Emperor Constantine’s victory against Maxentius in 312 AD is commonly understood as the first battle under the banner of Christianity and seen as a major shift from its status as a persecuted religion of outlaws to the established power that would reign for over a millennia in the world. But is this really the case?
Emperor Constantine had a vision of a cross in the sky. This was interpreted by his advisors as a divine sign of good fortune in coming battle. The cross as a symbol of power in battle originated here. Until then, the cross and more so, the letter “p,” standing for pax or “peace,” were symbols for Christianity.
In still earlier times, the fish was the secret symbol for Christians. In the Greek language, ichthys was the word for fish. Each letter was the beginning of this message: Iesous Christos theou yios soter, “Jesus Christ, son of God, Savior.”
Until Constantine, bloodshed was not caused by Christians. The idea to shed blood in the name of Christ, in the sense to harm others, was alien and not supported by its founder — quite the contrary. As a result of its way of life, this religion of persecuted outlaws eventually brought the Roman Empire to its knees. It did so without military power but through devotion to Christ and by filling the cup of indemnity until finally released. This was perhaps the most honorable victory in Christian history.
The Vikings and the adaptation of Constantine’s conquest
When Reverend Moon travelled through Europe in 2005 (then banned from the Schengen Area), he strongly addressed the Viking mentality of Europeans. At that time, I did not get it, because by my understanding, the Viking age was between 800 to 1000 AD. However, this applied only to the well-known Viking raids that occurred in Western Europe mainly from Norway. In the eastern part of Europe, Vikings travelled as traders and settlers along the rivers, particularly in Russia, until they met Muslim communities on the shores of the Mediterranean. According to the most prevalent theory, the name of the Rus ’ people is derived from an Old Norse term for “the men who row.”
Viking expeditions (blue line): depicting the immense breadth of their voyages through most of Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, Northern Africa, Asia Minor, the Arctic and North America (source: Wikipedia).
The term “Viking” may have a wider meaning as well, standing for Indo-Europeans who were driven out of Asia by the Mongolian tribes and eventually settled in Europe. Their gods, namely Odin, Thor, and Freyja (the latter two still evident in the weekdays Thursday and Friday; Odin stands for Wednesday as still understood in Scandinavia) replaced the Greek gods of Zeus, Hera and Poseidon. They easily adapted the concept of conquest introduced by Constantine as illustrated in Charlemagne’s struggle with the Northern tribes. One of the reasons he failed in his mission was because he adopted “Viking” methods in the Christianization of these tribes — those who became the first to follow Martin Luther centuries later.
Already earlier, under Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne, the Muslims were fought under a banner carrying the cross when they reached their northernmost expansion in France. Had Christianity stood firm to the example of their founder and their forefathers of the Roman Empire, Islam could have been peacefully subjugated at that time just as the mighty Roman Empire had been won over. Instead, the Crusades marked the end of an improved European cultural era and were the beginning of the impoverished and degraded culture of the dark Middle Ages which lasted until the eve of the Reformation.
Christianity was overthrown from within by the power of kings, popes and their greed using Christianity as their sword and shield. Perfecting the Viking shipbuilding technology, the European dynasties brought large areas of the world under submission, using military might with the cross hoisted atop their sails.
A replica of the Santa Maria, the largest of Columbus’s three ships in his first voyage of 1492. The cross is depicted on each mast.
However, there were minority groups within the Church that kept the original spirit of Christianity alive and it is thanks to their sacrifice and diligence that Christianity could remain alive. Monks like Ignatius of Loyola, Benedikt of Nursia, Francis of Assisi, later, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and great women, such as Hildegard of Bingen, made sure that God could continue to use Christianity during the darkest of ages.
The recovery of the original Christian spirit
It was with the end of World War II that Christian ethics employed by the United States enabled Europe to recover by showing mercy and magnanimity to enemies, offering support to devastated Germany. From here, the era of Pax Europa was born which lasts until today within the borders of the European Union.
In bringing down communism, Rev. Moon employed the same strategy as that of the early Christians, ending the era of bloody world wars by reintroducing the principles of restoration through indemnity and carrying the cross, but this time without dying by it, thanks be to God.
In his foresight, Rev. Moon introduced the philosophy of headwing thought two years before the actual fall of communism, an idea that was inscribed at the entrance of The Washington Times (but which, in my view, did not implement it). His understanding that liberalism is not always wrong and conservatism not always right was and is an important realization to address today’s problems of democratic societies. He understood that after the fall of communism, the greed of capitalists would remain as an unchallenged threat which needed to be addressed.
Constantine’s mistaken view in the post-Cold War era
The “trap of Constantine” remained strong and America fell for it, resulting in the unfolding of the greatest disaster after the peaceful end of the Cold War. What a pity.
The first Iraq war (1990-91 Gulf War) as well as the 2003 invasion of Iraq were huge mistakes. Rev. Moon repeatedly lamented this situation and expressed his disapproval convincingly in his peace messages. We witness today that violence does not bring peace, neither in Iraq nor in Afghanistan. Instead this war is now reaching the doorsteps of our homes. Even in Iceland, people fear the danger of a terrorist attack, whether by radical Muslims or their European counterparts as was the case with the 2011 Norway attacks. It may lead to results corresponding to what occurred during and after the Crusades in Europe.
Had the early Christians not accepted the vision of Constantine but remained faithful to their own upbringing and accomplishment during their first 400 years, wars and conflicts as we came to know them would not have come to pass and the accomplishment of the mission of True Parents would have been quick, swift and smooth.♦
Rohan Stefan Nandkisore is publisher of the German magazine, Ihr Nordlandführer, on North Europe, and has been National Leader of Iceland since 1997.
Painting at top: Detail from “The Vision of the Cross,” painted between 1520 and 1524 by assistants of the Italian renaissance artist Raphael.
The cause of terrorism, as I understand it, is the fact that Christianity and Western culture was satanically invaded as a result of family breakdown and various forms of sexual immorality. This has been making (especially also the young) people more self-centered and less willing to serve and share material blessings and higher truth with other parts of the world in large numbers.
This may be the case and makes the case more heavy. However, unresolved historical conflicts reappear today. So this comes as an additional burden. In Unification Principle and Thought this is explained as the horizontal appearance of vertical history.
As a person of some percentage of Norman heritage, this is certainly a perspective of interest. However, history, seemingly ever fluid and seldom objective, even in our modern era with its various scientific methods (purportedly right at hand), remains subject to many interpretations.
Just reading up on Maxentius, for example, and there seems to be some controversy as to whether he personally was a “persecutor of Christians” and hence, what was that war all about, really? But no matter, the salient point of your hypothesis about bloodshed being a poor foundation for true peace is an important one and begs another question (within our current modern context) here: Will the real “religion of peace” please stand up?
The first and second Iraq wars are hard to consider morally equal. The first Iraq war was waged as a defensive war to protect Kuwaitis from Iraq’s aggression. It could be compared to a father coming to the defense of his son who was being bullied. The second Iraq war was a war of aggression and conquest. The first war can be justified by the international rules of war, developed by Grotius, and highly influenced by Christian principles. The second Iraq war could not.
Sorry, this was not the case. The first Gulf war was just to protect the “oil” interests of the United States; this is widely understood today. The subsequent deployment of soldiers in Saudi Arabia led to the emergence of terrorism against the West. For the same reason (oil), Iraq was supported in the war against Iran before that.
The author says of Rev. Moon: “…understanding that liberalism is not always wrong and conservatism not always right was and is an important realization to address today’s problems of democratic societies. He understood that after the fall of communism, the greed of capitalists would remain as an unchallenged threat which needed to be addressed…”
Greed, a threat that precedes communism and isn’t limited to capitalists, needs to be addressed. Liberals and conservatives, communists and capitalists, can be motivated by greed. War is a manifestation of greed and domination. The resistance to being dominated by some other party, motivated by greed can also lead to war. It is unclear how the misinterpretation of Constantine’s vision — the cross in the sky, the melding of the sign of the cross and the notion of a just war — are supposed to come together in this article. The spread of a fledgling religion like Christianity came on the coattails of conquest and, as a means of pacification. History seems to have a logical progression, greed that begets domination that leads to war — both just and unjust, which is followed by a period of pacification. Actually, this is the disturbing cycle of greed, war and misery that Rev. Moon is trying to address.
Of course you are right; greed is a general characteristic of humans, both good and bad.
Perhaps there is an inherent weakness within democracy to deal with it. At present, the middle class is going down, while the gap between rich and poor is getting wider as a result of the financial crisis of 2008.
I agree with the points made by the author about the warrior mentality influence coming from Viking culture and traditions tracing back to Constantine’s vision of the cross in the sky, since all later conquest by European powers was in the name of Christianity. I also agree based on my understanding of the ethics and logic brought by Christianity derived from enlightened interpretations of the Gospel of Jesus and the philosophy of the Greek classics.
We also have to realize the role of men in shaping all the different aspects of world culture believing in a powerful male God. In the case of Western civilization, this would be the cultural and spiritual legacies of Hebraism and Hellenism.
Yes, all the cultures of conquest until the Reformation and birth of the USA were based on a culture of violence and subjugation by force. The contract between governed and government created in 1776 began to bring back a true spirit of Christianity into the public domain, creating an advanced logic and ethics from the Gospel of Jesus and the philosophy of the classics. This arrangement, in spite of serious mistakes like the policies towards Indians and the institution of slavery, basically worked in shaping the conditions for a modern, more humane world.
For the first time in history, the world had documents, paper and also actions, from a powerful Christian nation, geared towards the creation of a more just world, something that pleased God and created the conditions for the Second Coming. The documents that inspired the building of the USA also served as bases for the building of a democratic world with a strong foundation on the values of freedom, human rights and justice for all. This democratic culture has expanded all over the world including much of Europe, which did not become democratic until after the Second World War. The democratization of the world with all the errors and past mistakes — like support of dictators as long as they were anticommunists — did advance the cause of the American Ideal.
There are two Americas today. One, the American Ideal represented by traditional American virtues and the philosophy of freedom, justice and human rights, which originated in Christian faith and scriptures. The other America, the American Enterprise, has always been influenced by dark powerful forces. After 1776, it was influenced by Americans with strong English blood and the inheritance of most of the land of America, then was influenced by American Protestant wealth, by Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and other churches representing reformed Christianity.
As bad as that Christian oligarchy influenced America, they did have a Christian call of ethics and an American sense of mission and destiny — a vision of justice, freedom and human rights, based on American Christian faith and tradition. It was not perfect but it worked very well until the Second World War. That Christian oligarchy mentality called the country to act with magnanimity towards Japan and Germany and with all other adversaries in the history of American conflicts.
But after World War II, those powerful people influenced by a New Testament mindset and tradition were gradually supplanted by forces and people influenced more by the Old Testament. They began with a systematic discipline to get power, both political and financial. Their influence in shaping American domestic culture and foreign policy began after World War II and picked up after the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1991.
One of the consequences of the influence of Old Testament mentality is America adopting methods and procedures in conducting foreign policy based on the logic of power and domination — “my way or the highway” — foreign policy based on intimidation, threats, fear and ultimatums. It is an uncompromising and rigid diplomacy based on power. This reflects not Christian ethics and logic, but something older and more in tune with the mentality of conquest of the Vikings of the past. It is this influence that helps explain the American reaction to the September 11 attacks, the handling of the wars in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, and the present impasse between the Palestinians and Israeli.
We are experiencing a culture of international affairs not based on traditional American Christian culture but characterized by a return to the Old Testament mentality of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth,” only today this has become “an eye for and eye plus your house, your parents, relatives and the community.”
Very well and profoundly written, worth an independent article of great value (for this Blog).
Let me add about the current refugee situation in Europe.
Seeing dying refugees in vans, children crying in pure horror, Chancellor Angela Merkel chose to open the doors of Germany wide. We know from DP that whoever acts in such a way will be rewarded by heaven and does not need to be afraid.
Still, in this environment where former Eastern European communist countries stand in firm opposition to the arrival of refugees and very few EU countries support this way, it was an act of historical dimension. Even though today they had to control the border in order to register them, it still keeps many of us Germans in awe. From a secular perspective, it is a great risk and maybe even irresponsible, because it undermines all security measures, but from a DP viewpoint and from the original Christian viewpoint, it feels just right. It may transform Europe towards something greater, or it will be destroyed.
To relieve people of their suffering is and always remains a duty for every human being. At the same time, most people are aware of the saying: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” We know the best way to help people from other cultures is where they actually live and where they need it the most, preferably before a crisis presents itself. This is why wealthy countries should have supported poorer nations en masse before, and share with them good family values.
Many times poor countries are rich in family values, but have a poor government that restricts them of basic rights and dignity and does not allow them to exercise their God-given freedom. It seems to be a pre-condition.
Originally the European Union was based on the lessons of WWII and created with the intentions to create such ties that lasting peace may be secured through networking; this included a common currency as well as the Schengen Treaty freedom of travel. Now it becomes evident that some countries that joined seek their national interests above all, suck the EU support of billions of euros, but negate the value system of the EU. We have entered a time in which national egocentrism is clearly identified and severely criticized as in the case of Hungary.
France keeps a low profile in this case, because of being afraid of the right-wing LePen and the UK out of the same reasons fearing the right-wing UKIP. By this they actually strengthen them, whereas if they would move in the direction Germany and Sweden has taken they would prosper, because it stimulates the original nature to live for others, especially when in dire need and challenges the fallen mind. To believe that quietness may calm evil is a mistake that True Father did not make when encouraging Ronald Reagan’s election as President of the United States.
It also shows that the model of the EU cannot rest on the borders of Europe, but eventually has to include the neighboring regions such as Africa, the Near East and Russia. A standstill will lead to ruin (trying to keep the status quo), but moving forward with courage will lead to prosperity (caring for all people, not just EU members). So you are right in going to the places were the problem lies.