The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died by Philip Jenkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Today many people associate Christianity with Europe as that is the stronghold of Christiandom. Most devout Christians will note that Christianity was born in the land of Judah and more particularly in Jerusalem. What most people do not know is that Christianity was the major religion of the Middle East before Islam and even some hundred years after it's rise. Of course now there is barely a trace of Christianity left in the lands where it was born and in the lands it used to dominate. This book examines the factors that lead to the demise of Christianity in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Christianity was spread all over North Africa and was prevalent among the city dwellers. The Nestorians or Assyrians spread Christianity through Iran, India and all the way to China and Japan. Monuments and church building attest to this. When the Romans adopted Christianity the Nestorians being Christians were associated with Rome and looked at as internal allies of the enemy. This lead to a persecution in Iran which wiped out most of the Christians there. In China there was intense nationalism which drove the Christians away. Persecution also followed in Japan.
With the coming of Islam things went rather smoothly for the Christians of the Middle East. They were allowed to do their own thing and even debate with Muslims. Yet they dhimmi and did not have the same rights as Muslims. For a protection tax called a jizya they were allowed to live their lives unmolested. Many Christians converted voluntarily to the new faith. It was better from a financial point of view. However, as time progressed things got worse. The persecutions would grow terms of life would get harsher. This was especially so in Egypt and North Africa.
The Christian churches dwindled to a fossil of their former glory. Let us not forget that Christians were persecuting Muslims in Europe, especially in Spain. The Crusaders killed Christian, Muslims and Jew alike. Sometimes the Christians allied with the wrong people like the Mongols. When the Mongol adopted Islam things got really difficult for the Christians. Let us not forget that the Mongols almost became Christians and many had Christian wives.
But did Christianity really disappear. I think not as many would practice their religion under ground and in secret. Christian customs would seep into Islam and influence the religion. There were also syncretic sects that combined both religions.
Summing up a Christian amy look at this and ask if it is really god's plane to spread Christianity all over the globe especially after such defeats. One could say that maybe the Christianity that was eradicated somehow did not live up to God's plan. Or maybe that our view is so narrow that we cannot forsee the changed that will happen in the future.
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