On Monday, President Trump stood outside St. John's Episcopal Church, which had caught fire the day prior in protests for racial justice. When he brandished a Bible before photographers, Trump knew exactly what message he was sending: Christianity is under siege and the president is the defender of the faith. Never mind the fact that peaceful protesters, clergy among them, were driven from the area minutes before with tear gas to make way for the photoshoot.
The narrative of Christianity under attack is a familiar one. Just a few weeks ago, Trump declared that houses of worship should open amid the pandemic on the grounds of religious liberty — despite the public health risk. But it turns out, the myth of Christian persecution can be traced far further back than the Culture Wars.
In fact, according to Candida Moss, Christian historians coined the idea that to be persecuted was to be righteous in the 4th Century and they exaggerated claims that Christians were persecuted in the first place. Moss is a professor of theology and religion at Birmingham University in the U.K., and author of The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom. Moss spoke to Bob just after Trump has announced his call for churches to open. In this week's Pod Extra she explains how Christian history has been revised for political means, from the early church to present day.