LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION ARTICLE FOR
September 29, 2012 by William H. Scarle, Jr.
A quotation from the Emperor Constantine (306-337 AD) came to my attention this past week. It is from his Edict to the Eastern Provincials. Constantine was the first Christian Emperor of the Roman Empire and the founder of Constantinople and Byzantine Christianity. He begins the edict with a prayer to “the most mighty God” on behalf of “the common benefit of the world and all mankind.” He says, “I long for your people to be at peace and to remain free from strife…Let those who delight in error alike with those who believe partake of the advantages of peace and quiet…Let no one disturb another, let each man hold fast to that which he wishes, let him make full use of this…What each man has adopted as his persuasion, let him do no harm with this to another…For it is one thing to undertake the contest for immortality voluntarily, another to compel it with punishment.” Finally, Constantine condemned “the violent opposition to wicked error…immoderately embedded in some souls, to the detriment to our common salvation.”
In other words Constantine the Great was not willing to compel religious conformity. In this sense he supported religious pluralism. Not that he thought truth was relative, but that he believed the Roman people had the right to be wrong. He built some churches. He also built some pagan temples, and certainly had both Christians and polytheists in high government positions.
The quotation caught my attention in a time when Moslems are killing Americans because some American said something about Mohammed they didn’t like. Islam has been saying nasty things about Christians for some 1300 hundred years. Emblazoned in Arabic on the interior walls of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is the statement “God has no son.” Islamic governments and populations have been killing Christians and burning churches, sometimes with the congregations inside, all across the Middle East and Africa. Palestinians have been driving Christian Arabs out of the so called West Bank for decades in Israel. Islam’s first response to the newly formed American republic in 1776 was to capture our ships in the Mediterranean, enslave our sailors and demand of the new government ransom money which, before we built a navy and attacked Tripoli, amounted to almost two thirds of our federal budget.
Democracy is totally outside the comprehension of the system of Islam. There are, of course, moderate Moslems. There is no such thing as moderate Islam. It is a system that requires submission or death. Submission through the centuries has included a system of “dhimminitude” which creates a class of inferior people who are “protected,” but have no rights and are socially abused. Wherever Islam can enforce their way of life on others, they will. They will broach no criticism although they see themselves obligated to not only criticize but to eliminate all opposing life views.
Constantine seems to have understood this mentality which was apparent in Rome during the persecutions of previous Roman emperors against Christians and other oriental religions. It seems difficult for Americans to understand that there is no movement in the Middle East toward democracy except in Israel. There are only shifts of power within the overall Islamic world view. Until we “get it” we will constantly be running up against the brick wall.
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org).