Proselytization vs. Persecution

1. Most of us would not know the difference between the Syrian Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox and the Russian Orthodox Churches; many will be hard put to differentiate between the Pope and the Patriarch. In these circumstances, it is foolish to write apologetica for ‘Eastern Christianity’ and criticise ‘Western Christianity’. Let those concerned with the nature of Christian theologies do that. But that does not concern us.

2. Rajiv, regarding your #82 (from Sulekha board). The Emperor Constantine did not start a trend. UrChristenthum was as viciously proselytizing as the most rabid Protestant of today. Before one addresses oneself to the role that ‘power’ played in the proselytizing drive of Christianity, one needs to know what proselytization means. Consider the role that the Emperors played in Rome (and the role played by some Kings in India.) They would promote some or another tradition (or ‘cult’, as they were called in the Roman Empire), persecute the followers of some or another tradition (or cult). Does that mean that the cults proselytized too, or that they were as ‘intolerant’ as the Semitic religions? To affirm either of the two is to lose any ability to understand the difference between Indian traditions (or the Roman cults) and the Semitic religions. 

In order to talk of the ground reality in India, one needs to have answers to the following question: Is the ‘Eastern Christianity’ in India inherently less proselytizing (i.e. does the muted proselytizing drive of the ‘Eastern Christianity’ in India have to do with its difference from the ‘Western Christianity’), or does this have to do with the impact of Indian culture upon this brand of Christianity? 

Those who want to sing the song of the ‘superiority’ of the ‘Eastern’ brand against the ‘Western’ brand of Christianity would do well to take heed of the following problem: how did (say) the Russian, or the Syrian, or the Greek Christianities spread in Russia, Syria (before Islam) or Greece, if the ‘Eastern’ Churches did not aggressively proselytize? A diagonal look at the writings of (say) St. Augustine should quickly disabuse us of the silly idea that the expansion of Christianity was, somehow, fundamentally tied to political power. Of course, its ties to the throne did facilitate much. But the proselytizing drive in the Semitic religions is fundamentally independent of any kind of political or economic power

If we lose sight of some of these fundamental facts of history, and do not try to figure out the theological justifications offered by the various brands of Christianity, we are talking through our hats.