Last week there was a frenzy about an “angel” (actually a priest) that prayed with a car crash victim in Missouri, but are angels really who you want to help you? Professor Candida Moss on the scary way of angels in the Bible.
Last week a priest appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, at the scene of a car crash in Missouri last week. He prayed with the victim, Katie Lentz, and then vanished without so much as leaving his name. The event sparked a frenzy of religious excitement. Among Christians, speculation grew that this mysterious figure was a guardian angel sent to protect the teenage girl. Bloggers were even hypothesizing about the identity of the angel himself.
There is an overpowering myth that Christianity was built on violent persecution but historian Candida Moss says that’s bad history—and sets a dangerous precedent for hyperbolic accusations of “war on Christians” today.
For Christians, the crucifixion is the event that changed everything. Prior to the death of Jesus and the emergence of Christianity most ancient people interpreted oppression, persecution, and violence as a sign that their deity was either irate or impotent. The crucifixion forced Jesus’s followers to rethink this paradigm. The death of their leader was reshaped as triumph and the experience of persecution became a sign of elevated moral status, a badge of honor. The genius of the Jesus movement was its ability to disassociate earthly pain from divine punishment. As a result Christians identified themselves as innocent victims; they associated their sufferings with those of Jesus and aligned the source of those sufferings with the forces that killed Jesus. From the very beginning, victimhood was hardwired into the Christian psyche.