I was reading about ... hold on, what was I reading about? Nevermind, I was URL surfing. Jumping around from one link to another I somehow got to this -
He [Nero] was known for having captured Christians burned in his garden at night for a source of light. (Source)
I rubbed my eyes and squinted at the monitor. I wasn't hallucinating. I would never have believed such an outrageous statement had I not read it on wikipedia. :P
And it gets progressively worse -
In the words of Tacitus, Christians showed "hatred of the human race" (odium generis humani). Christians were thought to use black magic in pursuit of revolutionary aims, and to practice incest and cannibalism.
"The Christians are to blame for every public disaster and every misfortune that befalls the people. If the Tiber rises to the walls, if the Nile fails to rise and flood the fields, if the sky withholds its rain, if there is earthquake or famine or plague, straightway the cry arises: 'The Christians to the lions!'"
I tried to visualize and think just why would a belief system grow in such an environment. It seems counter intuitive. Let's look at the points -
- Open persecution. In modern times most of the countries have laws against religious violence. Persecutions are done by violent mobs but aren't state sponsored (exceptions apply). But with open support of government it would've been much worse.
- Small population. Hundreds of Christians are martyred nowadays. But since the population is already so large it doesn't have much effect.
- No written Bibles. Imagine hearing sermons from a traveling missionary and then hanging onto that for the rest of your life. Repeated readings of the Bible makes it easier to learn your religion and not forget basic tenets of your faith.
- Underground churches. No fellowship and support of other people to let you hang on when times are tough.
- Hard to earn your bread. Economic system was organized in a way to favor certain people. In modern times corporate culture has
removed religion and other personal factors from economy. Christians
would've found themselves at the bottom of this socioeconomic system.
And whenever you did catch a fish or log some timber, your house is
open to robbery. Law enforcement doesn't give a rat.
The Persecution in Lyon was preceded by mob violence, including assaults, robberies and stonings.
- Cultural isolation. Marriages, funerals and family life in general were difficult. You can imagine the difficulty by hearing the complaints of minorities in modern society and multiplying that many times over.
- Impracticality. There's little incentive to listen to that Babbling missionary when you've just returned from a Saturday night carnage show at the neighborhood Colosseum. You surely wouldn't want yourself to be cast in the next show, do you?
Note: Please don't say that it was God's will. And please no quoting Acts 5:39.