stock shares to investors who would share in any profits of the colony.  Christopher Newport led a voyage that established the first permanent English settlement in the New World.  At Jamestown (1607).

Though the Americas were not the Far East it was a vast landmass with inexhaustible resources.  And endless tracts of fertile soil.  The possibilities were endless.  The marriage of John Rolfe to Pocahontas (1614) provided an uneasy peace between the settlers and their Indian neighbors.  Then Rolfe figured out how to cure tobacco (1612).  Something the English began smoking after Columbus observed the Cubans sticking burning rolls of tobacco in a nostril.  The English refined smoking with a pipe.  And they really enjoyed it.  Importing vast quantities from the Spanish colonies in America.  Thanks to Rolfe, though, the English could produce their own tobacco.  Once they worked out a few problems.

Cultivating tobacco took large tracts of farmland.  But to put large tracts of farmland into production you needed laborers.  And in 1612 Virginia there just weren’t a lot of colonists living there yet.  The demand for labor far outstripped the supply.  So they tried to satisfy that demand with indentured servants.  Preferably from Europe.  Even criminals from English jails.  As well as from Africa.  Who worked in bondage during their indentures.  Then went free.  Until around the 1660s.  When things changed.  Starting in the southern colonies.  Where slavery became hereditary.  For Africans, at least.  Like it was in the Old World.  Where peasants and serfs were bonded to the land.  Once a slave.  Always a slave.  And if your parent was a slave so were you.  Like it was in ancient Athens.  At the end of the Western Roman Empire.  And in the Muslim world.

Muslim didn’t only enslave Christians.  They also established slave markets with African slave traders.  Who opened their markets to the Portuguese, the Spanish, the French and the English.  To help them meet that soaring demand for labor during the early days of the New World colonies.  When there were so few colonists.  Who found their way to the New World in the first place because of the Muslim conquest of Constantinople.  Which sent the Europeans to the seas to find a western way to the Far East.  And when they did they discovered the New World.  Creating the largest market ever for African slaves.  And the greatest convulsions in the New World as they struggled to end slavery in the Americas.

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The Line of Diocletian, the Byzantine Empire, Italian City-States, Banking, Usury and the Protestant Reformation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 3rd, 2012

History 101

Europe began to Awake from its Slumber of the Dark Ages in about 1300 Italy

Once upon a time the only lending was to help someone in need.  Such as someone with a poor harvest to survive the winter.  We did it out of the goodness of our hearts to help others in need.  So to charge interest for a loan like this would have been cruel.  Taking advantage of someone’s misfortune wasn’t the Christian thing to do.  Or the Jewish.  Or the Muslim.  That’s why no one then charged interest for loaning money.  You just didn’t kick a person when he or she was down.  And if you did you could expect some swift justice from the religious authorities.  As well as the state.

Rome was once the center of the civilized world.  All roads led to Rome, after all.  Then Diocletian split the Empire into two in 285.  Along the Line of Diocletian.  Into East (Greek) and West (Latin). The West included Rome and fell around 486, ushering in the European Dark Ages.  Meanwhile the Eastern half, the Byzantine Empire, carried on.  And skipped the Dark Ages.  Its capital was Constantinople (named in 330) .  Formerly Byzantium.  Modern day Istanbul.  Where all Asian overland trade routes led to.  This city of Emperor Constantine.  His city.  Who reunited East and West.  And adopted Christianity as the Empire’s new religion (381).  Located at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, trade flourished and made the Byzantine Empire rich.  And long lasting.  Until weakened by the Venetian-financed Fourth Crusade (1202–1204).  (The Latin Christians’ attack on the Greek Christians was fallout from the Great Schism of 1054 where Christianity split between Latin Catholic and Greek Orthodox).  And then falling to the Ottomans in 1453.

Europe began to awake from its slumber in about 1300 Italy.  Great city-states arose.  Genoa.  Pisa.  And Venice.  Like those early Greek city-states.  Great ports of international trade.  Rising into trade empires with the decline of the Byzantine Empire.  Where these Italian merchants bought and sold all of those Asian goods.  Putting great commercial fleets to sea to bring those Asian goods into Genoa, Pisa and Venice.  Getting rich.  But to make money they had to have money.  Because in the international trade game you had to first buy what you sold.  Which included the cost of those great merchant fleets.  And how did they pay for all of this?  They borrowed money from a new institution called banking.

That Europe that Slumbered during the Dark Ages Arose to Rule International Trade

Modern finance was born in Italy.  Everything that makes the commercial economy work today goes back to these Italian city-states.  From international banking and foreign exchange markets to insurance to the very bookkeeping that kept track of profits and losses.  It is here we see the first joint-stock company to finance and diversify the risk of commercial shipping.  London would use the joint-stock company to later finance the British East India Company.  And Amsterdam the Dutch East India company.  Where the Dutch and the English sent ships across oceans in search of trade.  Thanks to their mastery of celestial navigation.  And brought back a fortune in trade.  Putting the great Italian city-states out of business.  For their direct sea routes were far more profitable than the overland routes.  Because the holds of their ships could hold far more than any overland caravan could.

The Catholic opposition to usury (charging interest to borrow money) opened the new banking industry to the oppressed Jews in the European/Christian cities.  For it was one of the few things the Christian rulers let the Jews do.  Which they did.  Even though it was technically against their religion.  And they did it well.  For they had an early monopoly.  Thanks to that same Catholic Church.  Then came another schism in the Christian church.  The Protestant Reformation.  Where, among other things, Protestants said the Old Testament did not bind them to all rules that the Jews had to follow.  Then John Calvin took it a step further and said commercial loans could charge interest.  And, well, the rest is banking history.

Europe was then the dominant region of the world.  That region that slumbered during the Dark Ages arose to rule international trade.  Thanks to their navigational abilities.  And their banking centers.  Which financed their trade.  And the great things to come.

The Enlightenment led to the Modern World, Limited Government, the Industrial Revolution and Beyond

With the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the rise of the Italian city-states, Greek thinkers left the Byzantine Empire and went West.  To those rich Italian city-states.  Bringing with them great books of Greek knowledge.  The intellectual remnants of the Roman Empire.  Translated them.  And massed produced them on the new printing press.  And kicked off the Enlightenment.  Which then spread throughout Europe.

The Enlightenment led to the modern world.  From limited government.  To the Industrial Revolution.  And beyond.  All thanks to those Italian city-states.  International trade.  And banking.

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LESSONS LEARNED #14: “Christianity does not beget antidisestablishmentarianism.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 20th, 2010

THE FOUNDING FATHERS were literate.  As many in British America were.  They knew their history.  Europe’s history.  And Antiquity’s.  They read books.  They knew that a Macedonian conquered a weak confederation of Greek city-states.  That Julius Caesar marched into Rome at the head of a professional Roman Army and put an end to the Roman Republic.  That large standing armies and a bloated bureaucracy bankrupted the Roman Empire and led to her demise.  That differences in religious opinion plunged nations into war.  And they were very conscious that history repeats itself.

They studied history and applied the lessons they learned to the founding of a new nation.  And they were blessed with a blank canvas.  There were not centuries of past wrongs to right.  No grudges.  No bad blood.  They had an ocean between them and that past.  Europe may have still been fighting each other, but it was just too costly to extend that fight across an ocean.  At least, not in any large scale action.  And they had vast tracts of land to the west waiting for them to settle.  Growing space.  True, there were indigenous people on some of that land, but there was so much more land than people (even today vast tracts are uninhabited).  Not like in Europe.  There, if a nation left the confines of her borders, it bumped into another.  And, typically, professional armies did the bumping.

So there they were, the Founding Fathers, on a new continent ripe with possibilities.  They had land, resources, knowledge and timing.  It was as if God said that now was the time for a great new civilization to begin.  Or so many felt then. 

THE FATHER OF Christianity was a Jew.  A Rabbi.  Born and raised in a part of the Roman Empire that was a royal pain in the ass to them.  The Jews just did not readily submit to Roman rule.  And the Emperor was growing tired of this thorn in his side. 

The hapless procurator for this troublesome land was Pontius Pilate.  He may have been cruel.  He may have been just (in the context of the times).  He may have tried his best to keep the peace.  But he was certain to fail.  Don’t rule hard enough and order breaks down and Rome is unhappy.  Push too hard and it may cause open rebellion.  Again.  And Rome is unhappy.  Damned if he does.  Damned if he doesn’t.

Long story short, the Romans crucify Jesus Christ.  And a religion is born. 

THE CHRISTIANS WOULD became as big a pain in the ass as the Jews were for the Roman Empire.  Christ’s apostles spread His message and Christian pockets developed in the Empire.  And the Romans persecuted them.  Until one day.

The Roman Empire was in civil war.  Constantine approached the River Tiber.  Across lay Rome and Maxentius.  They would meet in battle in the morning.  Before that battle, though, Constantine had a vision.  He saw a Christian symbol.  The Christian god appeared to him.  He was to advance his armies behind this symbol.  Or so the story goes.  Anyway, Constantine did win the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.  He proclaimed that the Christian god made that victory possible.  And he would subsequently convert to Christianity.

The Roman Empire would give up its pagan past and become Christian.  Constantine would build a great Christian city and name it after himself.  Constantinople (modern day Istanbul).  Christianity would spread throughout the civilized world. Even to the place where he became emperor.  Britain.  A Christian Monk would take the religion into the hostile lands north of Hadrian’s Wall (Scotland).   There he founded a monastery called Candida Casa.  His successor at the monastery, Caranoc, probably introduced Christianity to Ireland.  St. Patrick’s missionary work took over from Caranoc.

ONE OF THE surviving institutions of the Roman Empire was the Catholic Church.  With the structure and order of Roman rule gone, it was the one uniting force that transcended the diverse remnants of the empire.  King Clovis converted to Catholicism and united the Gallic people.  Charlemagne built on this consolidation and created the French and German monarchies, setting the stage for modern, Christian Europe.

The Catholic Church was the bedrock of life in the Middle Ages.  It soothed and comforted.  It gave hope and meaning during difficult times.  Civilization became civilized when Christianized.  People lived by the Golden Rule.  They helped each other.  Christian kings ruled more compassionately, for the afterlife was important to both ruler and ruled.  A king may answer to no man, but a Christian king answered to God. And in Europe, that was the Pope, who ruled spiritually in God’s temporal world.

The Pope may be the last word on things spiritual, but he was still a man.  And like all men, power tends to corrupt.  And it would be a German priest to point this out in a grand way.

IT WAS THE 16th century and the Renaissance was under way.  Everyone was catching the fever.  Even the Pope.  Pope Leo X was renovating his St. Peter digs in the new style.  Paid for, in part, by the selling of indulgences.  You say you’ve sinned?  But you still want to go to heaven?  No problem.  I can help you.  I can forgive you.  For a nominal fee.  And really, now, can you put a price on personal salvation?  I mean, sure, you can risk eternal damnation.  But why take the chance?  Buy an indulgence today.

Or so went some kind of sales pitch.  Which caused a problem for a German priest.  Martin Luther.  He didn’t believe you could buy your way into heaven.  So he said it.  The king wasn’t wearing any clothes.  I mean, the Pope was wrong.  He nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 and the Protestant movement was afoot.  Caused a reverberation or two.  Plunged Europe into war.  Catholic versus protestant.  Reformer versus counter-reformer.

Luther translated the Latin Bible into the common German spoken in his country.  Over in England, they were translating the Bible, too.  And speaking of England.

HENRY VIII WANTED a son.  As kings are wont to do.  But he wasn’t having any luck.  He needed a new wife.  So he wanted a divorce.  Couldn’t get one.  So he said goodbye to Rome and opened the Church of England.  He got his divorce.   And a new baby.  Another girl.

The story of England’s break with Rome is a bit more complicated than this.  Henry VIII was a Catholic.  He even persecuted Protestants.  But his third wife was a German princess married for political reasons.  And his new Church leaned Protestant.  He did a lot of things that Luther said to do.  And he hated Luther.  His subjects were even reading an English translation of the Bible.  But then the politics changed and he divorced Anne of Cleves.  And the Church swung back to Catholicism.

When Henry VIII died, Edward VI assumed the throne.  And the Church swung back to Protestant.  When he died, his sister took the throne.  His Catholic sister.  Queen Mary.  And the Church swung back to Catholicism.  People didn’t mind.  Hey, they were Catholics far longer than they were Protestants.  Then she married the Catholic King of Spain.  Started burning Protestants at the stake.  Went to war with France in support of Spain.  And lost English land on the continent in the process.  The people didn’t take kindly to this.

Then came Queen Elizabeth.  She swung the Church back to Protestant.  And the Pope thanked her for that by excommunicating her.  Pope Paul V sent missionaries into England to agitate and return England to Catholicism.  Elizabeth countered by making life very difficult for Catholics.  But the Catholics weren’t the only ones unhappy with Elizabeth.

The Puritans were Calvinists who were extremely anti-Catholic.  Yes, she swung the Church of England back to Protestantism, but it still had some Catholic flourishes (bishops, priest vestments, candles, some saints’ days and feasts, transubstantiation, etc.).  As Supreme Governor of the Church, these Puritans were challenging her authority.  So she arrested and executed them.

YOU GET THE picture.  The tug of war between Catholicism and Protestantism was a long and bloody one.  And it involved outsiders.  Catholic France was stirring up trouble in Protestant Scotland.  Mary, Queen of Scots, cousin of Elizabeth, even plotted against her cousin to take her throne (and make Scotland and England Catholic).  She failed and Elizabeth chopped her head off.

Meanwhile, Catholic Spain was stirring up trouble in Ireland.  She hated England for their break from Rome.  Wanted to bring her back to the Catholic fold.  The Catholic Irish did not like Protestant English rule. There was rebellion in Ulster.  Spain helped the rebels.  The English suppressed the rebellion.  To dilute this Catholic hotspot from causing further disturbances, England settled Ulster with Protestants.

Spain also wanted vengeance for the looting of Spanish ships (filled with gold and silver looted from the New World) by English pirates.  Spain assembled a great fleet (The Great Armada) for the invasion of England.  It was defeated.  England escaped Catholic Spanish subjugation.

SO THERE YOU have it.  Kindling for civil war in England as well as world war across the continent and in the New World as the Old World fought to colonize it.  And that history would be a bloody one.  A lot of wrongs to right.  A lot of bad blood.  A lot of grudges.  And the Founding Fathers wanted no part of it.

When the British defeated the French on the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec City, Catholic French Canada became British.  To appease the local French inhabitants, though, the British passed the Quebec Act.  And let them keep their French heritage.  Je me souviens (I remember, motto of both Quebec Province and the Royal 22e Régiment).  One part of the Quebec Act expanded Canadian territory into lands that the Americans were planning to settle.  Another part guaranteed the free practice of Catholicism.  Right in British America’s backyard.  Which was a Protestant backyard.  This infuriated the Americans.  The Protestant-Catholic simmering hatred did make it to the New World.  This was one of the last of British insults that eventually led to the Revolutionary War.

But that was the peak of anti-catholic rhetoric in America.  After the war, the states would eventually disestablish their churches.  Catholic and Protestant would live peacefully together.  Along with Baptists.  And Jews.  And any other denomination.  And religion flourished.  Especially Christianity.  By not establishing Protestantism or Catholicism, both flourished.  The new nation blossomed.  And America became that city on a hill.  If you go by immigration records.  And one day America would even have a Catholic president.  JFK.

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