CNN: Will Christianity Ever Rise Again in Iraq?

The destructive force of  the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the militant Sunni movement, is epitomized in a video released Thursday of ISIS members smashing a tomb in Mosul, Iraq.

The tomb is traditionally thought to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah, a holy site for Christians and many Muslims.

Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, is built on and adjacent to the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, the setting for the biblical book of Jonah and once the most powerful capital of the ancient world.

Co-authored with Joel Baden of Yale Divinity School. Read the full story here

Daily Beast: ‘Persecuted’ is The Christian Right’s Paranoid Wet Dream

‘Liberal elites’ may be more contemptuous of the fervently religious these days, but it’s the hysterical rants of bad movies like ‘Persecuted’ that fuel this disdain.

Perceptive fiction has always been a venue for society to ruminate on the moral issues of the day. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein gave voice to the concern that science had parted ways with morality at the expense of the soul. The 1978 movie Coma explored deep-rooted fears about exploitation and medical advances in organ donation. And now Persecuted holds up a mirror to the perilous situation facing increasingly disenfranchised Christians in modern America.

Read the whole review here

The Death of Jesus and the Rise of the Christian Persecution Myth

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.

More here

“The Myth of Persecution”: Early Christians weren’t persecuted

In the immediate aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre, a modern myth was born. A story went around that one of the two killers asked one of the victims, Cassie Bernall, if she believed in God. Bernall reportedly said “Yes” just before he shot her. Bernall’s mother wrote a memoir, titled “She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall,” a tribute to her daughter’s courageous Christian faith. Then, just as the book was being published, a student who was hiding near Bernall told journalist Dave Cullen that the exchange never happened.

Although Candida Moss’ new book, “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom,” is about the three centuries following the death of Jesus, she makes a point of citing this modern-day parallel. What Bernall truly said and did in the moments before her death absolutely matters, Moss asserts, if we are going to hold her up as a “martyr.” Yet misconceptions and misrepresentations can creep in so soon. The public can get the story wrong even in this highly mediated and thoroughly reported age — and do so despite the presence among us of living eyewitnesses. So what, then, to make of the third-hand, heavily revised, agenda-laden and anachronistic accounts of Christianity’s original martyrs?

Read more of the review of my book here